Proclaiming yourself feminist usually brings at least one guy quizzing you at each social event you attend. Sometimes it’s an interrogation, sometimes it’s genuine curiosity and sometimes it just feels if they are trying to catch you out. For instance, I’ve often been asked ‘but what about men’s suicide rates?’, as if the seriousness of men’s mental health statistics somehow invalidates the feminist movement. Sometimes, I wish I had a flashing sign over my head saying: WE ARE ALL VICTIMS IN A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY.
Now, we can respond to this particular line of inquisition with Robert Webb’s words of wisdom: ‘Gender conditioning is not something that just happen to girls. It happens to us too.’ In my own experience those men who disregard feminism, loudly at parties, have done so because they have never seen themselves represented with in the movement, feeling it attacks them without considering their experience.
Toxic masculinity has been a subject often discussed in feminist circles, pulling apart the many ways that patriarchy operates across gender lines. Incisive at this critique may be, it has as yet failed to make feminism truly mainstream, and not seen as a sectional interest of women and girls. Whilst men speaking out on the subject must be conducted with sensitivity, the representation of men in feminism is vital to its progression. Which is why hearing Robert Webb claim that his recent best-selling title ‘How Not to Be a Boy‘ pushes a ‘very unsubtle feminist agenda’ should be met with fascination rather than dismissal.
Robert Webb is part of a brilliant wave of men questioning the frame of manhood that he among many others have found to be extremely damaging in their lives, much like Chris Hemming and Owen Jones. Musician Jordan Stephens is also at the forefront of pioneering the critique of toxic masculinity and will be joining Robert Webb in conversation on 26th May as part of Liverpool’s Writing on the Wall festival.
Webb is known primarily for his big hit British comedy Peep Show, made with fellow comedian David Mitchell, and the following collaborations such as sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look and new series Back. Whilst breaching difficult subjects, Robert Webb’s autobiographical book continues to bring humour to dark places. It delves into the emotional repression which was forced upon him in childhood, leaving him unable to deal with ‘unwanted feelings’, and locates this within the structures of patriarchy. It is an issue he recognises that many men have had to contend with.
Joining Robert Webb to discuss these issues in Liverpool will be Jordan Stephens, former member of the duo Rizzle Kicks. Jordan has also recently start addressing the issue of toxic masculinity and how gendered preconceptions have affected his young adult life. By recognising the privilege he was born into and confronting what he calls ‘patriarchy’s malicious hardwiring’, he has learnt how to find love and understanding.
Robert Webb and Jordan Stephens represent a new branch of feminists. They are whistle blowing from the inside of the structure that in some ways benefits them. They bring about much needed awareness of how the pressures of masculinity affect the mental health of the men forced into it. I am certain Robert and Jordan’s discussion will be insightful, witty and well worth your attention, whether you are already a strong feminist advocate or open to a conversation with fresh male perspectives on the subject.