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The winner of the 2014 @City_Press Tafelburg Nonfiction Award is Vashthi Nepaul! #openbook2014 @OpenBookFest fb.me/3fYW6ZeJ3

Andrew Donaldson: Men on Top and at Rock Bottom – The Second Sexism

By Andrew Donaldson for The Times:

Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude.

IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK…

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller (Simon & Schuster) R120

Shortly out in cheaper paperback, Fuller’s prequel to her acclaimed debut, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, reintroduces us to her glamorous, tragic mother as she explores her parents’ boozy colonial dream. Unsparingly funny.

THE ISSUE

University of Cape Town philosophy professor David Benatar argues in his new book, The Second Sexism (John Wiley & Sons), that men are routinely discriminated against in ways that women are not. “It’s a neglected form of sexism,” Benatar told The Observer recently. “It’s true that in the developed world the majority of economic and political roles are occupied by males. But if you look at the bottom – for example, the prison population, the homeless population, or the number of people dropping out of school – that is overwhelmingly male. You tend to find more men at the very top but also at the very bottom.”

The book has attracted a predictable response from the usual quarters; The Guardian‘s Suzanne Moore, for example, has dismissed Benatar’s concerns as “victim-envy”.

“Are men the new women?” she wrote. “Are they having a harder time than silly moaning ladies? Has feminism gone too far? Has political correctness been put away for its own good? These are such familiar cultural tropes that we may dismiss the word trope altogether. Instead, I would use another word: tripe.”

Benatar responded that Moore was missing the point: “I specifically noted that I do not deny that women are the victims of sexism. My argument is that men also are.

“She also claims that I blur ‘the difference between disadvantage and discrimination’. In fact, I specifically distinguished disadvantage from discrimination and noted that to make my argument I would need to show not merely that men are disadvantaged but that this is also the product of discrimination.”

Academics have praised Benatar’s work. Daphne Patai, critic, author and languages, literature and culture professor at the University of Massachusetts, noted that his “well argued and thoughtful book makes a compelling case for taking seriously men’s hidden injuries if we are to genuinely build a better world”.

CRASH COURSE

With reference to Brett Murray’s The Spear, a thought from Salman Rushdie: “[Art] can be shocking, or ugly, or, to use the catch-all term so beloved of the tabloid press, controversial. And if we believe in liberty, if we want the air we breathe to remain plentiful and breathable, this is the art whose right to exist we must not only defend, but celebrate. Art is not entertainment. At its very best, it’s a revolution.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

“The oceans have changed more in the last 30 years than in all of history before.” – Ocean of Life: How Our Seas Are Changing by Callum Roberts (Allen Lane)

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