CW: Mentions of rape and suicide.
On Tuesday the 20th of June, ABC2 aired Hack Live asking the question, “Does male privilege exist?” On the panel, Clementine Ford brought her consistently on-point outlook and Nevo Zisin was a welcome new face to me, bringing valuable insight as a transgender male.
Understandably, the program wanted to highlight both sides of the argument from extreme to moderate. The most valuable points, however, came from academics in the audience who had done extensive research on domestic violence and masculinity. This of course would be a one-sided debate as most researchers in the field are well aware that male privilege does exist and there is really no debate to be had.
The ideas of toxic masculinity and the way “male problems” are often rooted from a patriarchal society were not talked about enough in the program. From the audience, Associate Professor Michael Flood states brings up toxic masculinity and Men’s Rights Activists’ failure to address it, but the panel did not expand upon this.
A panelist using the pseudonym “Adrian” says that men are not allowed to be vulnerable in our society and that not enough attention is paid to male suicide victims. While this is true, Adrian is more focused on trying to tear down women and feminism rather than identify root causes or seek solutions. This attitude characterises most extreme Men’s Rights Activists, who actively try to tear down feminism rather than discuss actual male problems.
This is perfectly demonstrated later on in the program by Adrian himself. Nevo Zisin attempts to identify redeeming qualities of Men’s Rights activist groups and mentions allowing men to be soft. At this remark, Adrian cringes and shakes his head. Men like Adrian are part of the problem. You cannot claim to be outraged by male suicide rates and then cringe at the idea of men being soft. It is simply illogical and a textbook example of toxic masculinity that Adrian here is perpetrating.
So many male problems are linked to the fact that our patriarchal society is built on misogyny. Take, for example, a past co-worker of mine. He wanted to negotiate his late working hours with our ex-boss because he has two young kids he wants to spend more time with. Our ex-boss, also male, rejected my co-worker because he has “a wife for that”. A lot of workplaces would not be so blatantly sexist as this but this is why men are not given permission to spend time with their family. Not only does this idea place the responsibility of laborious care taking wholly on the woman, but it also diminishes the thought that a man might actually want to spend time with his children. Yes, my co-worker wanted to help out because it is hard work that he believes should be shared between both parents, but he also wanted to spend time with his children because he loves them.
It is important that men recognise that feminism helps men by allowing us all to be considered equal. Men’s Rights Activist groups might have you believe that they are interested in helping men but, as shown by Adrian, they exist to shut down feminism. Simply consider this, Clementine Ford is considered a “man-hating” feminist and Adrian is considered a “Men’s Rights Activist”. Clementine writes articles about male abuse victims, raising awareness and giving exposure. Adrian, despite all his claims, cringes at men displaying vulnerability. Men, ask yourself this: who is really on your side?