Grazia (UK)

The provo­ca­teur: ‘It’s been a bril­liant year for men!’

On the face of it, We­in­stein, Spacey and the oth­ers ac­cused of be­ing sex­ual preda­tors have dam­aged mas­culin­ity in­deli­bly. But, ar­gues Josh Burt, there is an­other way to look at it…


Ex­cel­lent news, every­one – 2017 has been yet an­other great year for men. One of the best ever, in fact. OK, in terms of HAV­ING YOUR CAKE AND EAT­ING IT, it might not have reached the hal­cyon heights of early medieval times, when im­pa­tient men could legally hurl their wives off cliff tops. And it can’t re­ally hold a can­dle to the free­wheelin’ ’60s and ’70s, when guys could guz­zle booze at their desks, ag­gres­sively grab some hot piece of ass at re­cep­tion and still get that pro­mo­tion. But, in terms of so­ci­etal de­vel­op­ment, even up against such his­tor­i­cally stiff com­pe­ti­tion, 2017 has been EX­CEL­LENT for men, be­cause look at them – wan­der­ing around, be­ing all ‘woke’. They’re chang­ing. Grow­ing as peo­ple. Talk­ing about their feel­ings more. Open­ing up in a way that was once un­think­able. Slowly inch­ing their way to pos­si­bly recog­nis­ing cen­turies of dread­ful be­hav­iour, and per­haps con­sid­er­ing apol­o­gis­ing for it. At some point in the near fu­ture. Maybe. So, all in all, well done men. Big clap. Now, be­fore too many trum­pets are blown, I should point out that this overt shift in the land­scape has only re­ally hap­pened in the last few post-We­in­steinian weeks. And also that, and this can’t be em­pha­sised enough, as men, we def­i­nitely DON’T EN­DORSE twisted sex­ual be­hav­iour of any kind (any more, at least). But how’s this for an­other way of fil­ter­ing the avalanche of rape, abuse and ha­rass­ment re­ports that have knocked 2017 com­pletely off its axis? That they’ve fi­nally opened men’s eyes. That the gi­gan­tic splash in the ocean has rip­pled out­wards, and men every­where are col­lec­tively re-ex­am­in­ing their part in the jig­saw, won­der­ing if they might some­how be com­plicit in all of this, and now try­ing to im­prove the planet.

Take me, for ex­am­ple. No mat­ter how I try to spin it in my own mind, I can’t es­cape the fact that I’m not a to­tally in­no­cent by­stander. I haven’t raped or abused any­one, but I have known about no­to­ri­ously preda­tory col­leagues and said noth­ing. I’ve heard about sex­ual abuse at work and treated it as gos­sip. I’ve laughed at deroga­tory jokes. And, for a large part of my early writ­ing ca­reer, I plied my wares at men’s mags. Mag­nif­i­cent ad­di­tions to the news­stand though they were, proudly paint­ing men as un­heroic, they also be­came a hot­bed for the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women – an ac­cept­able

voice of misog­yny, whether by putting ‘girls’ on the cover and fo­cus­ing on their norks, or churn­ing out umpteen fea­tures on how to ca­jole hot women into bed.

It didn’t mat­ter that they were staffed with nor­mal, av­er­age-look­ing, mostly de­cent men, with the same com­plex fears and anx­i­eties as any­one else. These mag­a­zines be­came shack­led to lad­dish no­tions of mas­culin­ity, slaves to the hideous whims of sex­ist ban­ter, and we al­lowed our­selves to con­stantly feed that beast. To en­cour­age men to treat women as ‘con­quests’, to ul­ti­mately view even our own gen­der as self­ish and sim­plis­tic, ig­nor­ing the qui­eter, gen­tler voices of the beta, gamma, and delta males. No nu­ance, just ‘ be­ing a man’ painted in broad, in­ac­cu­rate brush strokes. It did lit­tle to bridge the gen­der gap.

So it was a bit­ter­sweet re­lief to see the fleshy Victoria’s Se­cret show touch­ing down in China a cou­ple of weeks ago to the ex­act op­po­site of a fan­fare, look­ing less like a thinly veiled mas­tur­ba­tory ex­trav­a­ganza and more like a tawdry sideshow run by di­nosaurs. It shows that, post-we­in­stein, so­ci­ety doesn’t trade on that kind of ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion, which in turn sug­gests that the drool­ing ‘sil­ver­back’ might have fi­nally had his day. I ad­mit, I felt a mix­ture of shame and re­lief. Shame that I used to make a liv­ing openly trad­ing on the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women, but re­lief that we’ve moved on from it too. That a cul­ture of per­pet­ual dick-swing­ing – where loud, in­tim­i­dat­ing men like We­in­stein, Spacey, Tam­bor, Piven (who have de­nied some al­le­ga­tions against them) and CK can thrive, and even be held in high es­teem – may have fi­nally swung its last pa­thetic swing ( pun en­tirely in­tended).

And now men can just get on with be­ing kind, nor­mal, well-ad­justed peo­ple. The mighty have fallen, the pres­sure is off, so let’s cel­e­brate that, and let’s cel­e­brate 2017 for pro­vid­ing a blank page where we can re­write the rules of mas­culin­ity from scratch. But be­fore we do any of that, let’s also be slightly ashamed that it pri­mar­ily took the will of women – and par­tic­u­larly the strength of sex-abuse vic­tims – to ul­ti­mately burst a big per­va­sive bubble that has clouded mas­culin­ity for years.

We should prob­a­bly start with a loud SORRY, then fol­low it up with an even louder THANK YOU. You’ve made 2017 a great year for men.

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