Reply to Nigel Planer
"Men are now in crisis... since the seventies, the pendulum has swung castratingly far in the other direction." wrote Nigel Planer in The Radio Times in June. Jen Clarke responds.
The following article by the author Nigel Planer appeared in the
Radio Times 16-22 June 2001. Below, Jen Clarke
VIEW: Nigel Planer examines the
anti-male othodoxy that has put men in crisis
“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” went
the old feminist proverb. It was the kind of slogan I would have found
graffitied [sic] on the refectory wall when I was a student in the
early seventies at the politically hyperactive Sussex University.
Other favourites were “Men are the problem”, and “All penetration is
rape”. It was accepted by both genders that our mothers had been
exploited by our fathers – not only were men the problem, but each
individual man was personally to blame. A lot of this strange
stereotyping still exists. Recently, when a firm of divorce solicitors
cheekily advertised with the shout-lines “Ditch the bitch” to attract
male clients, and “All men are bastards” for female clients, the only
complaints and accusations of sexism came from women over the use of
the word “bitch”. No one dared question the current orthodoxy that
there is something intrinsically, irredeemably yucky about men. All
Trying to understand how this came about made me keen to
be involved with Why People Hate: Men (Monday Radio 4).
Believing, in my early twenties, that I was hopelessly flawed because
of my gender made it hard to get girlfriends, for it would have been
an act of testosterone-fuelled brutality to ring up and ask them for a
date. If all men were bastards, it followed that I must be a bastard.
The only way forward was to try to change. But how? And into what?
There were no role models to emulate, and anyway, isn’t emulating role
models just more typically hierarchical masculinist [sic] behaviour?
So I tried instead somehow to become a man with the minimum amount of
male traits. To fail to be a man was my best chance of success.
A whole generation of boys has been brought up since then
– these are the ones doing worse than the girls at all levels of
education. For the first time there are now more women than there are
men qualifying as doctors and solicitors. The male suicide rate is
higher than the female, men’s, life expectancy is lower than women’s
and men are more likely to suffer from all the major diseases, with
fewer resources spent on their health than on women’s. Men are now in
crisis. So much so that Jane Fonda recently donated a substantial
chunk of her millions towards a study of what are now called “men’s
issues”. Some are saying that, since the seventies, the pendulum has
swung castratingly [sic] far in the other direction.
On the other hand, this new generation also expects, and
is expected, to be more involved with bringing up their children.
There has been a massive demographic shift in the workplace, with
numbers of men in work declining, while numbers of women have
increased. Many of these boys would like to grow up to be more than
just wage-slaves, and not be judged as fathers solely on what they can
provide. It’s in their relationships and their homes that the positive
changes are taking place. So, although it’s true that economic and
institutional power still tends to be in the hands of some men, the
majority of individual men aren’t actually all-powerful. It’s worth
remembering that the mother of all feminist slogans was “The personal
Nigel Planer writing in Radio Times 16 – 22 June
The above article, written by Nigel Planer for the Radio Times,
succinctly illustrates for me the lack of perspective that makes so
many men fear Feminism. Nigel’s very narrow premise appears to be that
the spectre of feminism is behind all of the current problems being
faced by young men and boys (including his own insecurities, and those
of his fellow sufferers).
cutting words he should be
thankful he wasn’t born female.
Because someone, we assume a woman, wrote disparaging remarks
about men on the walls of his “politically hyperactive” university
Nigel thinks he was made to believe he was “hopelessly flawed”. This,
he implies, made it difficult for him to get girlfriends. Get real
Nigel! Young men had this problem long before any woman chained
herself to the railings; it’s called growing up, and surprisingly, it
affects girls as well as boys. Good gracious, if Nigel was so
negatively affected by a few cutting words written on the toilet walls
he should be thankful he wasn’t born female. Who knows how he would
have turned out if he’d been subjected to the disparaging language and
behaviour reigned down on them by men that, for many girls and women,
is just part of every day life. But hey, maybe he’s just a sensitive
He talks about the current generation of boys who are doing worse
than girls “at all levels of education”. It would be interesting to
know where he derives his statistics because this sweeping statement
is not strictly true. It is true that in some areas, particularly
English (in the UK) girls are doing better than boys. But this is not
true in all areas of the curriculum, nor is it true across all
demographic perspectives. There is a whole industry now in education
that is looking for explanations for boys’ apparent failure in certain
areas of the curriculum and the causes are, as any intelligent person
would predict, complex and varied. It is true that one of the reasons
girls are doing better in some areas is because more resource has been
put into girls’ education. And about time too some might say????..
apparently though not Nigel.
Nigel cites increases in male suicide rates
To help to make his point about the unfair way men are now treated
Nigel cites increases in male suicide rates and lower life expectancy.
Why he does this is not clear, since this statistic has always been
true and it is difficult therefore to see how one might conclude that
it is related to feminism in any way. He also uses that rather fatuous
argument that men are getting a raw deal because more money is spent
on women’s health than on theirs. Yes, men get testicular and prostate
cancer and of course appropriate resources should be targeted in these
areas. But women get breast, cervical and ovarian cancer, not to
mention all those gynaecological problems; and of course, they have
babies don’t they? So quite rightly, the proportion of resources being
spent on women’s health is greater and it is difficult to sympathise
with anyone who would argue that it shouldn’t be.
And whilst it is true that more women are coming into more senior
and professional positions, this does not change the fact that the
wage gap continues to increase and there are still more men in higher
ranking positions than women. Far from being “wage slaves” men still
hold the balance of power at work.
One thing I agree with Nigel about is that women’s subjugation by
men is not the fault of individual men. But surely even Nigel must
accept there is a collective responsibility? Of course it doesn’t help
to blame individuals and it’s sad to think that poor Nigel seems to
feel that he has been expected to personally shoulder the blame for
all the things that made those nasty women write all that horrible
graffiti about men. But when I read Nigel’s article I can’t help being
reminded of a little boy crying and stamping his feet because his
sister has taken away his little toy. He just can’t understand his
sister’s reasoning, that he’s been playing with it for ages now and
it’s her turn.