Matt Haig And His Detractors Prove That No One Knows How To Talk About Feminism Anymore

Matt Haig, whose recently-released, bestselling memoir Reasons to Stay Alive chronicled his struggles with depression and suicide, suggested on Twitter that he might write a book about masculinity and its pitfalls and Twitter decided to rage-spond, of course.

Haig’s original tweets read: “Maybe I am missing something. There may be too many books about and by men, but not many looking at the perils of masculinity. Am I wrong?” And then: “Unless you want to DO AWAY WITH MEN, then we need to look at what masculinity is and why its current interpretation causes problems.”

Head -> desk. The tweets weren’t very well thought out, and the responses to the tweets weren’t very well thought out either, and then Haig claimed that he was being “crucified” on Twitter. Thoughts:

  • We really need to stop throwing the word “crucified” around, because let’s be real here, only a handful of people have ever even come anywhere close to the ballpark of having Twitter users actually arrest them and nail them to a cross to starve and die, plus it has an undeniable stench of self-aggrandizement to it, what with it being associated with religious martyrdom.
  • What feminism is Matt Haig referring to when he says that both men and women “would be better off without feminism”? Is he referring to the collection of political and social agendas and ideologies that constitute feminism, or is he referring to feminism as it is practiced by feminists today? [UPDATE: What a difference three letters makes! The correct quote is “would be better off with feminism.” My apologies for this mistake, although the “do away with men” thing is still just… why.]
    • Sub-thought: How many different ways is feminism put into practice these days? One way for each person who calls him or herself a feminist? So which specific person’s feminism is he referring to?
  • Can we just pause for a second and realize how lazy and regressive it is to keep talking about things in terms of “both men and women”? There are men, women, trans* people, genderqueer people, gender fluid people, intersex people, and on, and on, and on. Both feminists and Matt Haig aren’t really referring to much of a feminism if it doesn’t recognize that it’s not just an issue of equality for two genders but an issue of justice for people of many, many gender identities and sexes. It is really not hard, guys, to be inclusive and write “everyone” or “people” instead of “both men and women.
  • One of Haig’s detractors said that “feminism doesn’t exist to help males. Period.” Huhwhat? I thought that equality meant… equality? That we believed that equal rights for everyone meant that everyone benefits and everyone’s pain and everyone’s needs are respected? Is that too optimistic?

Haig’s intentions are pretty good, here:

“How clear can I put this? I am not denying female oppression, I am trying to stop it by calling for a more fluid masculinity. I have never felt oppressed by women, or that feminism is a problem. I do think boys find it hard to like things seen as feminine. I want my son not to feel self-conscious he likes ballet and my daughter to carry on playing Han Solo, that’s all.”

But obviously we’ve reached this horrible nexus where no one can have a calm discussion about modern feminism and what it is and who it’s for and what ideas are behind it and so on without one party openly disparaging it and another party being openly and usually voraciously defensive of it. Because look, Matt Haig knows that no one wants to “do away with men,” and even if it’s tongue-in-cheek, why did he bother saying it?

Nonetheless, the guy seems to know what’s up. And we do need to talk about why masculinity is what it is these days, and it only seems fair that folks who identify as men should be able to have a part in that conversation rather than folks who identify as women just throwing around the term “toxic masculinity” and calling it a sufficient discussion. Haig’s heart seems to be in the right place, he seems to know what’s up, and for real, I’d rather that anti-feminists like Christina Sommers stepped down from leading discussions about masculinity and the reins be handed over to people who are more sensitive to the double-edged sword of gender identification.


[The Guardian]

[Image via The Guardian]
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