Masculinity under siege in schools, politics, online

Is there a crisis in masculinity? Based on an article by the American Jordan Black, “Masculinity in Menopause: The Emasculating Effects of Fatherlessness and Feminism”, the answer is yes.

Black highlights how, across the Western world, falling levels of testosterone and low sperm counts are contributing to significant changes in how masculinity is defined. Add the impact of so many boys raised without fathers and the global #MeToo movement that gives the impression that all men are inherently violent and misogynist, and it should not surprise that Black concludes: “We are not making men like we used to; in fact, we are not making them at all.”

The same is happening here, where similar forces are at work undermining masculinity and radically redefining what constitutes manhood. As Bettina Arndt says in her book #MenToo, men are unfairly demonised and attacked by radical feminists more intent on winning gender wars than peacefully coexisting.

Even to suggest men’s rights are being undermined is to incur the wrath of the sisterhood. Victorian Women’s Trust executive director Mary Crooks wrote this week in Nine’s The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers: “Men’s ‘rights’ are about treating women as inferior; objectifying them by denying them any personhood. Men’s ‘rights’ are about being able to stalk, harass or abuse women online, on the streets, in the home or at work.”

Another example of this fatwa against men is how every time a woman is attacked or murdered the response is to blame all men and to suggest that violence occurs only because society is patriarchal and misogynist.

After last month’s horrendous murder of Courtney Herron in a Melbourne park late at night, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said women travelling alone should be safe regardless of where they were or what the hour, and that crimes such as this were “most likely about the behaviour of men”.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius mirrored the Premier’s views. He said: “This is about men’s behaviour. It’s not about women’s behaviour” — implying that, instead of the act being perpetrated by one demented evil soul, all men were implicated.

When detailing the death of masculinity, Black also says the US education system is guilty of “encouraging feminine behaviour for both genders”.

Feminist Camille Paglia makes the same point when she bemoans “the plight of physically active boys in a public school system dominated by female teachers”.

The Australian school system also disadvantages boys as a result of the feminisation of the curriculum. Research suggests boys, compared with girls, need greater structure and discipline to learn, especially in relation to learning to read, where the ­absence of a phonics and phonemic awareness approach puts them at risk.

Today’s approach to education is more about “care, share and grow”, where teachers facilitate and students self-direct, manage their own learning and where competition is shunned. It’s an approach that favours girls.

Not surprisingly, girls out­perform boys in reading as measured by the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy, and achieve stronger Year 12 results as measured by the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank. It’s also true that material such as the gender-fluidity Safe Schools program and the Respectful Relationships program being implemented in Australia disadvantage boys, as both present a negative and biased view of masculinity and manhood.

The view of boys and men presented is one that implies masculinity is inherently violent against women and that Western societies such as ours are patriarchal ones in which women are ­oppressed and treated as second-class citizens.

Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence reported that 25 per cent of family violence victims were men but the Respectful Relationships program implies it is only women who are at risk.

Students also are never told that such is the way the law now operates that men often are assumed to be the guilty party.

Another example of how the curriculum has been feminised is the way school programs present traditional male characteristics such as fortitude, courage, physical strength and mateship as negatives instead of being worthwhile.

Even worse, many schools ban physically active and risky playground activities and behaviour, and it’s not unusual for primary schools to ban boys wearing ­superhero costumes on the basis that play-acting reinforces ­negative and potentially violent behaviour.

More radical feminists go as far as saying traditional male qualities lead to what The Age journalist Anna Prytz describes as a “man box”, a situation where men are constrained because they mistakenly believe they should be “unemotional, hyper-sexual, physically tough, stoic and in ­control”.

Instead of accepting the feminist argument that the characteristics that typically define men are toxic, Black argues in favour of what he describes as “virtuous masculinity”. Paglia makes a similar point, arguing that feminists guilty of misandry should learn to respect and admire positive masculine qualities.

Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University.