The Human Rights of Privileged Victims. A Marxist Satire on Shouting Matches

Religious divides have been the source of many a bloody conflict. Even today, across the world, atrocities are committed by Hindus over Christians, Buddhists over Muslims, Jewish over Muslims, Hindus over Muslims, Muslims over Hindus, Muslims over Christians, Christians over Muslims, Sunni Muslims over Shia Muslims and, in a tiny corner of Europe, Protestant Christians over Catholic ones and vice versa.[1] Who benefits from all such division and tragedy? Who gains from the ruthless violation of human rights, sometimes on an egregious scale?*

Assuming here, at least for sheer argument’s sake, that the traditional Marxist answer to that question is correct, then there is one class cui bono accrue all such division and tragedy: the bourgeoisie. Who are they? This term is a bit passé today, I must admit. “The 1%”, “the corporate elite”, “the job creators”, or just “the rich”, would be more popular expressions in contemporary parlance. Had he been more articulate, the Dude might have used the old b-word, to Lenin‘s and many classicists‘ plausible surprise.

The concept is not passé, however. The idea that the ruling class preserves its power by keeping the ruled ones internally divided by means of, inter alia, ideological decoys and distracting identities is as old as Philip II of Macedon (382–336 BC), who lived long before  Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Marxism and is said by ancient tradition to have uttered the momentous phrase “διαίρει καὶ βασίλευε” (“divide and rule”).

In light of today’s levels of skewed market power, de facto regressive taxation, immense wealth disparity reminiscent of the Belle Époque, fantastic unearned incomes by way of financial rent, mass unemployment, workers’ precariousness, widespread de-unionisation, technological replacement of the workforce, growing underemployment of vainly trained young minds, discriminatory substantive inequality before the law, and the concomitant absence of large-scale socio-political dissent, there seems to be no reason to believe that such a well-tested means of social control should not be at work in contemporary societies too.

Therein, the class of billionaires and their corporate manifestations have been thriving unchecked, as proven repeatedly—and at the very least—by a plethora of unpunished financial and fiscal scandals of truly global proportions: Worldcom, Enron, Forex, Libor, Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, etc. Not to mention the credit lifelines and special bail-outs granted to gargantuan banks and their wealthy owners after the self-inflicted international collapse of 2008, while common people were crushed by austerity  packages across continents in order to pay for such generous rescue missions.[2] When money talks, human rights walk… off a cliff.

What is more, the very same billionaires have often taken direct control of the political game qua party leaders, government officials, cabinet ministers and populist trailblazers. Not even Marx could have expected them to become so shameless in their command of political institutions. At the same time, Marx’s ghost, the ghost of communism per his 1848 Manifesto, not to mention the now-mythical chimeras of internationalism and mass revolution, have all been eerily vacant from the world’s stage, even when Marx’s Capital has been picked up from under a shuggly desk and adapted for the 21st century, in which even polite British media acknowledge the affirmation of nothing less than fascism.

When religion cannot do good enough a job, viable alternatives exist: race, nationality; region-, party- or even football-based affiliation can be often as effective. The New York City draft riots of 1863, pitting poor Irish immigrants against poor blacks while well-off Americans could avoid being sent to battle by paying a set fee, are just one historical example among many. These days, it may lead people to the cinemas, rather than to the streets. Again and again, poor people that would be humongously better off by joining numbers, forces and concerted efforts against the tiny minority exploiting them, waste instead their best energies and, at times, their livelihood and life, by fighting among themselves—and against designated ‘others’. Frequently, trouble is taken by the truly troubled in order to suppress the much-maligned “troublemakers”, who are in fact the ones trying to find a solution to their woes, e.g. ‘anachronistic’ trade unionists and ‘pie-in-the-sky’ left-wing intellectuals. Turkeys do love their Christmas holidays.

