There's no point asking women to save us - that's our job

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The Independent Online
I'LL BE honest. Suzanne Moore's attitude, in much of her writing, that all men are a waste of space upsets me a great deal. But what David Aaronovitch attempted to do last week in his column really drove me mad.

He wrote passionately, seeking to persuade Suzanne to be nicer about us. We need her, he said, to give us a bit of support through rough times. But, of course, the predictable happened. Mummy refused. "That's not my job," she responded.

I can live with Suzanne's denigration. But David's plea, though brave, ultimately deepened men's humiliation. It painfully exposed a huge hole in male thinking - we're depending on women to provide us with a sense of our own well-being. We're swinging in the wind, hoping that the likes of Suzanne Moore will save us. And if she doesn't, we seem to have no other resources beyond self-pity. It's a doomed strategy.

So my question is: why do we men find it so hard to create a positive picture for ourselves, an image of a hopeful, happy future? Why do we rely on women instead of taking responsibility ourselves? Surely, if we set out our own agenda, Suzanne could rail at us as much as she liked, but we would have expressed our own truths, identified our own ambitions.

A clue to answering these questions lies in the events that have reignited the gender war. First Paul Johnson, the right-wing moralist revelling in 40 years of successful marriage, has been exposed as having a long- term mistress. Second, Hanif Kureishi's new novel, Intimacy, has detailed why a man (closely modelled on the author) leaves his wife and children for his mistress. Johnson has thus been ridiculed as a hypocrite; Kureishi condemned as a misogynist.

But both tales contain a more profound truth about men. That, however active and capable we are in our public lives, our private, personal lives are often characterised by passivity.

So when Johnson wanted something a bit extra sexually - including spanking, in his case - he didn't take his wife aside and talk her through his needs. Instead, he quietly conducted an affair on the side, where he did not have to deal with any conflict that might arise out of his desires.

Likewise, reading Kureishi's work, you long for the narrator to take his wife aside, tell her what he really wants sexually and so make the relationship a success. Yet at every opportunity he runs away from the need for action, retreating to an indulgent lover who anticipates his needs without any articulation on his part.

If, by the way, you doubt that many men are sexually passive, just look at the vast sex industry, geared towards satisfying men who cannot negotiate their needs with their regular partners.

Passivity explains problems in other parts of our personal lives - our poor expression of emotions, our difficulty in feeding and caring for ourselves, our tendency to allow the home to be a feminised environment in which we are not quite comfortable. And, of course, our personal lack of assertiveness means we have barely begun to describe a positive notion of male identity.

Instead most of us, including the most powerful men in society, listen passively as commentators such as Suzanne Moore abuse us collectively for every crime imaginable. Each tirade is greeted with an extraordinary silence. And when someone like David Aaronovitch protests, he has nothing but a plea for altruism to support his case.

Transforming this Passive Man - not winning female approval - will be the great goal of male liberation. We will have to reclaim power over our personal lives that we handed over to women a long time ago. A tough, but revolutionary task.