Online at the Guardian

I’ve got a piece up at the Guardian this morning: Does Empowering Women Make Men Less Relevant?

UPDATE: My goodness, the comment section is depressing! The Jezebel comments are much better (see below). Must be the difference between the two audiences!

Second Update: I’m reminded that Jezebel is a feminist site and that the Guardian caters to a worldwide audience whose views do indeed span the ideological and cultural spectrum. The comparison is a bit of a false one. As Jessica Reed says, sometimes we need to take our work into unsafe spaces.

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0 thoughts on “Online at the Guardian

  1. Hugo,

    “We socialise women to be afraid of one thing more than anything else: being alone.”

    you think anyone needs to be taught to be afraid of being alone? I think the fear-factor of loneliness is still the same as it always was. I’d be inclined to call it a human universal. Men aren’t allowed to talk about that kind of thing, since they need to be strong to be sexually attractive, which sort of is a prerequisite of not being alone. But the fear is certainly there. Since we have really no way of measuring the extent except on a nominal scale, I’d just leave it at: humans are afraid of being alone.

    “Feminism, in concert with these many new and exciting reproductive and contraceptive technologies, offers men a chance to rethink and re-evaluate their worth and their purpose.”

    The fear of loneliness is important here as well. I think it would be fairer to say that feminism *forces* men to re-evaluate their worth and their purpose *while* saying that, really, women don’t need men. And given the general social, also feminist, attitude with respect to the desirability of male sexuality – and hence the male tendency of an inability to fathom being *WANTED* in the way men desire women sexually and “spiritually” – the result of that thought process is – what are we good for anyway? If they don’t need us, they may pick some for pleasure, but the rest of us is expendable. Given the ratio of sperms and ovaries, men have always been the expendable sex. Historical reproduction rates of men are half of those of women. We all have about twice as many female ancestors as male ancestors (yes, that’s mathematically possible). Only a social structure in which men are “needed” seems to generate equal reproduction rates, and make men less expendable.

    So, it seems to me, that, when you say “feminism offers men a chance to rethink and re-evaluate their worth and their purpose” the only way this can be achieved is by renouncing manhood as such. In that line of thinking self-worth may be found as a person, but being a man has nothing inherent to do with that.

    Or differently, where have you done rethinking of masculinity that wasn’t “de(con)structive”? That offered men value as and for being men? Not easy. At all. Look at Clarisse’s manliness thread, followup. 1,400 comments and not a clear cut idea what masculinity/the practice of being a man could be/become apart from sexual performance.

    When someoen says rethink the worth of something, ususally, it is implied that there is a value to be found. With respect to men and masculinity, I don’t think that’s what’s happening. I totally agree that feminism is offering, as you often repeat, a way to allow men access to their full humanity – but that, again, juxtaposes, masculinity and humanity and is opting for the latter without saying much about the former. It is praising the freedom from scripts without accepting that a lot of people cannot handle that freedom, it is taking away cultural crutches wihtout even attempting at teaching people to walk without them – although I suppose your recent admission of the blind spot with respect to mating/dating advice can be seen as an attempt in that respect.

    In other words, feminism is certainly a useful critical tool in some respects, also for men. But to be *empowered* by it, it sort of requires requires to become a person with a penis instead of being a man. I don’t really know what being a man actually means yet, although I’ve been one for more than three decades, and I’m spending a disproportionate amound of time on figuring it out. Still, merely being a person with a penis is not good enough for me.

  2. Hugo, could you check? A longer comment on this seem to be stuck in the spam queue… thanks.

  3. Can’t wait to read it…I would think the obvious response would be “…empowering women could make men less relevant?” with an extremely puzzled facial expression, but I’m sure that I’m just Missing Something, a sad state I all too often find myself in.

  4. “Does increasing women’s ability to control reproduction discourage men from taking responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their partners – and of their potential children?”

    My suspicion is that the same men who took responsibility before would do so then, now and in future–those who wouldn’t, all they’re getting now is a new excuse not to, perhaps, but really, since the behavior’d be the same…meh, who cares?

  5. “Traditionalists warn that women who exercise “too much” sovereignty over their bodies (by utilising contraception, availing themselves of abortion or new reproductive technologies) risk making men irrelevant” because the relevance of men before was to…protect women from *other* men? What other men, since all the men were busy protecting women? Or does the same man simultaneously protect one woman and attack another? what? hello. I think my brain just annihilated itself.

    Okay, no more commenting stream-of-consciousness as I read your article, it’s probably driving you crazy. :)

  6. THANK YOU for writing that article. I have so many things to say about it, but my english is not so good (I live in Finland), so I’ll only say; It was beautiful. It touched my heart. I recommended it to everyone I know.

  7. “What other men, since all the men were busy protecting women?”