About twenty years before The Communist Manifesto, the liberal and Catholic novelist Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873) described the long-lived logic and common practice of divide et impera (Caesar having learnt King Philip’s lesson) most vividly in a rustic allegory of his. He depicts Renzo, the poor, rural, male protagonist of Manzoni’s most famous book, I promessi sposi, holding several living capons by their legs. That’s the beginning; let me explain. Renzo is carrying these poor capons as his only means of payment to a well-off city lawyer, whom Renzo intends to hire in the attempt to redress the wrongs that he and his betrothed—the poor, rural, and female Lucia—have been suffering from a local nobleman that, to the young couple’s great misfortune, fancies Lucia well beyond the boundaries of common decency and aristocratic gentlemanship. Manzoni notes that, had the capons been a little more intelligent, they would have started picking the hand that kept them captive and therefore regained their freedom. Instead, the capons bickered among themselves and ended up being delivered with great ease to their recipient. The lawyer enjoyed a few good meals out of the animals, but also failed to help Renzo in his human, far-too-human plight.

Rather than Christmas turkeys, Renzo’s capons, or “i capponi di Renzo”, have become a proverbial admonition in Italian culture, though little followed its inherent wisdom may be in the nation’s daily habits. Despite Manzoni’s hefty novel being a mandatory reading in the nation’s secondary schools, millions of Italians can still be kept internally divided in all sorts of ways, such as Northerners versus Southerners, natives versus immigrants, Catholic versus secular, progressive versus conservative, private-sector versus public-sector, and old versus young.

As concerns most contemporary Western nations, gender is being used in the same manner, especially within middle-class environments and even inside academic circles. Men and women spend endless time and effort squabbling about the so-called “male privilege” and an alleged set of attendant disparities, rather than combining their efforts in order to pursue better wages, better working conditions, sensible monetary and fiscal policies by State authorities, true economic security and autonomy, a life-saving stop to the all-embracing profit-motive that is destroying the planet, as well as emancipatory self-ownership and democratic self-stewardship. Such squabbles split the front of the exploited many into two warring fronts: men versus women, women versus men or, in the shouting matches that frequently result thereof, radicals versus right-thinking persons, or feminists versus chauvinists, depending on the side one is on.

Sophisticated intellects and fair-minded individuals might plausibly avoid being tossed into these camps or reduced to either of them, but only with great effort and with no hope of success. Even well-paid academics can utter absurdities such as: “Fucking is entirely a male act designed to affirm the reality and power of the phallus, of masculinity”.[3] Whatever veritable genius the elect may occasionally possess, the elect have very little effect on the daily shouting matches within public and private bodies. Not to mention the  mass media, where “male privilege” or, for that matter, “patriarchy”, are not carefully dissected analytical tools, but massive clubs to smash men’s heads with. Go to any party meeting, political rally, activist gathering or well-meaning workshop on gender relations, if you don’t believe me; listen to the telly, to undergraduate students, go to the movies or explore the real world. As a sage from Savona had once observed, flesh-and-blood people make excellent straw-men, sadly enough. They make harlequins too. Splitting hairy dogma and deep thinking are the job of few fastidious, profound theologians. Apart from them, most people go by a handful of simple formulas. Life gives them little room for little else. Under such far-too-human conditions, erudite subtleties get drowned in the great sea of common slogans and disappear from view. Erudite subtleties do not count. Rhetoric, instead, matters; and it matters more than anything, for rhetoric can truly make and re-make the laws, whether written or unwritten.

The situation is analogous to the superficial but immensely powerful liberal vernacular pervading the economic and business understanding, and decision-making, of contemporary societies at all levels, from the small entrepreneur’s self-perception to the mantras of well-dressed European commissioners. (I use “liberal” in the European sense, not the American one.) Bookworms and Adam Smith (1723–1790) scholars know perfectly well how critical the founder of modern economics was of corporations, the greed of business-people, their nefarious influence over law-making, or the need for banking regulation. Nevertheless, most self-declared liberals will utter Smith’s name like the revered and wondrous name of a prophet of old, without having read a single work of his, and defend today’s de facto corporate oligopolies in the name of unfettered “free trade”, and with sincere belief in the providential blessings of the “invisible hand”. Armed with few, well-tested commonplaces, they will launch into trite pro-market-versus-pro-State tirades, or right-versus-left political arguments. More often than not, given the acquired matter-of-fact character of the commonplaces at issue, they will win the day; and the scary night that follows. Rhetoric, like love, conquers all.

