At my home there’s a shelf of books three metres long (I kid you not) stuffed with books about feminism, women’s history and related subjects.
I even have the first British edition (1971) of Valerie Solanas’s charming little classic: ‘SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto. So, I’ve always counted myself a 1960s feminist — with countless articles and public debates to prove it.
Why, then, do I feel so disturbed about the new wave of man-hating pervading our TV screens that seems to be engulfing my sex?
It seems you can’t turn on the television without encountering women victimised by men, psychologically as well as physically.
Sunday-night viewing, which used to be the home for family friendly favourites, now seems to be dominated by domestic dystopia.
The ITV series Angela Black, (pictured) about a woman who is the victim of domestic abuse
Take the ITV series Angela Black, about a woman who is the victim of domestic abuse.
My husband and I watched one episode then gave up. There was something about actress Joanne Froggatt’s pinched, victimised face, not to mention the close-up of her tooth on the floor, knocked out by her abusive, gas-lighting husband, that turned us both off. ‘Do I need this on a Sunday night?’ my husband asked, and I agreed.
She’s not the only tortured leading lady leading me ever closer to the ‘off’ button.
When we first meet amnesia sufferer Jo in Close To Me (Channel 4), she is lying at the bottom of the stairs in a pool of blood. Was she pushed by her creepy, cheating husband, played by brilliant Christopher Eccleston? What is the truth behind her memory loss?
Watching these shows starts to feel like voyeurism. Which, incidentally, is the central theme to another hit show, You, a Netflix series about a bookshop manager who stalks women and kills them.
However, the most vulnerable young woman grabbing a cult female audience is Alex, the heroine of another Netflix hit, Maid. Based on a bestselling book about a young woman who takes her child away from an abusive partner and is forced to work as a cleaner, the series subjects Alex to every setback you can imagine, with no one to help her.
Critics have accused it of being ‘poverty porn’ — and there’s some truth in that. Every episode I’ve seen has been powerful, compulsive, moving — and deeply depressing. Because every single man Alex encounters is horrible.
Our lovely young heroine is utterly oppressed by the male sex — her father is a wife-beater and there was a string of odious stepdads.
Women watching become judge and jury, condemning all men to eternal perdition.
The subjects tackled in such series are important.
‘Sunday-night viewing, which used to be the home for family friendly favourites, now seems to be dominated by domestic dystopia’, writes BEL MOONEY. The central theme to another hit show, You, a Netflix series (pictured) about a bookshop manager who stalks women and kills them
To spell it out, one woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime; two women are killed every week by a current or former partner in England and Wales; and it is estimated that around three women a week commit suicide as a result of domestic violence.
Of course, there’s a need for good drama depicting tough issues. That said, every modern cop drama seems to star a feisty aggressive female Chief Inspector in charge of a bunch of gormless men. It feels as though programme commissioners relish tapping into a new wave of what can only be called misandry. Meaning hatred of men.
For years, I’ve been ‘calling out’ (as the current phrase has it) misogyny — and quite rightly, since hatred and fear of women goes back centuries. After all, if it wasn’t for vain, stupid, bossy Eve, we’d all still be without sin.
Women have plenty of reasons to be angry — but I am not going to pile on statistics here. Suffice it to say that, as I wrote in a recent Mail article, real advancement remains out of reach for the majority.
The backlash against real freedom for my sex is like waves of scummy filth on a polluted shore. But all that accumulated knowledge and experience convinces me that we do not help women by demonising all men.
The arguments have become dangerously skewed in the direction of prejudice. And prejudice against any person simply on the grounds of what he/she is remains disgusting.
The #MeToo movement was partly a response to Donald Trump and partly to more disturbing stories of sleazy, powerful men exploiting females. Women shared their own stories and said: ‘This is how it was for me, too.’
The most vulnerable young woman grabbing a cult female audience is Alex, the heroine of another Netflix hit, Maid (pictured). Based on a bestselling book about a young woman who takes her child away from an abusive partner and is forced to work as a cleaner
That mood of anger segued into something else around the time of the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard last March. Women felt enraged — and rightly so.
But then it became clear on social media that you had to agree Men Are The Enemy — or face anger yourself. You couldn’t suggest ‘not all men are like that’ — which is a statement so obviously true as to be inarguable. No matter.
The hashtag ‘Not All Men’ became as totally unacceptable as ‘All Lives Matter’ (with an overlap in that white men are deemed to be the worst in the world).
You had to parrot the received opinion or face incoherent anger and end up being abused yourself.
This is what happened to me. A spirit of fairness prompted me to disagree on Facebook with that thoroughly nasty and dishonest dismissal of a whole sex.
Oh dear. The harridans piled in on me, and I was so irritated I copied the exchanges. A patronising 35-year-old woman wrote, ‘All I can do is explain to you the harm you are causing’, and ‘she hoped she could educate me’ about sexism and ghastly men.
Still obviously badly in need of ‘education’, I pointed out that there are plenty of men (such as my husband, son and son-in-law, to cite but three) who are good, kind and gentle, and thoroughly loathe sexism in all forms.