    This objection comes up all the time and it reflects huge privilege. (Not you specifically Lisa, because you have personal contrary experience). It posits a safe and secure universe where there is no threat from outside. This is not the natural condition, this kind of safety requires immense and sustained effort, and being so surrounded by it from birth to the extent that it becomes invisible is privilege because it necesarily requires other people’s efforts and scarifices.

    Because only some of the men are busy protecting the women while they are busy protecting the children and supporting the men. The other men, from outside, are busy trying to shove the first lot of men off their farmland, or to take their winter stores, or steal the children for adoption or resale, or whatever – all usually for the sake of their womenfolk waiting back home for the spoils of war to add to their wealth and security.

    “Or does the same man simultaneously protect one woman and attack another?”

    So yeah, that.

    “I would think the obvious response would be “…empowering women could make men less relevant?” with an extremely puzzled facial expression,’

    That sounds like the most articulate and effective response. Empowering men with supermarket and take-out food and labor saving devices for housework has hardly made women irelevant, and manufacturing ova in petri dishes won’t either to gestate in artifical wombs won’t either. A woman is more than her reproductive capacity.

  8. “A woman is more than her reproductive capacity.”

    See, you are a genius because you are articulating exactly what I was thinking, just with the opposing gender (“A man is more than his reproductive capacity.”) Not that I think that (omg) or that I think Hugo thinks that (completely impossible unless his blog is ghostwritten) but the baseline cultural assumption that Hugo is busy trying to analyze and rebut seems to be that that indeed is what a man’s relevance is: his reproductive capacity.

    That is just such a bizarre, bizarre construct to me. Do many people truly believe that..? I mean, who invented calculus…who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel…who developed the theory of relativity…who crafted the Constitution of the United States…on and on and on and–

  9. I always find the Guardian’s commenters confusing: they seem to be mostly pretty reactionary and more-or-less bigoted about race, sex, etc., but spend three-quarters of their time complaining about how most Guardian writers and readers are gullible pinko liberal leftists, or something. They certainly have scathing contempt for Guardian readers, despite, you know, presumably reading it themselves.

    Anyway, thankyou Hugo, as ever, for an interesting piece!

  10. I have a reverence for the Guardian. Growing up, whenever we would visit Britain, that was THE paper — long before it was available online, I’d read it first every time I was in the UK and when I was in the States, would buy late copies at newsstands. And though it is not as left as it was in my youth, it is still a progressive paper. In some ways, I think the Independent is probably better editorially these days. But why a bunch of lads whose views are to the right of the Daily Mail feel the need to weigh in on the comments section with handles like “sonofsparta” (really?) is beyond me.

  11. CiF at the Guardian IS depressing. I too used to read the Guardian regularly, but these days mostly read the Independent; of late the Guardian has had an editorial policy, or so it seems, of having ‘balanced’ viewpoints, where for every sane and liberal article, there’s one with raving misogyny. Not what I want to start my day, thanks.

  12. The Guardian were (as far as I know) the first or one of the first to allow comments on their opinion articles. These days, of course, comment sections are becoming the default, but commentisfree (CiF) is probably still one of the best such places for actually generating insightful discussions as opposed to just one-off comments. That, plus the fact you generally get a much wider range of opinions on CiF than in the actual paper’s editorials is probably one reason many commenters aren’t typical Guardian readers.

    The site has done a *lot* of articles over the years about feminist issues, primarily by feminists. These invariably attract a certain degree of meaningless jeering (some cynically suggest the bylines are tailored to do so), but there’s a large amount of intelligent comment from different positions as well – I’d highlight AllyF, kizbot and mswoman as good examples of it. One thing that’s always appreciated by the commentariat and generally raises the tone is strong participation of the original author in the comments section.

  13. Yes, I have no idea what worth I have as a woman beyond my worth as a human being, my reproductive worth, and my worth as a sex partner. I don’t really know anyone who does either except vague things I’ve heard about feminists who go in for the goddess worshiping thing – something that has no resonance for me and is a tiny minority.

    So I’ve a very hard time understanding why men think they are entitled to have worth beyond the worth they have as a human being, their reproductive worth and their worth as a sex partner. Totally puzzled on why they need more either. How is that not enough? Seems to be plenty…

  14. Very interesting article, Hugo. It’s true that a lot of the Guardian commentators have a negative response to anything regarding gender issues. I think a lot of the knee-jerk reaction is learned behavior from moronic Julie Bindel articles. Of course your piece was nothing like that.

    One thing, though- and I’m merely playing devil’s advocate, because I can think of a few answers to my own query. But how would you personally respond to those who held up your own articles on the “four Ps” as evidence that many men do indeed lose purpose in a progressive atmosphere?