In the men-versus-women analogue, the chauvinist camp includes even some women that, apparently, don’t realise that they have been duped by patriarchy and are actually not free, though they do think that they are free and act without visible restraint, committing crimes against their gender such as wearing high heels, becoming Catholic nuns, showing a cleavage on a Facebook photograph, or buying copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. (All these being peculiar anecdotes that I can recall from my years in Canada and Iceland.) Be as it may that the little sisters consent, the big ones resent; hence the former ought to repent, and nobody is content. Some women are more equal than others, and the former can tell the latter what is actually good for them to think, do, and be—like older sisters to younger ones, or patriarchs of old.

As to those articulate unrepentant women that openly complain about this peculiar state of affairs, such as Ellen Willis (1941–2006),  Wendy McElroy (b. 1951) or Camille Paglia (b. 1947) in today’s academia, they risk ending up being reviled as “Nazi”, akin to Rush Limbaugh (b. 1951) and, inexorably, “patriarchal”. Even Erin Pizzey (b. 1939) can find no refuge today. Pluralism and free speech are often liked by many self-styled progressives only insofar as, and for as long as, people agree with them. (In line with the analogy regarding the economic sphere, try running a country without McDonald’s or no private ownership and see whether the liberal countries leave you alone or not.) Ironically, in the midst of all this “you’re a Nazi” bantering, a duly reworded chapter from Hitler’s Mein Kampf got published in a peer-reviewed, proudly feminist, academic journal.

Not that patriarchs, male prejudice and male privilege may have not existed at some point in history or may not exist somewhere on Earth today. Saudi Arabia has remained to the very present a hellish place for women, and so do several other oil-rich countries in the Middle East that have glorious business relations with the liberal West. (Again, when money talks, human rights walk off a cliff.) Across the globe, there are indeed some nations where women are regularly beaten, have little access to healthcare, are not allowed to pursue any education worthy of note, and cannot walk in the streets without male chaperones for fear of being assaulted. Nasty patriarchs and their stunted children are still around. If I look at today’s developed world, however, I see no male privilege in, say, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland or Canada. (Please note that I do not include here my native country, Italy, where women are still being fired for such an outrageous misdemeanour as getting pregnant.)

It is not a matter of there being no inequality at any level; some inequality does exist but, if we look closely enough, it cuts both ways, not just one. Let me be clear. As it is deployed or implied in daily life, male privilege is a matter of there being—or not being—blanket better conditions for persons who were born male, similarly to the way in which a person would enjoy blanket better conditions by being born into an aristocratic family in 17th-century France, or in a 1% family today. Anyone who was born in the aristocracy back then, or is in plutocratic families today, enjoyed and enjoys better food, longer lives, legal and muscled protection from physical harm, access to enterprising credit, top-level education, conspicuous leisure, better healthcare, and a thousand more life-enabling resources denied to others. The well-born person’s benefits or advantages over the rest are notable and blatant. That’s privilege in a nutshell; and that is what ordinary men and women take it to be, quite reasonably. Think, for example, of the (in)famous poisoner Marie-Madeleine Marguerite D’Aubray (1630–1676) in the ancien régime, or of the noted businesswoman Ivanka Trump (b. 1981) today. These are no straw-men; they are women of substance.

Logic can be of some help here. One of the standard forms of reasoning identified since ancient times, is the so-called “modus tollens”, according to which if, from a certain condition A follows inescapably another condition B, and condition B is not the case, then it has to be concluded that A is not the case either. Formally, A -> B, –B, ergo –A. If I drink the hemlock like Socrates, then I feel ill and die shortly thereafter; I am alive and well; therefore, I have not drunk the hemlock. This much logic is not phallic. Contradicting it is, however, fallacious.

If there is male privilege, then there must be conspicuous benefit or blatant advantage for men; if such a conspicuous benefit or blatant advantage does not occur, then male privilege doesn’t occur either. In today’s advanced societies, if someone is born male, he is more likely to die younger, to suffer from mental illness leading to suicide, to die in combat, to die in the workplace, to be the victim of violent crime, to be the perpetrator of violent crime, to serve time in prison and, in prison, to suffer rape. Living nastier, brutish and shorter lives is no conspicuous benefit or blatant advantage, whatever creatively postmodern way or cunning ceteris-paribus conditions we may choose to look at it. There could be still some advantages at some level, but they would be neither notable nor blatant, and even less assuredly blanket, insofar as men’s longevity, physical integrity, mental health and law-abidingness signal losses compared to women’s.

