But what about that generation of young men who already feel marginalised from a consumer society, who have been denied most of the markers that traditionally help boys become men: decent jobs, responsible dads, stable homes of their own and, often in consequence, meaningful adult relationships. Would opening up about doubt and vulnerability in itself allow them to achieve self-worth and purpose?
Nina Power’s provocative and rigorous book addresses some of those questions from a traditional feminist perspective.
Power’s argument is that the all-out assault on men has gone too far. The mistake, she says, is in ‘treating people as mere examples of a negative category, rather than as complex individuals in their own right’. This, she argues, can be dangerously counterproductive. If you categorise men in this way, then you open up the possibility that other types can also be categorised — gay people, trans people and so on — and you merely substitute one sort of unfairness for another.
Like most female writers with something interesting to say, Power has been subject to persistent harassment for challenging progressive orthodoxy. In more recent writing she has drawn upon such diverse intellectual influences as the theologian Ivan Illich, theorist of transgression Georges Bataille and various pagan writings on nature and love. Her work has been labelled “reactionary” and “transphobic” by an institutionalised left, resulting in her deplatforming at arts and cultural events, and shunning from leftist publications. Likely because of this, Power doesn’t mince words in her new book.
Power’s position is one that resists neat categorisations of ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative’. It is perhaps best described as hybridised. On the one hand, her analysis is underpinned by a deeply critical, social justice-oriented critique of late capitalism. In this hollowed out landscape, needs that were once met through meaningful connection and interdependency are now poorly fulfilled by lonely bouts of consumerism. On the other, she advocates what might be termed ‘traditional values’, whether it be virtues associated with older versions of masculinity such as courage or stoicism or people’s desire for a family life.
In my new book, What Do Men Want? I look at masculinity in crisis. Modern-day realities such as capitalism, consumerism and constant interconnectedness mean that the values that once held us together — family, religion, service and honour — are in retreat. Some women have thrived, economically at least, in this brave new world, but in righting historic injustices I believe we have somehow tipped the balance toward the idea that men as a class are inherently oppressive