Male Order – a book review

Some days I wake up just exhausted at being a feminist, especially when I get 6am calls from Producer’s of breakfast radio asking me to comment on some latest sexist act. One morning I was asked to comment on why women are speaking up more about sexual harassment now than they were 10 years ago.

I had enough and my response was quick and brutal.

I suggested to this Producer that putting a couple of blokes on to talk about why they still harass women knowing that is it not acceptable would make much better radio.

Now this is not to say all men sexually harass women, but we know that the vast majority of perpetrators are men. As part of my work I advocate for the rights of women and lately I’ve found myself on repeat asking why is this still our problem.

“Men need a movement and I’m not talking about the MRA’s,” I say on a daily basis.

Then one day a book magically appears as though the author was reaching out to tell me I’m not alone. Richard Clune is the co-author of the Sunday Telegraph column ‘Male on Sunday’, was GQ’s editor and has subsequently continued to contribute to the magazine.

When it comes to men I would say Richard knows his stuff but is not necessarily the guru. As he states: “My subsequent musings on men are constructed, simply, by personal observation and experience – with a hefty side of stupidity. They come at a time when modern men are paused at a juncture of great confusion, where the roads to follow are infinite and devoid of decent signage, akin to navigating a messy freeway junction without GPS. In an unfamiliar city. At peak hour.”

In his book Male Order: Manning Up in the Modern World Richard is unpacking what it means to be a man in the 21st Century with healthy doses of how to’s. From cooking to diy’ing to being a Dad, a feminist and remaining cool with dignity Richard writes lightheartedly but with real meaning.

On alcohol and drinking he reminds his readers “…the art of drinking is to find enjoyment with alcohol – enjoyment that doesn’t mean apologising the following day or having to duck-and-weave certain colleagues on sighting them for the coming three years.”

Not to mention a stern reminder on how to behave in strip joints “…because you are a gent and you respect women. And if you do end up here, you also respect the boundaries – or face the consequences.”

He’s full of advice and observations and as a feminist I found it a refreshing look in to a man’s world. As sad as we are a society dominated by looks, it felt reassuring that body image and ageing are insecurities men face too. And I don’t say that like I am naive to what men go through, but the media pays so much attention to the insecurities of women it’s easy to forget men go experience these things too.

I loved reading him call bollocks on the work life balance. It is unattainable for both men and women and we need to be reminded of that. Richard is a feminist which made reading Male Order easy for me, he dedicates a whole chapter to male feminists pointing out quite strongly not only that they exist but how you can better understand equality for women.

I was actually really touched when Richard wrote on the objectification of women;

“Imagine that you lived within a society that openly belittles men and their various attempts to strike some form of equality against women. Think about it- and then come to understand that what perhaps many men need is not a men’s rights movement, but, rather, therapy.”

Hooray!

Richard tackles the stereotypes of masculinity calling the man cave “…one of the worst expressions to come into being the last two decades. It speaks of a Neanderthal or insular suburban type who ended up on a reality renovation TV show where neighbours work on each others apartments and the results are incredibly garish, cheap and generally both.”

It is clear that Richard is compassionate and really wants to help his fellow man (pardon the pun). He strongly advocates that “…when a mate’s being a dick – call him on it, or stick him in a cab home. Speak up and out, don’t be a pacifist to the bulls*** espoused by others.”

Because as he later writes: “In a world that allows Jake Paul to become a multi-millionaire and proves orange is indeed the new black by installing President Trump, being a dick is fast becoming normalised.”

However while I enjoyed Richard’s style and how he tackles complex issues like drinking, sex and even romance. I did feel that some advice was not going to help this feminist along her journey.

One of my jobs is teaching women how to speak in public forums. During these workshops women often talk about men dominating meetings and women’s struggles to be heard. When I read Richard’s chapter Winning at Work I found some of his advice troubling. In some ways he was encouraging the behaviour women are struggling with. Sadly, he may not even realise that is what is setting us feminists back.

So here is where Richard may have to take his own advice and in his own words “… to be a male feminist involves more than a shrug of solidarity. It’s about listening to what’s being espoused and presented by women first and foremost – for this is about their experiences and struggles and reality, never yours.”

Another area of masculinity which I felt was lacking was the discussion around emotions and violence. Violence against women perpetrated by men is one of the biggest issues we are facing as a society. It is not only depriving us of gender equality it has huge social, emotional and economic consequences. The chapter Don’t Be That Guy – a guide to not being a dick touched on it, but perhaps for me it was not with enough courage.

While my review has a few criticisms it is important to remember I’m not necessarily Richard’s key audience. This is a guide for men, and masculinity is facing a lot of challenges right now. The stereotype of what it is to be a man is just not working, and we know this by our dangerously high rate of male suicide. Something needs to give – for men, for women and for generations to come. Hats off to Richard for his contribution to getting us there.