Let me be redundant. There may be benefits that originate from being born a man. They may be small things, such as the likelihood of being allowed to play contact sports when children or swearing publicly with impunity. They may be ‘bigger’ ones, such as increased chances of becoming a top businessperson or politician, smashing the glass ceiling, and belonging to the 1%—if that can be considered a good thing. Though certainly a mainstream aspiration, I wonder what Marx would say about it. Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013), Cristina Kirchner (b. 1953), Carly Fiorina (b. 1954), Theresa May (b. 1956), Christine Lagarde (b. 1956) and, for a while, Rita Crundwell (b. 1953), got up there, though being part of a growing minority. Yet, even if we reached a 50/50 point of equilibrium in the upper echelons, there would be still male benefits as well as female benefits, for being born female would increase nonetheless one’s chances of wearing skirts as well as trousers, or of being addressed politely by strangers as a child—not to mention living the longer, healthier and more law-abiding lives just mentioned.

Gender roles, as debatable and mutable as we may wish them to be, imply in concrete reality different gains, not just losses, for both sexes. As most important issues are rarely black-and-white matters, so is social advantage far more nuanced than the unrelenting yet simplistic male-and-female opposition entails. When essential dimensions of human well-being are considered, such as physical, mental and moral integrity, Western women are on the winning side. The suffragettes, the witches-that-returned, and the brave activists that fought for women’s health and education in times of actual female segregation, have won big time: we should acknowledge and celebrate that. Their feisty descendants, today, as well-meaning as they may be, repeat slogans and employ concepts that are factually anachronistic in wealthy nations like Iceland, Holland, Canada or Norway.

Meanwhile, the Luddites, Owenites, Marxists, revisionists, Trotskyists and middle-way Swedish social-democrats have seen their battles end up in humiliating defeats, to the point that in today’s North America no politician dares speak of the “working class” in public debates, lest they are accused of nothing less than frightening “socialism”. Only the “middle class” is allowed to exist, verbally. In Europe, these dangerous words are still audible, though a non-working class is actually the chief problem there, since Europe’s working class has emigrated to China under the banner of “globalisation”.

Classic concepts can become classified items. Despite its relevance vis-à-vis today’s gross inequality, the very notion of class has been largely silenced, while gender enjoys much more popularity. Race, nationality and religious creed were very popular too, in previous times; and it is not difficult to understand why, at least for Marx or the Dude, who would ask, if he had read Seneca: cui prodest? Since the cruel, neglectful parents are away skiing on the Alps or sipping Martinis in the Caribbean, then the understandably upset big sister can kick her brothers in the groin to vent her rage: after all, her brothers have a Johnson, just like dad, who keeps enjoying himself and forgetting about his children. Who do you think benefits from this sorry state of affairs: the brothers?

Though commonplace in in shouting matches, the enduring talk of “male privilege” is, at heart, a remnant of a by-gone past and a misrepresentation of a much more toxic reality, where the one and only true callous and outrageous privilege is that of a few rich family networks directing everyone else’s life to maximise their take to a massive extent, irrespective of gender. If life is a valley of tears, then both men and women are crying aplenty. Who, for example, can lead his or her life without spending much, if not most of it, working for someone else, who has the power to hire, fire, disenfranchise and impoverish them? Who, whether man or woman, can afford to be indifferent to the boom-bust hot-money cycles that financial moguls and their clients, whether men or women, have been unleashing on the world’s nations since the end of the Bretton-Woods system? Who, after the crash of 2008, can say in good conscience to have been left untouched and undamaged by the gigantic waves of transnational speculation engulfing the global economy? Who, in constitutionally free and independent countries, has not heard the government justify their austere policies by reference to genderless  cruel deities such as “the markets”, “the creditors”, “foreign direct investment”, or “international competition”?

