Just as I thought that the oppression, harassment, and exploitation of women, were part of the male genome, I came across a “non-profit” organisation that claims to be able to cure most men from being fondling creatures in underground trains, hotel rapists, and housewife-beaters, in the space of 48 hours. The Mankind Project, responsible for this breakthrough in social science, describes itself as, “a global brotherhood of nonprofit charitable organizations in the USA that conducts challenging and highly rewarding programs for men at every stage of life.”
Operating in 21 countries, the Mankind Project offers a week-end training course, entitled “The New Warrior Training Adventure.” Although the title of the course seems to contradict its objectives, testimonies that can be viewed on the website, seem to indicate that the course has life-changing properties. Arriving on the Friday evening, the participants leave on the Sunday, not caring how big they are between the legs, being able to tie their shoelaces, and with the firm intention of doing the washing-up until the day they die.
The first thing that happens on the course is that you lose everything you have – from your cellphone to your wedding-ring, via your boxer-shorts. Forced into a wooden hut, with complete strangers and nothing but your ego, you must meditate on two of life’s most fundamental questions – “who am I serving, and what is my mission in life?” I do admit that these are questions that I often meditate over under the shower, so the chances are that I would feel quite at home. The rest is a mixture of character-changing games, group therapy and self-appraisal tests where you are supposed to tell a group of complete strangers why you hate women, and want to get rid of your mother. Well, I’ve heard of the bare truth, but this is ridiculous. The worst of it all, though, is that there is absolutely no sex permitted, even of a self-service nature. What? No sex for a whole week-end? The mind boggles.
Be that as it may, participants swear that they have been profoundly changed by the experience and will probably not grope a woman until the following Tuesday, at the earliest.
I learned things about what it takes to be a man, what masculinity is, that I have never been shown or taught before. – Training Adventure participant
Please, Sir, enlighten us.
Maybe I must also attend such a course, for the modest sum of $700 – all non-profit, you do understand. I’m sure the course would cure me of the nasty habit I have of letting women go first, through revolving doors. Terrible, I admit, and it deserves a session in the middle of the woods, starkers, in the midst of unstable naked men who also want to be warriors.
On the subject of what it is to be a man, I came across some other advice, this time telling me how to raise a son, under gender-neutral conditions. Having already been raised, it’s too late for me, but it might still save my 13-year-old son from being a “women should accept it or lump it” adult.
The advice includes, first and foremost, teaching boys how to get dressed by themselves, and pick up their socks. And there was I thinking that the only reason a 13-year-old should pick up his socks, is so that his overworked mother can wash them more easily. Other tips to avoid my son turning into a serial rapist include, the sharing of household chores between the mother and father, practicing “non-sexist” sports such as rollers, and reading Harry Potter, whose stories are supposed to bring girls much closer to boys. I thought the “Story of O” was quite good at doing that.
I’ve got my own recipe for solving the problem of the stereotyping of women as creatures who are there to be used and abused, and who mean “yes” when they actually say “no.” It begins by teaching our children what “no” actually means, and how it applies to the relationship between men and women. The second thing that we must all learn, no matter how old we are, is to ignore the rubbish we watch on television, and in movies. Gratuitous violence, and women ending up naked after having seen a hunky man for five minutes, is a widespread occurrence in the media. Nowadays, a film that doesn’t have a sex-scene that has little to do with the story, doesn’t make money. A film that doesn’t have ridiculous violence from start to finish is not likely to be a block-buster. We all know what people do when they fall in love, and what some people do when they just fancy each other. In the same way, we all know that humans can kill each other, and we do not need to be incited to do so, by glamourising the whole thing.
A man’s virility has been exclusively fabricated by cinema studios and by advertising companies, for decades. Advertising companies were experts at being able to use man’s perceived virility for selling killer products such as cigarettes, in the same way that they use cute little dogs to sell toilet paper. Who cannot remember those cigarette commercials venting the merits of the cigarette as a reward for hard-working cowboys, majestically dominating wild animals.
There’s never been a working day yet, where you couldn’t take time for a good smoke… – Malboro commercial, 1968
Such blatant stereotyping of the sort of virility that we should all strive to achieve, but systematically fail to do so, can only lead to inappropriate behaviour on the part of those who cannot interpret these stereotypes as being false, and not representing real life. The same can be said for all the glossy mode magazines that portray women as they should be, not to go unnoticed in a man’s world. This can only lead to the desperation of teenagers, who try to live up to their dreams, imposed by the world of consumerism and superficiality, but have no chance of succeeding.
We now live in a world where the body has become cult, where you can live a life “à la carte”, culturing your narcissism in an infinite number of ways. Even women have been conditioned to look pretty by constantly using makeup, including red lipstick. In many non-human primate species, a display of red by a female serves as a sexual signal to attract male partners.
The stereotyping of man’s virility is nothing new. Even in the 1950’s, the problems related to the interpretation of, and reaction to, stereotypes, was already posed. Who would have thought that John Wayne’s attitude towards women – smacking them on the face one minute, kissing them without consent, the next – was an example to be followed, except stupid people? The problem with stupid people believing stereotypes is that there were, then as now, a lot of stupid people around – and most of them were men, and still are.