“Women have very little idea of how much men hate them” – Germaine Greer.
One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is that of a near tragedy on a frozen lake when I was about seven years old. It was February in my home town near the outskirts of Rostov on Don. The town was blanketed in snow which had built up in huge banks against the gable ends of the houses. People wearing crampons on their boots rushed hurriedly about their business in their thick winter coats, the ear flaps of their traditional ushankas pulled down against the biting cold. I was walking home from school with my grandfather who held my mittened hand in his as he stopped to exchange brief pleasantries with people we met along our way. The warm glow from the windows of the various cafe’s and bakeries on the main street was irresistibly inviting and the smell of fresh confectionary wafting from the door-ways was making my mouth water.
Grandfather was determined to get us home though. A fresh blizzard was blowing in from the open steppe and he was determined that we would be sitting in front of the huge log-burning stove in my parents house, with our bellies full of warm stew before it arrived.
We could see skaters on the frozen lake a few hundred yards from the street. As we turned off the main street there was no sound except the crunching of our boots in the snow. A scream broke the silence and we instinctively looked towards the lake. It looked like two skaters had fallen through the ice. Grandfather let go of my hand immediately and began running towards the lake. It never failed to amaze me how fast he could move considering he had lost a foot in the war. I followed Grandfather as quickly as I could, but we were beaten to the lake shore by a group of young soldiers who were already crawling on their bellies across the ice, in single file towards the two women flailing around in the freezing water.
The soldiers were joined by some other men who had rushed out of one of the cafe’s. They brought some ladders to lay out on the ice to spread the weight of the rescuers. The women were pulled to safety and dragged bodily to the shore, passed from one man to the next until they were safely on the bank. The women, a mother and daughter were wrapped in blankets, fed hot soup and bundled into a truck to take them to hospital just in case.
I remember standing beside my Grandfather watching with my heart in my mouth as the last of the young men crawled tentatively back across the ice. I remember willing him on, terrified that another crack in the ice would send him plunging to his death. Snow was blowing sideways across the lake now. The blizzard had begun and it was difficult to see. I remember watching his comrades forming a chain of their bodies to reach him and I remember the loud cheer as they finally brought him to safety.
The crowd dispersed. The soldiers and the other men drifted back into the cafes to resume their meals and a short while later, Grandfather and I were sitting with my parents, toasting ourselves in front of the big stove. Grandfather began telling stories of the war; tales of stoic endurance, boundless determination and heroic deeds. He always admonished me to remember that the bounties of my comfortable childhood had been paid for by all those men who had never returned home. My brother had once asked him why he had fought for Stalin. “Oh no” my Grandfather replied. “We didn’t fight for Stalin. We fought for the women and children of Russia.”
Grandfather left early that night and trudged back through the town, braving one of the famous white storms, to reach the hospital where his wife, my Grandmother, was recuperating from a painful operation on her eyes. He would sit and read to her through the night as she drifted in and out of sleep, until finally he would be driven from the clinic by a stern nurse telling him to go and get some rest.
I have seen many acts of incredible bravery on the news. The men who didn’t hesitate to run into the underground infernos to drag people from the wreckage during the awful metro bombings in Moscow, the men who stormed an aircraft in Perm when hijackers threatened to shoot hostages, the men who threw themselves into the icy waters of the Volga to rescue people from a sinking ferry.
I know that the courage and determination I witnessed that day is not a Russian characteristic. It is a strength that is shared by the men of other nations too. I also remember the young French Gendarme throwing himself into a raging river to rescue an elderly couple from a car; the unarmed men who chased down and subdued a deranged gunman in a Spanish cinema; a couple of young Irishmen who rushed into a burning chemical factory to pull injured workers to safety; American men who did not question the danger in their determination to rescue as many people as possible during the terrorist attacks on New York; British men who similarly put their lives on the line for others in London.
Whenever there is an earthquake, an avalanche, a tsunami or a hurricane, it is the men of any nation who will instinctively rush to help. It is the men who will put their own lives on the line if they have to, to save others. When the crisis is over, it is the men who will clear roads, repair bridges, restore power lines and begin to re-build. I often wonder if Germaine Greer has ever done anything even remotely as valuable as the men she has spent her life ridiculing.
But there are also the ordinary heroes. Billions of men who work hard and often dangerous jobs in order to support women and children, and in order to keep women and children safe and housed and fed.
So Germaine Greer can spew her infantile paranoia as much as she likes. She can convince herself and other gullible women that the world doesn’t need these masculine qualities, but she is deluding herself. Our civilization was built by men. Our communities are maintained by men. We are kept safe by men. Wouldn’t it be nice if feminists could stop ridiculing them and maybe even express some gratitude to the men of the world from time to time?
Men are our fathers and grandfathers, our brothers and sons, our friends and colleagues. It is their masculine qualities that make them what they are. Men are the builders and inventors, the explorers and defenders, the pioneers and the discoverers. We need men, and if Germaine Greer and her fellow feminists don’t care about the damage they are doing to men, maybe they should think about the equal amount of damage that they are doing to women.
Greer misses the point completely. Men do not hate women. Men treasure women and children more than anything else. The “patriarchy” Greer rages against has always been designed first and foremost to keep women and children safe. Feminists should think seriously about their constant belittling of masculinity because men do take that attitude on board and if men begin to show the same contempt for women as feminists show for men, then we women are going to be in a lot of trouble. In western nations now there is definitely a hardening of attitudes among men towards women in general. Decades of feminism has taught men that women have nothing but contempt for them. They are beginning to wake up. Feminists who say they want gender equality should be very very careful what they wish for.
So now I am grown up and I live in a different country. But whenever I hear some half-witted feminist denigrating men in general, my first thought is always of that brave young man, who risked his life to save two strange women, long ago in the depths of a frozen Russian winter.