Anti-male myth of patriarchy has taken hold in our modern culture | The Australian 25Nov23 J Albrechtsen

What a wonderful article from Janet Albrechtsen! Please pass this on to everyone. It is worth reading and remembering. Sue Price

Most men are good, decent blokes. Why drag them all down?

Men don’t deserve to be tainted by a few bad apples, private boys schools shouldn’t be besmirched, then dismantled, because a few students behave badly.


My father-in-law Brian pictured with his partner Gay, who says she won the lottery when they met. Picture: Supplied

From Inquirer

November 25, 2023



Last weekend an old man rose from his chair in a sunny room filled with family. A piece of paper, neatly folded in four, remained on the table as he spoke. While a younger, more famous bloke, 81-year-old President Joe Biden, struggled with the difference between Beyonce and Taylor Swift while pardoning a turkey, Brian didn’t need his notes.

Three generations were there to celebrate Brian’s 99th birthday. I wish my father-in-law’s speech could have been broadcast wider than a family home. Not because he shared some thrilling achievements from a long life. He didn’t. Because this distinguished, humble man used his speech to thank the women in his life: his mother, his late wife of 55 years, his two daughters and his 92-year-old partner – Gay, a sassy, clever, beautiful woman who has enriched his life after his wife died.

That day, Gay said she won the lottery when she met Brian. But every day Brian and Gay make their own luck; these two old folks are out on the tiles more often than younger ones celebrating that day. In your 90s, long lunches and late dinners, morning walks with friends followed by breakfasts at the local cafe count as out on the tiles.

That said, you don’t get to pick your parents. And Brian singled out his mum, Mary, who lost her husband, “Foxy” Roger, early in their married life. She lost three of her seven sons, too: one in infancy, an adult son died when learning to fly a dive bomber in 1943 and another son in his 20s who was studying medicine in London died when a plane he was in crashed into a building. Brian thanked his lucky stars that his mum was kind, affable and resilient. We thank our lucky stars that Brian is like his mum.

I raise this personal occasion because men such as Brian should be recognised. We reckon we are smarter than past generations, more enlightened, fairer and more just in how we judge people. But when it comes to how we judge men, many people, especially those in positions of power, are not remotely fair or enlightened.

While we happen to think this gentle, kind, curious, funny and smart man is unique, it’s not hard to imagine lots of men like Brian. Picture: Supplied

These days, some people would blindly lump men such as Brian in with that modern monster called “the patriarchy”. He’s old, he’s white, he went to a private boys school, he became a doctor, he raised five boys (along with his two daughters) who went to the same private school (a few of them on scholarships). His grandchildren went to private schools, too.

READ MORE: ‘A boys school has a different culture’: alarming results behind a private school storm | Old boys resist elite school’s move to enrol girls | Old boys’ legal challenge to co-ed plan | When identity trumps merit we all lose in the end | Boys lost amid changing goalposts on journey to manhood | The future is roaring at dinosaur men | Barbie’s Ken tramples Tate’s toxic masculinity |

Yet this 99-year-old man debunks the most regressive anti-male myths that have taken hold in our modern culture. And while we happen to think this gentle, kind, curious, funny and smart man is unique, it’s not hard to imagine lots of men like Brian.

Maybe they don’t get to 99. Maybe they lose their patience more often than Brian, who was known to curse in his small car. The lapse, no doubt, came from years of the GP – his sons call him the rat runner – racing around the back streets of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, well into his 80s, visiting patients in their homes .

Good blokes don’t make headlines. Worse, they are dragged down with the bad. The culprits of this modern trend seem not to be capable of writing or talking about an individual man behaving badly without mentioning the patriarchy, white male privilege and toxic masculinity. When they extrapolate like this, they demean every man, men such as Brian, good men in their own lives, including their sons.

As one of Brian’s granddaughters said of her grandfather, he is a true patriarch, and not remotely a member of this mythically wicked patriarchy.

Judging a person according to the content of their character has been lost by those who imagine they are brilliantly progressive when they sledge the patriarchy. Frankly, their minds have been pickled by identity politics.

We wouldn’t dream of lumping all Palestinians, for example, in the same boat as a baby-killing Hamas terrorist. We demand nuance and careful distinctions to isolate the evil acts of terrorists. Collective punishment is unconscionable, we say.

