This post first appeared on VICE UK
"Feminism is a hatred, and it should be a badge of shame," says retired businessman and talking quick-iron shirt Mike Buchanan, leader of the British anti-feminist political party Justice For Men and Boys (And The Women Who Love Them). "To call yourself a feminist should be no more acceptable than calling yourself a bigot or a sexist or a fascist. It is a deeply vile, corrupting ideology…"
Justice For Men and Boys (And The Women Who Love Them)—or J4MB for short—are running for parliament in May's general election. They've even whipped up an 80-page manifesto, which includes all sorts of colorful suggestions on how to fix things like abortion, fetal alcohol syndrome, fatherlessness, "restoring strong families," domestic violence, and sexual abuse. (Buchanan told Buzzfeed News he believed Ched Evans's rape conviction was "probably a miscarriage of justice.")
I first became aware of Buchanan—who acknowledges that, despite the cute caveat in his party's title, his "target demographic is more men than women"—when he included a friend of mine in one of his "Gormless Feminist of the Month" roundups. (We toasted the honor with some zeal.) More recently, I read that he was standing for general election, which evoked a series of responses.
First, I wondered, like the puerile fascist I am, how feasible it would be to squeeze out a tampon over a printed picture of his strange, owl-y face and paper airplane it into his office.
Second came laughter. Surely he—and the rest of his supporters (there is, as far as I can tell, a grand total of nine "Likes" on the Facebook subject page) were just having a giggle?
Third, having plowed through J4BM's proposals, there came a sharp decrease in laughter.
Fourth came pity. You wonder what on earth has to happen to a man to forge within him such contempt for women (look at the cover of his book)—particularly single mothers, who, he outlines in his manifesto, are "at the lower end of the social scale" and "choosing what has become known as 'bureaugamy'—marriage to the state." They are, he believes, "having children with no intention of being married, and seeking the support of the state as the surrogate father."
That a man—any man—would propose some of J4BM's ideas is frightening. That much is a given. Reading through Buchanan's "manifesto" is like falling onto your coccyx and knocking all the wind out your lungs. But its very existence—like any other factional interest party—is frightening, too. And if there were a woman leading a party looking only at women-specific issues, it would cause similar alarm.
I am a feminist and I would never vote for a women-only political party. Why? Because in the party I vote for I am looking for progressiveness, social justice, and the promise of legislation that will lead to greater equality. A zero-sum game is about as helpful to the wider cause as a rhubarb shoehorn. Prosperity for both sexes is woven together—not exclusive. As soon as you pit them against each other, things turn sour. Resentment is born, power is lost.
Buchanan has done an exemplary job of building ideological causes for his party, he really has. On abortion, for example, the manifesto says: "There comes a point at which the basic right to life of an unborn child overrides the right of a woman over her body. One person's rights end where another person's rights begin. In an age when contraception has long been readily available and highly reliable, women should be held morally accountable for the children they conceive. J4MB believes there's a point in pregnancy when society—and the law—needs to recognize the right of the unborn child to life."
A zero-sum game is about as helpful to the wider cause as a rhubarb shoehorn. Prosperity for both sexes is woven together—not exclusive.
Only, you don't even need to read between the lines to find the central interest here, which is: We know what women should be doing with their bodies better than they do. That his sentiment is confused—you can't suggest taking control of a pregnant woman's body if you, in the next breath, say they should be in control of it in the first place (you either trust us or you don't, Mike!)—is another matter, but the central interest is, in all of his policies, lifting control neatly out of women's hands, because those hands have become too greedy and grab-y, thankyouverymuch.
Buchanan would argue, if he got into parliament—remember: nine Facebook likes and counting, guys!—that approaches towards his own, very specific idea of gender equality would be multi-faceted, but, if you break down any one of J4MB's policy points, they all point to the same, toddler-crying-into-his-plate-of-fish-fingers-and-chips shriek of: "Well, women have got this, so why can't we have this?"
Even on an issue as sensitive as FGM, it's the same. "Male genital mutilation—MGM—is a human rights issue too, but boys are not accorded the same rights to protection as girls," his manifesto argues. "It is right to be concerned about girl's rights not to have their genitals mutilated, and it is right to be concerned about boys' rights not to have their genitals mutilated. If genital mutilation is illegal for girls, why shouldn't it be illegal for boys?"
"Everyone in a modern society should be accorded the same rights irrespective of gender," the manifesto continues. "MGM can lead to numerous physical problems. MGM results in a considerable reduction in the sensitivity of the penis, reducing circumcised men's pleasure during sex, just as some forms of FGM reduce sexual pleasure in women. MGM can also lead to mental health problems, when men become resentful and angry at the assaults carried out on them when they were babies or children."
He is right, of course. MGM is absolutely a human rights issue. The removal of a body part of any human being without their consent is a human rights issue. But while a man may wind up resenting his parents for having him circumcised, or have reduced sensitivity, FGM victims can die during childbirth as a result of their mutilation. The end point of FGM is, often, about life or death. Not resentment. Not sensitivity.
Single-interest parties are dangerous because, with the right sound-bites, they can potentially appeal to a particular pocket of the electorate who feel anger and disgust towards their current government—even if it is one that has done less for feminism than Mr. Blobby. (Blobby, for all his sins, did at least advance the idea that men could appear in public while wearing pink drag and the lip and eyelash makeup of a very naughty busty barmaid.) If you are disenfranchised, a public figure that offers a radical opinion on precisely what you're dissatisfied with is exciting. It's sexy. It gives you fire in your belly.
Only, in his whining, desperate rattling against womankind, Buchanan has cleanly ignored one of the most key issues facing Britain's men and boys in 2015: unemployment. Particularly among our ethnic minority and working-class men. As journalist Ally Fogg points out, there is "no solution offered to the savagery of the globalized neoliberal free market which has deprived working-class men of the industries and culture that once offered respect, identity, and pride."
But why offer any real antidote to the ever-dissolving self-worth of our country's men and boys when you can try and make them angry with a consistent barrage of "IT'S NOT FAIR," eh?
Why educate men on how far both sexes have come in leveling the playing field when you can make them as resentful as you are of the women around them? A case in point, again, is the issue with single mothers. He is basically posing the angry question: "Why in God's name should taxpayers [read: us bloody hard-working men!] fund the lifestyle choices of women and girls they don't know from Adam?"
The answer is simple, really. If we value humanity over selfishness, we work together—with collective responsibility—to try to protect everyone from poverty and destitution. We don't start pitting pink against blue. And if a political party comes along one of these days that says it's a girls-only fight, count me out.
Buchanan's politics are the product of single-interest hatred. They should be a badge of shame.
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