It’s now fifty years since the dawn of the second wave of feminism and much has changed for women in the West. Back then, the popular understanding was that the only reason for a marriageable woman to take a job was to find a husband. Aside from the romantic aspect, getting married made good economic sense for the ambitious girl, such was the disparity in pay and career opportunities between men and women at the time.
Today women work to earn their own living. They need money to cover the rent and to support themselves and their families, or to build fulfilling careers which will sustain them throughout their lives.
But rather than see this improve relations between the sexes, with women no longer trapped in “the comfortable concentration camp” – the words feminist Betty Friedan used to describe the home of a 1950s American housewife in her book The Feminine Mystique, they’ve seriously soured. For what reason? Liberation should have meant men becoming more buddy than bully, with women knowing more about how they ticked, if only because they could now co-partner eight hours a day at the office, sit next to them in the cockpit of a plane, competing on the even playing field of business and social life.
Why therefore is there so much anti-male feeling still emanating from women who pushed for equality? Are men treating women worse than they did before the Women’s Lib phase, or is it the other way round?
One of the laments used to be “he works too much and he’s never home”. Now its gone full circle with “he doesn’t do enough and he’s home more than me.”
Once it is pointed out, of course, you see it all around you. Just as the housewives of the fifties were suddenly convinced that their lot was so bad, so too are some men now beginning to speak out about their own experiences of discrimination.
It is still rare to see a woman toiling on a roof, or a man buying scented candles and angel books in a new age shop. But even so, the comparisons involving which sex has life the easier of the two hasn’t died down and confusion over women’s rights grows greater than ever.
So much so, there’s been a resurgence of interest in feminism globally – as hot and every bit as divisive a topic as it was back in the 1970s. But there is now also a new wave of thinking on the subject. It’s not just “strongly for” or “strongly against”. More a debate on feminist reform.
Recently I met up with Peter Lloyd to discuss this in-between area, one that is being covered by people like myself, academics like Christina Hoff Sommers, and writers like Polly Vernon. It’s a club whose membership is rapidly growing; people of all predispositions and ages who believe firmly in the concept of male and female equality, but challenge extremist egalitarian feminism, and do so by putting pen to paper. Lloyds book, Stand By Your Manhood is a good introduction to anyone thinking of joining, mostly because it covers a range of very touchy subjects from domestic violence against men to lads mags and men faking orgasms. It’s all in there. An experienced journalist, he backs up his quite hilarious `game-changer for modern men’ with plenty of research carried out mostly (and intentionally) using female academics and experts.
Of course one of the preconditions of voicing feminist reformist views is having a thick skin, and expecting to be vilified as Polly Vernon found out after writing Hot Feminist and receiving death threats from trolls. And Lloyd has had his share of that aggro but mostly because his book is well written, funny and his having worked as a writer in the music industry makes him cool. He therefore can’t be flicked off as an embittered divorcee having a rant.
Whether you agree with him or not, it’s an honest and compassionate account of what’s running through male minds today. With ONS figures showing that suicide is on the rise and, with the male suicide rate three times that of the female one, maybe mothers, sisters, wives and feminists should all take account of some of what he has to say.