What is more, the notion of male privilege flies in the face of much theoretical and experimental literature, in which the negative consequences for men of traditional gender roles have been identified again and again. This is something that ordinary people have no great difficulty to grasp. Stunted emotional development, personal unhappiness, limited self-expression, lack of empathy and other “maladies of the soul”, as Julia Kristeva (b. 1941) would dub them, have been studied and catalogued in the accounts of what exactly standard assumptions and stereotypes about men do to men themselves, from their early childhood to their deathbed, whether such assumptions and stereotypes are held by women or by other men.[4]

If you have read my satirical piece to this point, you must have realised that I am a moaning man. Ipso facto, if not ipso dicto, I am not consistent with my gender stereotypes. Quite the opposite, I believe wholeheartedly that standard, if not archetypal, masculinity can be toxic. However, if standard gender roles can be toxic to both sexes, then they cannot be advantageous to men at large either. Rhetorically, speaking of “male privilege” or, for that matter, calling the bourgeois a “patriarch”, obscure culpably the class element and overemphasise the gender one, casting suspicion upon men qua men and therefore splitting the oppressed camp into mutually opposed men and women. In keeping with the ongoing business analogue, usages of “patriarchy” as oppressive of both men and women are as rhetorically flawed as the orthodox economists’ insistence on using “goods”, “efficiency” and “optimality” as value-neutral terms. Both dyslogistic and eulogistic words are springs of action. Pick a different term, please, and reduce equivocation. Rhetoric. as said, matters.

Logically, stating the negative character of traditional gender roles for men themselves and insisting at the same time on the existence of “male privilege” is a contradiction. Worse than fallacious reasoning, however, the persistence of traditional male gender roles, which are enforced by women too, is combined today with the growing hypocrisy and the double standards that the much-desired empowerment of women has made possible. As the ethicist John Kekes (b. 1936) has often remarked in his works, granting more freedom to more people—empowered women included—means granting more opportunity for the evils of cruelty or, as Luce Irigaray (b. 1930) would word it, the evils of ‘‘possession”, “appropriation” and “domination’’.[5] Truly, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

It all starts from an early age, by the way, as Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) had rightfully lamented long ago. This time it works in reverse, though, as genders are concerned. The list is endless. Let me indulge in it a little: it is somewhat amusing—though maybe not for the young men who grow up under such confusing premises or the older ones who get trapped by their paradoxes, especially in the Nordic countries that I have come to know in the last twenty years. Hopefully, my long and strange list will get someone thinking of the male teardrops drenching life’s valley, where they join the well-researched female ones.

Let me digress. I like Sterne’s Tristam Shandy. What’s the cure to boys not crying? Crying? Boys do cry; but more often than not they do it in hiding, behind doors. Doing so openly would cause them to be derided and dismissed by women—not just by men—as unmanly moaners, in yet another crippling instance of traditional gender roles and expectations, according to which boys don’t cry unless they are sissies. Think of the levels of pain involved: failing at school, unemployed, underemployed, prone to crime or substance abuse, and likely candidates to suicide, these male human beings are losers in the competitive game of society, which is then said to be skewed in their favour; hence, they are losers twice, for they managed to lose despite being unfairly favoured ab initio. Moreover, these twice-losers may not show openly their pain, for “real men” having any chance of impressing any self-respecting female are expected to be stoical. And so thrice it goes. Losers, losers, losers.

Sophisticated intellects and fair-minded individuals might avoid being so callous to suffering men. Male tears may not be dismissed by all as privileged people’s whining.  Perhaps, behind those tears and the label “man”, there are persons who suffer and, perhaps, some people may realise it, women too. Others, instead, will be happy to sip on them. Still, weakness is not yet a selling point; hence, pained men learn this painful truth by way of additional doses of pain. Even frankly smart gals prefer fairly stereotypical guys, if you are brave enough to read the Gul’s numbers on the subject, inter alia. As amply shown by men’s lived experience and mainstream media, weak men make a poor catch and catch poorly themselves. They are not simply rejected, but even resented, for such men cannot be ‘relied upon’, as the old gender stereotype prescribes. Its grip on men’s and women’s minds is as powerful as the ideal man that it continues depicting.

But let us look at a longer list; the one I promised:

