Winton, Tim: About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny [with some related stuff]

Tim Winton

About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny‘ [with some related stuff], Guardian Australia, 9 April 2018 updated

An extract from the novelist’s speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut. (The book is reviewed by Richard King in The Monthly.) Of interest in that a form of masculinity seems to relate closely to the received ‘Anzac legend’: laconic, larrikin blokes doing and dying.

Boys need help [says Winton]. And, yes, men need fixing – I’m mindful of that. Males arrive in our community on the coattails of an almost endless chain of unexamined privilege. I don’t deny that for a second. But patriarchy is bondage for boys, too. It disfigures them. Even if they’re the last to notice. Even if they profit from it. And their disfigurement diminishes the ultimate prospects of all of us, wherever we are on the gender spectrum. I think we need to admit this.

In the same ballpark is former Chief of Army and Australian of the Year, David Morrison, who said this in 2014:

In hyper masculine environments, like armies, “them” is defined by being weaker physically, not drinking “like a man”, not bragging of sexual conquest, being more introverted or intellectual, and of course being female.

I think that such distortion is a strong element in one of our great foundation narratives, not just for the Army but for Australia. I am talking about Anzac. The Anzac legend – as admirable as it is – has become something of a double-edged sword … [M]any Australians now have an idealised image of the Australian soldier as a simple country lad – hair gold, skin white – a larrikin who fights best with a hangover and who never salutes officers, especially the Poms.

Where do women, or Indigenous soldiers fit in that narrative? They don’t and so, over time, such stories become myths and then myths become legends and then they become some unalterable truth.

(More from Morrison.)

Expectation flows both ways, perhaps: patriarchy puts the weights on boys; boys see something in the Anzac legend that bolsters them, and we – or some of us – go along with that perception.

Meanwhile, Jane Gilmore questions the idea that there is a current threat to the place of middle-aged white men in Australia’s power structure.

[A]part from dominating all the parliaments, the judiciary, business, economic security, film, media, sport, science and music, middle aged men are really struggling to hold on to their place in the world. Poor things.

In related vein is the Human Rights Commission (HRC) report on the lack of diversity in senior leadership positions in Australia. Based on a survey of 2490 positions, the report found ‘about 95 per cent of senior leaders in Australia have an Anglo-Celtic or European background’.

[Within this larger group] 97 per cent of [372] chief executives have an Anglo-Celtic or European background. This is a dismal statistic for a society that prides itself on its multiculturalism. It challenges Australia’s egalitarian self-image.

The report builds on earlier work brought out in 2016.

The HRC did not look explicitly at gender but Gilmore’s round-up of relevant statistics helps: men occupy 88 per cent of senior line roles in the top 200 listed companies; 63 per cent of judges are men; 80 per cent of senior STEM professors are men; 80 per cent of Australians earning more than $2500 a week ($130,000 a year) are men. Masculinity might be toxic, and some men might carry the Anzac monkey on their backs, but being a white bloke still pays relatively well and still brings a disproportionate share of power.

David Stephens

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