  15. If there are feminists out there who don’t want children, but still want to “change” men…why are they putting the effort out to change men if their only value lies in reproduction, and they don’t want children?

    For future generations??? What future generations…they don’t have kids, and probably won’t…where’s the investment? I think it’s awfully romantic to believe someone is doing something purely for someone else’s benefit…everyone has a degree of selfish motivations, and I don’t trust anyone who says otherwise…something I’ve heard from some of the guys on the other threads…oh not me, I’m fine…I’m doing it for other guys….right….

  16. I’ve just discovered your blog, Hugo (literally about an hour ago), and have found it quite compelling so far. I have appreciated much of what I have read, especially the article at the Guardian to which you linked here.

    Thank you, and I look forward to reading more.


  17. Hi,

    I commissioned Hugo’s piece for The Guardian – I am a great fan of his work. I have a few things to say about feminist threads on big sites like ours (well, I could write a novel, but I thought I would address some of the comments here).

    I totally get Hugo and other’s point – that sometimes Guardian threads can be depressing, whereas threads at Jezebel’s comments can be more feminist-friendly. To that, I would say that Cif’s readership reflects a general population (the world sadly isn’t feminist-friendly), whereas Jezebel is a specialist site that caters to a feminist audience.

    Then again, I think the (feminist and activist) world would be a boring place if ideas weren’t debated with people who disagree with you – Cif isn’t a “safe” space. It’s a space to debate ideas – sometimes vigorously, in accordance to our community policy. I do believe that it’s better to sometimes engage with people whose opinions one disagrees with and maybe change their minds (it does happen on the site everyday).

    Also, Jebedee is right! There’s tons of really good posters on Comment is free – this is why having Hugo (and others) in the thread is hugely beneficial: to underline their contributions and build on them. It really takes the discussion to a whole new level.

    Of course, some people would prefer to debate in safe spaces – and that;s fine. But it pains me to see people saying “this thread sucks” without realising that a community (as big as the Guardian, or as small as a starting blog) is what one makes of it…


    Jessica Reed

  18. Jessica, there’s a difference between debating with people who disagree with you, and debating with people who see you as the enemy.

  19. mythago – in the context of online commenting, is the distinction that important? All you’re dealing with is what people say, not what they think, so you can’t be certain that they will simply dismiss any reply you make (which I presume would be the main drawback of debating with those who see you as the enemy; CiF is moderated, so an unrestrained torrent of personal abuse isn’t an issue.)

    So at worst a reply to such people is a slight waste of time, and even then may well be of interest to other readers. In any case, the thread in question seemed to have a respectable amount of coherent comment amid the rest, so it’s not as though there was nothing substantive to reply to.

    (incidentally, I have no affiliation with CiF beyond being a reasonably frequent reader and infrequent commenter)

  20. I’ve always thought there was another reason why the idea that empowering women makes men weak isn’t just wrong, it’s backwards- human beings need challenges. How can men really thrive, especially in a world that no longer caters towards brute force, when we reject the ability of half the species to challenge us on the level? The only way men, as a group, can max out their potential is if women, as a group, are given space to max out their potential at well.

  21. Victoria.
    If I read the lit correctly, it isn’t that men want more. Those who are concerned see the line tending toward less.
    The issue is in one of your virtues, your worth as a human being. Care to define that?
    Does anybody have the right to tell you your definition is wrong?
    Now, if a man defined his idea of his worth as a human being, could we imagine the concept being left uncontested?
    Me either.

  22. Hugo, could you do a repentant bro a favor and ask Jessica Reed if she’ll commission an article from Kyle Payne about feminism for the Guardian? I find the multiple feminist perspectives of varied kinds of sexual abusers fascinating and want to learn more from what men who have crossed those lines have to teach.

  23. “Then again, I think the (feminist and activist) world would be a boring place if ideas weren’t debated with people who disagree with you – Cif isn’t a “safe” space.”

    I think the key word here is “debated”. If such were taking place, that would be one thing. But I see little debate occurring in the Guardian thread. It’s more superficial and jingoistic reaction than debate.

  24. “You think anyone needs to be taught to be afraid of being alone? I think the fear-factor of loneliness is still the same as it always was. I’d be inclined to call it a human universal.”

    IDK man, I’m an introvert so I always preferred being alone and never gave much of a shit about having friends…it really scared my parents. :p

    And I just GOTTA~!!1one comment on the comments at the Guardian, it pissed me off that some guy read your credentials and said “GO BACK TO COLLEGE” and “MEN LIKE TO DRINK AND SCREW AND WATCH FOOTBALL AND THAT’S HOW WE LIKE IT!” How ignorant are you to suggest to A FELLOW MAN that all men are a hive-mind like that? HERP DERP DEM SITCOM GENDER POLITICS