  • Girls with trousers are normal; boys wearing a skirt are laughed at, told better, or advised a sex change.
  • Tomboys are cool; effeminate boys the butt of the joke.
  • Boisterous girls are future adventurers in the making; boisterous boys an ill-educated nuisance.
  • A girl squad is worth celebrating in pop songs; a group of teenage boys can’t even be allowed into a shopping mall.
  • Man-eating dancing queens and pussycat dolls can tease at will, break hearts with spears, lose them in the game, and do it again; boys are expected to endure it and be thankful, reminiscent of male mantises and male spiders.
  • Crass humour about women is sexist; crass humour about men is universal.
  • Young girls, often drunk, vomiting innuendos, or worse, at men in the middle of a busy street on a Saturday night are having a bit of fun; boys doing the same are intolerable pigs.
  • The same goes for hiring male strippers on a hen night versus hiring female strippers on a stag night: stags are actually pigs, and pigs should not pursue such vile objectifications; hens are excused.
  • An intolerable pig is also a man sleeping around, while a woman doing the same is exploring her sexuality or asserting her independence. While the former is routinely attacked as an emblem of ‘patriarchy’, casting doubt on the latter is ‘slut-shaming’.
  • Women making a pass are seen as a glorious sign of liberation; men making a pass as a threatening step towards harassment.
  • Even alone, a man with a sex doll is a creepy pig that is better avoided; a woman with a dildo is a liberated person who does not need men for her self-realisation.
  • Women who enjoy porn are emancipated, like the heroines of Sex and the City; men who do the same are, again, pigs.
  • Women’s menopausal crises deserve warmth and compassion; men’s midlife crises are the fodder for TV comedies.
  • Women can talk freely for both sexes—or more, given the alleged fluidity and plurality of genders of the human race; men, on their part, can never understand what it is like to be a woman, for they are not women.
  • On the job, a man seeking sexual favours in exchange for professional advantages is deemed to be harassing another—“me too” think that; a woman offering sexual favours in exchange for professional advantages, though, is still deemed to be the victim of harassment.
  • An older woman parading a much younger lover is cheered on: “Go Cathrine!”, says the British historian Lucy Worsley (b. 1973) in her TV documentary, The Empire of the Tsars. No TV personality would dare utter so publicly “Go Donald!” or “Go Silvio!” on the same grounds.
  • Oppression may be unseen, but eyes matter: men can create a hostile environment by merely looking at a woman.
  • Words matter too: “cunt” and “bitch” are condemned as sexist, while “dork” and “dickhead” are used with liberality and much gusto.
  • Women who work and see to domestic chores suffer from a double burden; men who do the same are emancipated, almost Swedish.
  • Men telling women what to do are said to enjoy the privilege of command; women telling men what to do are said to experience the emotional stress of organisation.
  • A woman slapping a man in the face in public leads to amused or perplexed curiosity; a man slapping a woman in public leads to the cops being called onto the scene.
  • A woman working as a childminder is the image of motherly love; a man doing the same is a potential paedophile whose identity and penal record must be triple-checked—these days, many men are quite simply terrified of talking to children in public.
  • Female bisexuality is experimental and accepted as part of growing up; male bisexuality is unsettling and rejected as screwing up: the sure path to a woman’s rejection.
  • Genders are said to be many and pliable; yet men are spotted with uncanny ease and blamed for the root of all evils: patriarchy.
  • A penniless woman hooked on antidepressant calls rightly for universal pity; a penniless man hooked on alcohol calls sinisterly for the epithet of “loser”.
  • A woman who kills a baby is the embodied tragedy of depression; a man who does the same a monster to be locked away or fried to a crisp.
  • A woman who commits a crime deserves the attention of psychologists and social workers; a man who is found guilty of the same crime can simply be locked away and forgotten—though his prison rapists may notice him.
  • Male-only priesthood in the Roman Church is condemned by unbelieving feminists, who celebrate the creed of Finland’s SuperShe island for excluding men.
  • Tearooms packed with women are an oasis of independence; bars packed with men a gateway to hell.
  • Women who are afraid of men have good reasons; men who are afraid of women have bad problems.
  • Women’s access to the cohort of corporate multi-millionaires is a profound matter of equality to be fought for by all; the plight of poor mine workers, lorry drivers and bin men something that is habitually forgotten by the most vocal female activists—corporate executive glass ceilings trump common drone-work cellars.

One does not need to be the much-reviled psychologist Jordan Peterson (b. 1962) to abhor these more-and-more commonplace forms of misandry. It is enough to be an old-fashioned egalitarian, a compassionate human being or a concerned parent of boys. New ideas are often old ones resurfacing in new schools. Evidently, men still await their emancipation from gender roles that, unlike women’s, have changed little, and are now being endorsed by empowered females that keep assuming that they are still the weaker sex. This mixture makes indeed for a toxic potion, which should be cast away.

