I might have been a bit more dismissive of Smith’s book if real life experience hadn’t made it so plausible, for at one point in my life I was surely becoming one of her men on strike.
After the inevitable disappointment of a first, fervent relationship in my 20s – unsanctified and childless; in hindsight to my great relief – I spent much of my 20s and 30s adrift in the sea of serial monogamy, and increasingly discouraged at the hostility, sometimes faint, sometimes overt, I encountered in women my age.
In college I’d witnessed the successes of first and second-wave feminism meld with Marxist ideology and solidify into a social orthodoxy that would become known as political correctness. I didn’t escape it upon leaving school, since my chosen field – journalism – was fully staffed by the college educated, and essentially a philosophical tributary of academia’s increasingly rigid cultural ideals.
Even as a teenager, I saw that the idea that all men were potential rapists, and that maleness was essentially a form of arrested development, had begun to enter polite conversation and popular culture. Think back to the ‘70s, and the explosion of films in every genre – thriller, horror, drama and even comedy – that made men either feral, sinister or witless, an idea that was ultimately enthroned when Thelma & Louise became a critical and box office hit in 1992.
When half of the population is regularly accused of being a threat, a hindrance or an irrelevance, it can’t help but resonate with the other half. It might be negligible to those who’ve married young, but the increasing desperation of the permanently single and the bitterness of the divorced acts as a resonating chamber for this sort of idea, and by my mid-30s, I was resigning myself to the defensive bachelorhood that Smith’s book tries to explain.
I think we can all agree that when women can’t trust men, and men can’t be bothered, we have a problem.