In the far-flung misty past, being a man was a simple thing. You left school, got a job, got married, had children, drank heavily, played golf, had an aborted affair, never spoke about your feelings under any circumstances, and died of a heart attack aged 56. Easy.
But we’re well into the 21st century and the rule book for men (now an ebook) has been torn up (corrupted). These days, things are different. I am a feminist. I am also a man. I care passionately about feminism, but I also want to know what it means to be a man in 2015, and that can feel like a difficult subject to address. These days the very discussion of male identity can end up aligning you with swivel-eyed men’s rights activists or the misogynistic Red Pillers on Reddit who spend their time discussing how women have it so much better.
I’m not sure when I first heard the term “mansplaining” – the act of a man explaining something condescendingly to a woman – but I do know that as soon as I became aware of it I felt terrified that I’d inadvertently done it at some point. So, too, with “manspreading” – the unnecessary splaying of one’s legs when sat on public transport, as though attempting to clench a large invisible Swiss ball between your thighs. The word was popularised recently when papers (and Twitter, and the blogosphere) picked up on the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s awareness campaign encouraging subway riders to consider other people’s personal space (“Dude… Stop the Spread, Please” ran the ads).
And there’s more – a whole new world of pejorative “man-” prefixes. There’s “manterrupting”, “manstanding” and “manslamming”. Oh, and “bropropriating”. Each word defines an instance of men using their privilege – intentionally or otherwise – in a manner that is patronising or obnoxious. Collectively their role is surely to highlight “mantisocial” behaviour, as perpetrated by “mantagonists” (you’re welcome, sociologists of the future).
To be continue……..