We’d never dream of slapping a dirty rotten group label on women, either. So why do so many apparently educated people lump white men into one dreaded group – the patriarchy – and throw around, with reckless abandon, words such as toxic masculinity? We could turn this around talking and writing more about the good men. Just as we do with women.

Some people blindly lump all men in with that modern monster called ‘the patriarchy’. Picture: istock

I have never detected a crumb of toxic masculinity in Brian. He established a busy surgery with a younger female GP as his medical partner in the ’70s. His respect for women is reflected in the character of his daughters, in his friendship group. He and Gay have great friends, some younger than them by a country mile, who want to see them, eat with them, laugh with them. Women adore Brian.

But hang on, this man went to a private boys school – St Joseph’s in Sydney’s Hunters Hill – well before the toxic masculinity police started to clean up these elite institutions. Every other week a boys school in this country succumbs to demands to go co-ed because apparently the toxic masculinity of boys can be cured by the presence of girls. This week, Newington College in Sydney was in the news.

The life of Brian is, then, a correction to another maddening myth of modernity. Just as men such as Brian, his sons and his grandsons don’t deserve to be tainted by a few bad apples, private boys schools shouldn’t be besmirched, then dismantled, because a few students behave badly.

I went to a public high school, and can vouch for the fact male morons are found there, too. I can vouch for the fact girls can be detestable, too. But we don’t lump all women together or obsess about how to fix girls schools.

Girls have a choice to be educated in a single-sex school. But increasingly not boys: they are collectively punished because a small group of loud people throws around terms such as toxic masculinity. It’s sad to watch men at these schools who are too cowardly to rebut the unjust collective punishment of boys. They’re probably frightened that they’d be accused of, you guessed it, toxic masculinity.

Don’t get me started on entitlement. Though from a different generation, Brian hasn’t been heard uttering an entitled, sexist or a racist word. Again, he’s not alone. So, let’s not lose sight of the millions of fine men around us. Doing this, being fair in our judgments of men, can only help young boys grow into good men.

I haven’t shared the personal details of Brian’s celebrated life – these are for family and friends. All I will say is that Brian is, almost annoyingly, good and decent. When he thanked his mum for being kind, affable and resilient, I saw the same qualities around the room that day. That’s not luck.

What I see in Brian is bloody fine parenting. Raising kids, being a parent of adult children, is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And he and his wife raised seven of the blighters.

We have such big hopes for our kids. Shouldn’t we return to basics? We know we’ve dropped the ball on teaching resilience because it’s undergoing a revival. There are books and courses and podcasts and evenings at school about it.

Apparently, parents need to be told that teaching every kid they are special doesn’t help them deal with failure. Doing their homework for them when it’s too hard doesn’t teach them how to push through when a difficult task is asked of them. Picking up after them doesn’t remind them they are responsible for what they do. Celebrating their every step as if they’ve won a gold medal doesn’t help them work towards, or identify, genuine accomplishment.

If you come across a kid who lacks resilience, who collapses when life doesn’t go their way, or an adult who can’t bear the slings and arrows of life, you might want to look behind them. There is usually a parent somewhere coddling them, a school or university that coddled their mind.

I thought about Jonathan Haidt’s observations about the coddling of young minds in our Western societies when Brian spoke about the resilience of his mum. That generation and the one after hadn’t heard of trigger warnings and safe spaces and attention deficit disorder. Are we brave enough to wonder whether we have bequeathed our kids some purely modern afflictions? Is it necessarily clever to pathologise a wider spectrum of behaviour?

Brian was born in November 1924, when Australia was proud to be part of the British Empire, George V was king, Pius XI was Pope, and Stanley Bruce was our Prime Minister. In that year Mohandas Gandhi was released from prison, Vladimir Lenin died and Calvin Coolidge was elected US president.

In Sydney, construction of the Harbour Bridge had begun. Many men such as Brian lived through a world war, a Depression, more wars, recessions, raised big families, joined clubs, went to church. They didn’t fuss over the kids; they raised them to be responsible, resilient, sensible.

If that’s the patriarchy at work, can we have more of it please?



Janet Albrechtsen is an opinion columnist with The Australian. She has worked as a solicitor in commercial law, and attained a Doctorate of Juridical Studies from the University of Sydney. She has written for numer… Read more

Share this article