Whether then to err on the side of conservative prudence and uptight censorship, or on that of liberal freedom and loose pluralism, it is not something that I can settle here. The reader is free to err as she wills. Who is infallible, after all? The inequality, however, is settled. Someone is certainly benefitting immensely from the status quo, but it is not men at large, whose human rights get merrily trampled on by the 1% while, at the same time, men keep being loathed in common discourse qua men for their supposed default privilege.

Notes

* I thank Dr Lydia Amir, founding member of the International Society for Humor Studies, Dr Natalie Ellen Evans of the University of Guelph, Canada, and Dr Ileana Szymanski, kindred philosopher and Ignatian soul, for their feedback on early drafts of this text. Sadly, Dr Szymanski (1975-2019) did not live to see this piece published. It is therefore to her memory that it is dedicated–the memory of friend, first of all, as well as that of a profound and witty scholar, who was ever in love with Aristotle.  

[1] The present text is based on the last chapter of my book Thinking and Talking (Gatineau: Northwest Passage Books, 2019, pp.281–90) and is part of a set of examples of “talking rhetoric” that are included therein, i.e. “shorter works of mine penned with the aim of edifying, engaging or entertaining the reader, to an extent that is uncommon and/or unneeded in regular academic writing” (x). The chief models for my satirical writings are Carlo Cipolla and, above all, Flavio Baroncelli, to whom the previous issue of Nordicum-Mediterraneum is dedicated. Readers looking for standard, stately academic prose, or little prone to tongue-in-cheek reflexive acrobatics should simply avoid the present text, which is unworthy of them and their attention.

[2] The case of 21st-century Greece is particularly telling of these troubling trends and striking contradictions (cf. Yannis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room. My Battle with Europe‘s Deep Establishment, London: Bodley Head, 2017). Also, the readers of Nordicum-Mediterraneum are familiar with the case of Iceland’s 2008 crash, which has been covered in many contributions to the journal.

[3] Andrea Dworkin, “Feminism, Art, and My Mother Sylvia”, Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics, New York: Harper & Row, 1976, p.108. In his 1996 book, Il razzismo è una gaffe (Rome: Donzelli, p.37), Flavio Baroncelli offers a charitable interpretation of Dworkin’s denial of the possibility “for a man and a woman to just make love”. He does so by adding an important premise, which Dworkin fails to state: there are lots of “young men”, both on and off “campus”, who “act like bullies (that is, they try to come across as ‘normal’ in one another’s eyes) and express precisely that conception of the other half of the human race that Dworkin attributes to men in general.” At the same time, in a humorous “Dialogue between Andrea Dworkin and Nelson Mandela” (Mi manda Platone, Genoa: il melangolo, 2009, pp.136-37; the dialogue is said to replicate in fiction the real exchanges occurred between the overweight and aging Baroncelli and Dworkin), the Italian humorist-philosopher depicts the titular characters coming to a secretive agreement on power and inequality. Specifically, in order to “combat their handicap” and keep “appealing to young women”, elderly heterosexual men like Mandela and obese middle-aged lesbians like Dworkin must go on relying upon “myths” such as “the wisdom and experience” of old age or the radical theses of academic “books showing that Plato… justified and strengthened male power” (ibid.).  As the fictional Dworkin timidly admits in the dialogue: “I realise that in a truly egalitarian world, without differences in wealth, prestige, intellectual charm, in short, power, beautiful people would go with beautiful people… old people into the dung-heap… the fat ones…” (p.137).

[4] Julia Kristeva, Les nouvelles maladies de l’âme, Paris: Fayard, 1993. Cf. also my review of The Portable Kristeva in Symposium 5(1)/2001: 120–3.

[5] Luce Irigaray, Sharing the World, London: Continuum, 2000, 134–5. Cf. also my reviews of Irigaray’s Key Writings (The European Legacy 13(7)/2008: 879–81) and Sharing the World (The European Legacy 16(5)/2011: 668–9).

About Giorgio Baruchello

Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio Baruchello is an Icelandic citizen and works qua Professor of Philosophy at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Akureyri, Iceland. He read philosophy in Genoa and Reykjavík, Iceland, and holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Guelph, Canada. His publications encompass several different areas, especially social philosophy, theory of value, and intellectual history. Public e-mail: giorgio@unak.is