But this was not allowed. No nuance here, thanks. The furious feminist lobby believes that stating ‘Not all men’ is a betrayal. But why should that be?
Because all men are privileged and even if they seem decent they still possess the potential to exploit women — or stand by while others do it. They are guilty even if they haven’t done anything.
That ‘argument’ takes you down a rabbit hole similar to that of ‘critical race theory’ — which says that white people are innately privileged (yes, even the poorest) and even if they declare themselves anti-racists they are still guilty because of the colour of their skin.
Witch-hunts damn you either way. Only if you admit guilt will you be considered an ‘ally.’
I was told: ‘You have to accept that men as a group really are s***.’
Do I really?
Were all the males, young and old, who took part in last weekend’s moving Remembrance Sunday parade at the Cenotaph all sexist pigs? What about all the decent men who love their families, work hard and do their best?
When we first meet amnesia sufferer Jo in Channel 4’s Close To Me (pictured), she is lying at the bottom of the stairs in a pool of blood. Was she pushed by her creepy, cheating husband, played by brilliant Christopher Eccleston?
Are all our lovely partners somehow ‘responsible’ for domestic violence, rape and murder?
According to the prejudice, because they were born male they are de facto guilty. I was told that my blameless husband ‘must have friends who make sexist or racist jokes’ — and therefore be as guilty as they are, by association.
Listen, sisters — he doesn’t and he damn well isn’t!
It shocks me that such women (all educated and articulate) choose to view life through the latest narrow prism of oppression and victimhood. But it’s easy to get why TV show makers seek to capitalise on a fashionable sense of angry vulnerability and outright misandry.
It feeds on itself, so any potential for masculine goodness is denied and prejudice on the grounds of identity is exploited when it comes to men. Why is it wrong for men to state, ‘All women are b******’ — yet acceptable for women to shout, ‘All men are s****’?
Of course, it’s not acceptable at all. But just as casual misogyny used to be the stock-in-trade of comedians (oh, those dreadful mother-in-law jokes), so casual misandry is a phenomenon I’ve been noticing more and more.
I can report one example. The occasion was the 100th anniversary of the excellent charity Gingerbread — once for the ‘Unmarried Mother and Her Child’ but now for single parents in general. As a young journalist, I dealt with the charity, so I went to London to celebrate with them.
The party was held in the fine 18th-century surroundings of London’s Foundling Museum, set up by the great Thomas Coram who was horrified children should be abandoned by mothers too poor or shamed to care for them. The guest speaker was Jane Garvey, then a presenter of Woman’s Hour on Radio 4. She stood on the podium and began with the scornful jibe that there we were, in that room, ‘surrounded by portraits of fat, old, white men in bad wigs’.
Now if Ms Garvey had arrived early enough to explore, she’d have discovered that those mocked men were the brave philanthropists who defied the culture of the time to assist Thomas Coram in 17 hard years of fundraising to help pitiful women and their babies.
Of course, it was just a joke, wasn’t it? Only a bit of banter. Let’s laugh at the old guys in wigs who did good things but obviously ate too many good dinners.
Similarly, we can dismiss and deride television presenters (for example) for being ‘pale, male and stale’ — and that’s perfectly OK. Can you imagine the furore if such prejudiced comments were used about women in this current climate of rapid ‘offence’?
Many women say that sexist comments and man-hating TV storylines are regarded merely as ‘payback’ — another popular term to justify misandry — for all the sexist jokes women have heard over the years. But it doesn’t work that way, does it?
The common-sense idea that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ itself dates back to the 18th century, and is a reminder that when two angry people fight a duel they’re both likely to end up wounded or dead.
By all means demand that both men and women ‘call out’ toxic masculinity wherever it occurs, but if you tar all men with that brush it loses any real meaning. How can you muster to defend the rights of abused women and girls across the globe if you foam with rage about some perceived slight overheard in a pub?
The phenomenon we call ‘toxic masculinity’ certainly exists and should always be challenged — but these days I’m sensing ‘toxic femininity’, too, and it’s pretty unpleasant.
What happened to the belief in the moral equality of people based on their actions and not on colour, creed, race or sex? Surely writing ‘All men are s****’ might be considered ‘hate speech’?
Do teachers (many of them Left of centre) regard the boys in their classes as little adversaries? Rapists in training? Statistics show that young, white men are the most deprived group in Britain and that men aged 18 to about 49 are the most likely group of people to kill themselves.
The brilliant political writer David Goodhart believes that ‘the traditional male virtues — strength, physical courage, emotional stoicism’ are undervalued.
How can we even start to educate boys to respect girls if we begin with the assumption that they are all timebombs of misogyny waiting to explode?
In this divided, quarrelsome age, the last thing we need is more division — this rekindling of the old battle of the sexes.
There is plenty in this world for good men and women to be equally angry about, but not if we are encouraged by harridans and opportunistic television bosses to see each other across the lines as hateful enemies.