It’s hard to write about one particular criticism against men that we need to move away from when, unequivocally, the criticisms aimed at women are far more severe.
When women are being attacked online, they’ve reported fearing for their lives and the lives of their families. They receive death threats, rape threats, and, if their online assailant is feeling mild, they’re called dumb, ugly, fat whores.
When men are criticised, the conversation is far more likely to actually stick to what they’ve said or what they’ve done, and while it can still be vitriolic, they’re not torn apart to the same extent as their female peers.
But oppression isn’t as simple as men versus women. It’s just not. Certain rhetoric hurts us all, and particular perceptions and arguments do more harm than good.
Like the currently popular insult: manbaby. A man who gets angry and upset. A man who is too sensitive. A man who is vulnerable.
Often, the insinuation is that these men feel they’ve been mistreated by women, or are hurt by something women experience far more often. Which, yes, is extremely infuriating to watch.
Last night, writer Clementine Ford posted an apology to radio host Ben Fordham for unintentionally misrepresenting a conversation they had in a recent column.
2GB host Ben Fordham. Image: Instagram
The majority of the comments left on the Facebook post were, simply put, horrible. They were vile against Ford. They were aggressive towards other commenters. They were nasty about Fordham.
And it's here I noticed how unhelpful and potentially problematic the 'manbaby' insult is. These were some of the comments:
"It's telling that all the boy babies are having a hissy fit. It is what separates men the from boy babies."
"Careful he doesn't draw the attention from real trolls for his princessism. Toughen up mate."
"Wow blokes.. grow a friggin vagina and harden up.. great big man babies."
"Why is Ben getting so worked up over a relatively trivial comment made three years ago...what a man-baby."
Words like "frail," and phrases like "man tears" appeared in other comments, as did suggestions of what a "manly" or "blokey" thing to do would be.
Now, I get it. Women are furious because women have to deal with far more severe issues (in the media alone) than what Fordham did. And women are regularly accused of being too emotional, or throwing a hissy fit, or being a 'princess', when we're legitimately offended.
But there's another side to the 'manbaby' phenomenon we need to be careful of.
Our patriarchal culture, as it stands, hurts both men and women. The idea that men have to 'man up,' hide their feelings, and not at all be offended or upset is seriously problematic.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australian men aged 15 to 44. Six men each day take their own life.
It's widely acknowledged that one reason for this devastating statistic is the fact mental health issues in men go undetected for far longer than they do for women - because among men, it's not acceptable to talk about how you feel. It's not OK to be upset or to cry or to be hurt. Men are meant to be tough, not emotional.
Watch: A powerful scene from ABC's Man Up. (Post continues after video.)
Of course, the association between masculinity and strength also has an incidental negative impact on women, who are, by contrast, culturally perceived to be weak. When women are confident or passionate or loud we're torn down, because that doesn't at all match our socialised idea of what femininity is.
For women to be allowed to be strong, men have to be allowed to be vulnerable. For women to be perceived as capable of stability and impartiality, men need to be able to be perceived as sensitive.
Calling someone a 'manbaby', or making fun of them for having feelings, isn't the right way to approach the very worthy and very serious debates we're having in 2016. There are far better ways to challenge the behaviour of men than to spread the idea that they're not entitled to being emotional.
There are a lot of hideously unfair things about being a woman. Men seem to be able to say things we can't, and we get criticisms a man would never, EVER receive. The rise of the term 'manbaby' is an attempt to get that power back, and I get that.
But we can do better. We can get our point across without playing into a stereotype that takes men's lives and reinforces our dangerous ideas about masculinity and femininity.
I know we can.