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When a woman is upset, we wonder what is wrong with her.
When a man is upset, we wonder what he is going to do.
Anger is ubiquitous, but expressed differently between sexes. To see everything from a ‘human’ perspective is well and good, but we need to untangle how our culture has messed up men and women independently. This is why I believe feminism is important, and the ‘men’s-rights movement’ is… interesting. Male critics of feminism ask, “What about the men?” And I kind of think they have a point.
Don’t get me wrong: men are the problem. We commit 90 per cent of the world’s violence. We’ve started every war. We throw a fit when any woman takes a position of authority, sending death threats, incriminating nudes or worse in retaliation. That’s our secret, Captain. We’re always angry.
But have you ever tried to understand where that anger comes from? It’s said that real men aren’t born, they’re made. So what makes ‘the man’? Writer Ales Kot may have the answer, reducing it to three words.
Bleak Male Rage.
Ales Kot writes comics about war and espionage, namely ZERO, about a spy bred from birth to be a sociopathic killer, until he realises everything he learnt was a lie. These lies include:
Existence is a perpetual state of war.
Every promise is a lie.
I am nothing.
Dissecting the meaning behind ZERO and the bleak male rage in an interview, Ales Kot starts where most things do: sex. As a sexually repressive society, we are told what we can and can’t do with our bodies. In the media, acts of love are concealed or made inappropriate to watch, while acts of violence are fully displayed. You can show eyes getting gouged out in gruesome detail, but you can’t show a penis entering a vagina or you get complaints. This creates shame, a disconnect between what we feel (we want sex) and what we are told to feel (sex is forbidden).
Shame leads to anger. All that aggression has to be channelled somewhere. Kot believes it is used to make men aspire to be soldiers. Anger leads to violence. We inherit a system that associates violence with accomplishment. We are kept immune to any emotion save anger, and shamed if we cannot live up to the soldier ideal, creating the bleak male rage. Three words that sum up the conditioning of an entire gender.
Bleak. I am nothing. If you cannot live up to your role, you are shamed. This shame comes both before and after the fact. Before, you have to strive to become a soldier. If you fail, you are shamed. In ZERO, the main character learns he is not a hired gun, but a disposable missile, shot at a target and then forgotten. After becoming a soldier, you are discarded, your purpose fulfilled, any PTSD and unprocessed emotion ignored. You are told to feel nothing. You are nothing.
Male. Every promise is a lie. When the US Army allowed women to serve alongside men in combat, the outcry rang; “Girls become women by becoming older, boys become men by accomplishing something”. The mark of becoming a woman is your first menstruation. There is no such universally recognised equivalent in men. So one is created and imposed upon us, a soldier narrative. That’s why we’re always the Chosen One, the hero with a rite of passage. ‘Man’ is a goal to be achieved. Women and feminist criticism interrupt that narrative, reduce us to boys again, and so we demand a new means to prove ourselves. But we are denied an alternative.
Rage. Existence is a perpetual state of war. Men are not allowed to be vulnerable. Emotions like love are overshadowed by a cloud of blood and conflict. It’s all Fight Club, first-person shooters and ‘fuck you’. But conflict is only a male obsession because we are told it is ‘male’ to be obsessed with it. It is, to pardon the pun, an engendered rage. I read comics. I watch a lot of movies. My mind is predisposed to view everything as conflict.
I am angry. There is something I am supposed to be, and I am not it. I am nothing. Or so I am told.
This is wrong, and it needs to change.
So what is the solution? Kot suggests that the answer lies in love. That there is no question answered with conflict that cannot also be answered with love.
Women, you don’t have to sympathise, but please empathise. Men must be told that there is more than one way to be. If you want them to change, tell them in a language they understand. To my mind, the bleak male rage sums it up perfectly.
Men, identify where the external narrative matches our internal narrative, and correct accordingly. Locate the tumour, then cut it out. I’m just a diagnostician. Now send yourself to surgery. Don’t believe the lies you are told.
Existence is the manifestation of love.
Make every promise wholeheartedly.
You are something.
Gus Mitchell studies Biology and Classics at Victoria and is the resident pun-master at Salient. This year he wrote Conspiracy Corner under the alias ‘Incognito Montoya’.