One of the numerous downsides of the rise of feminism is the demise of righteous masculine anger. For the record I’m strongly supportive of the great achievements of first and second wave feminism. But just as with other great changes in the modern world – like for instance another great and noble cause like the welfare state – these things do not come without their downsides as they tend to displace and/or crowd out older social institutions which have their own strengths.
In the case of the welfare state, it crowded out all sorts of marvellous institutions like mutuals, cooperatives and friendly societies. Anyway, the feminisation of our culture has made a taboo of displays of masculine aggression. This is mostly a great thing. In the Australia I was growing up in, grown men – ie beyond their mid twenties – might occasionally invite another to ‘settle it outside’, something that is mercifully pretty taboo now at least in the circles I know anything about.
But in at least one way the eclipse of masculine aggression is a pity. That’s masculine aggression in defence of the values of protecting the weak – a core masculine role. For instance one thing that makes me burn with righteous (male?) anger is foetal alcohol syndrome. Here an adult has, out of sheer irresponsibility inflicted vast disability on another human being – for the whole of their life. Why aren’t we publicly burning with anger about it? Well to do so is deeply taboo. Firstly most foetal alcohol syndrome is in indigenous communities so too much anger can always be criticised as racism. And more generally virtually everyone who talks about this stuff publicly does so from within ‘caring’ values, blaming the system not the victim and all that stuff. Well maybe that’s a more productive response – but then I’d rather the first response tempered by the latter response – rather than rendering the first response taboo. For one thing it might make us take it more seriously. And might give those who don’t particularly respond to ‘caring’ messages more buy-in to the issue.
In any event, this is what I thought when I watched the fine video above. My daughter asked if I’d seen it, and I said I’d only heard a few grabs from it on the news and that while I had liked what I’d heard, I am sufficiently jaundiced about the role of PR in our society that I had simply assumed that it was the ‘right’ message and had presumed its provenance in PR and management. Well at least judging from the video, I was dead wrong. It’s a great message.
I also love the way in which the gender message – which is rightly prominent – is ultimately subordinate to the larger point about bullying and humiliation. Absolutely spot on. All in the best traditions of the masculine part of our makeup.