Seán Mon­crieff

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE -

I’ ve just re­alised that I’m a hyp­ocrite. Or, more cor­rectly, that I’ve been hav­ing hyp­o­crit­i­cal no­tions. That’s not good, but it’s not es­pe­cially bad, ei­ther: we all like to think we’re com­pletely ra­tio­nal crea­tures, un­en­cum­bered by the views pressed on us by our ex­pe­ri­ence, our so­cial stand­ing, our fam­i­lies and our friends. But we’re not. Our brains are a bat­tle­ground be­tween logic and prej­u­dice, be­tween the way the world is and the way we would like to think it is.

But any­way, my lat­est hypocrisy stems from the fact that I have daugh­ters. When the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal blew up, var­i­ous male Hol­ly­wood types, like Matt Da­mon, lined up to ex­press their hor­ror, dodge ques­tions about how much they knew, and in­sist that this kind of thing had to stop be­cause they have daugh­ters.

Hav­ing daugh­ters meant that they had skin in this game. Hav­ing daugh­ters seemed to be­stow them with some quasi­qual­i­fi­ca­tion in the of­ten grim dy­nam­ics of gen­der re­la­tions.

But why should it? Is the corol­lary of that: I have sons, so I don’t care? Surely they have opin­ions about many is­sues to which they have no di­rect con­nec­tion. You don’t have to be a Ro­hingya, or even have met one, to be ap­palled by the eth­nic cleans­ing in Myan­mar. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of straight Ir­ish peo­ple had opin­ions, and voted on, mar­riage equal­ity. Why should sex­ual as­sault, or the treat­ment of women in gen­eral, be any dif­fer­ent?

The thing is, I’ve done the same. I’ve played the “I have daugh­ters” card many, many times so I could spout off about sex­ism. On just about any other is­sue I haven’t felt the need the bring my chil­dren into it.

In fair­ness to me and Matt Da­mon ( me, any­way), bring­ing daugh­ters into dis­cus­sions about fem­i­nist is­sues doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean we hadn’t thought about them un­til the kids ar­rived. It may also stem from a cer­tain ten­ta­tive­ness. For pretty un­der­stand­able rea­sons not all fem­i­nists want men to roll in with their tup­pence worth. They cer­tainly don’t want men to res­cue them from sex­ism. Even the bestin­ten­tioned man can’t know what it’s like to move through the world as a woman, so in­vari­ably we’re go­ing to get it wrong.

Yet the treat­ment of one half of the hu­man race is far too im­por­tant to be left to one half of the hu­man race to solve. Of all the equal­ity is­sues sex­ism is ar­guably the most per­va­sive, in­ter­sect­ing with pretty much ev­ery as­pect of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence: in the home, the pub, the Dáil, the street, the work­place, the film set, and in wars.

And it af­fects men too. A more equal world is ob­vi­ously bet­ter for every­one. But, more trou­blingly, the re­cent bub­bling of right- wing pol­i­tics has con­tained anti- fem­i­nism as one of its cen­tral com­po­nents. It ar­gues that all these bol­shie women are emas­cu­lat­ing men, suf­fo­cat­ing them with po­lit­i­cally cor­rect stric­tures that hold them back from their true na­ture. It’s un­der­pinned by a re­duc­tive, bi­o­log­i­cal de­ter­min­ism that views male­ness as ag­gres­sive, com­pet­i­tive and in­di­vid­ual.

This re­stricted, Old Tes­ta­ment view of what it means to be a man is not only bad for girls but also in­cred­i­bly dam­ag­ing for boys.

Matt Da­mon and I shouldn’t be hor­ri­fied by the We­in­steins of this world just be­cause we have daugh­ters. But be­cause some of us have sons too. As a fa­ther of daugh­ters, I re­alise I’m a hyp­ocrite

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