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.

, 13 July 2001

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

is political”.

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).

If Nigel was so negatively affected by a few

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.

To help to make his point about the unfair way men are now treated

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.

Surely even Nigel must accept there is a

collective responsibility?

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.

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