“Being ignored, mistaken for the secretary, or branded a ‘paternity risk’ – are men overreacting when it comes to issues they face at work?”
With this sentence alone @ManWhoHasItAll (“The Man”) got us hooked. Known on Twitter for mocking patriarchy, this anonymous “working dad” poses as a lifestyle guru helping men to achieve the perfect balance between family life, a successful career and the perfect body in the role-reversing book The Man Who Has It All. In what is described on the cover as a “patronising parody of self-help books for women,” The Man flips genders to expose just how ridiculous the advice offered by self-improvement books, women’s magazines and lifestyle blogs can be. “Frazzled dad? Keep winter weight gain at bay by snacking on the memory of cucumber. De-lish!”
An hilarious read, The Man Who Has It All is much more than just a parody. His satirical depiction of a man organising the housework chores to have some “me-time” after he puts the kids to bed makes you realise that the incongruity of it all shows how ingrained gender bias is in our subconscious when it comes to domestic and family life. Although the world has made progress in this area, the belief that women – whether they work or not – are responsible for the house and children is definitely neither something of the past nor typical from the developing countries, as some think. In the European Union, women dedicate an average of 26 weekly hours to men’s nine hours on caretaking and household tasks.
As an example, in 2003 the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in Spain launched a campaign promoting the equal division of domestic tasks at home. The TV ad featured a man cleaning and caring dearly for his car. When he finished, a voice-over said: “It is obvious. You know how to clean. Why don’t you do it at home?” Fifteen years later, things haven’t changed much. Samsung España recently launched #YaNoHayExcusas (“#NoMoreExcuses”) on Twitter, using the fact that only 3 men in 10 do the laundry to both promote its new washing machine and encourage men to participate in the household chores. If in 2018 the media has evolved, the habits, it seems, are still the same.
“Some people ask me why I’m wearing men’s shoes if I don’t want my feet to be looked at”
In The Man’s satirical and matriarchal world, men struggle to have their voices heard in all areas of the public sphere, from their workplace to politics. The reason? Women have the right vocal chords. They sound confident and assertive, whereas men’s voices are too strident, too deep or too loud, which makes it difficult for them to sound measured and informed. Annoying voices that resonate even on social media apparently. In their latest research, Amnesty International found that men (read women) with a voice that could impact the world are bullied into a culture of silence on Twitter. After all, as The Man writes, having XY chromosomes and opinions is unmanly.
The Man explains with humour the lack of men in public life (inner confidence and other men) and in politics (the old girls’ club mentality and the difficulty of finding a male toilet on Capitol Hill). The main problem with “male representation,” he declares, is that it opens up a Pandora’s box. Once we start asking for gender parity, every minority group wants to be represented, therefore weakening the fight for gender equality rights.
And if it is now acknowledged that equality cannot be achieved without the participation of men as well as women, The Man also highlights the inherent sexism in some allies: “I have absolutely nothing against male newspaper editors, as long as they don’t fill the paper with stories about men and men’s issues.”
As we got lost into The Man Who Has It All‘s view of the world, men’s accepting attitudes towards women’s behaviours became highly unnerving. They increasingly appeared to us to be gullible, silly and feeble individuals that seem to be seeking women’s approval rather than real autonomy. And then it struck us, if we feel this way after reading a book for a couple of hours, is it really surprising that in real life men think the same of women?
Stereotypes about women are all around us. In TV, films, advertising, online, video games. They are used to make people laugh, and in news there are countless examples of gender bias – from victim blaming to ridiculing women in positions of power, news reporting keeps portraying women in a limiting and derogatory way. How can we expect men to champion women’s rights if growing up they have only seen a sexist view of the world? More than a vivid account of the behaviours that impede gender equality, The Man Who Has it All demonstrates how language plays a crucial role in shaping misogynistic attitudes and thoughts. And our reaction says it all: would we be laughing if this was a parody of racism?
As @ManWhoHasItAll granted NADJA an interview by email, we decided to follow his lead and ask him the sort of questions women in entertainment, politics and sports are often asked when interviewed.
You wrote The Man Who Has It All, a hilarious and trailblazing guide that empowers men by providing tips on how to juggle fatherhood and still have a career, while maintaining the perfect body. It is believed that men can’t be as funny as women. Where did you get your inspiration?
I got my inspiration from a male comedienne on a TV panel show. He was actually quite funny for a man. It was the first time I’d seen a male on the show. He didn’t actually say anything, the producers must have edited him out, but he looked great for his age, he laughed at the jokes and he had a nice smile.
Many women believe that The Man Who Has It All is another book “written by an angry masculist to serve the masculist agenda.” How do you feel about that? You did seem a bit irritated by the end of the book…
Many women feel threatened by the idea of a successful male authoress. They worry their husbands could get hold of the book and get ideas above their station. However, allowing men to take part in public life and be independent is actually good for women too. After all, women want their sons to grow up to be anything they want to be – gentleman doctors, male firewomen or man surgeons. Reminding women that they have male relatives makes them think, although unfortunately not for very long. Women are simple creatures.
Writing a book takes a lot of time and dedication. How did your wife feel about you spending so much time away from your children? How do you think it affected them?
My wife was great. She even took the kids to the park on a Saturday afternoon for an hour when I had deadlines to meet. I got up at 4am every morning over the school holidays to write the book, before my wife and kids so the noise of typing didn’t disturb them.
For all the men aspiring to be authoresses, what outfit do you recommend against writer’s block?
That’s a great question! I always recommend a bold pop of colour close to the face – a vibrant scarf teamed with a neutral shirt and pair of little black trousers is a great choice. This outfit will take you seamlessly through from day to night.
You seem to spend a lot of time on social media providing advice to empower men. How do you care for your nails?
Another great question! I moisturise my nails every day and keep an emery board in my wallet to smooth away any rough edges. You can tell a man’s age by looking at his hands so I like to look after mine just in case a woman looks at them.
Many men complain about being bullied online, calling Twitter “a toxic place for men”. Why do you think women feel the need to troll men online?
Claims that Twitter is “a toxic place for men” are exaggerated. There are, no doubt, some genuine cases of trolling, but most men actually enjoy complaining. In my view, the whole debate has become testerical. Women have always enjoyed banter and if some over sensitive men don’t like it, they should switch off their internet, unplug their devices and stay indoors. It’s a free country after all.
Today is International Men’s Day, which celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, raising awareness of men’s rights. Women bring their loved ones chocolate and flowers, and usually do the household chores, letting men enjoy their day. How are you going to celebrate?
My wife has volunteered to babysit for a couple of hours on International Men’s Day so I can clean the kitchen cupboards in peace. She’s great, I’m so lucky. In the evening I plan to soak in a candlelit bath with a glass of water and a small handful of sunflower seeds.
For the occasion, a TV broadcaster is showing an all-male episode of their most viewed series. What do you think about this initiative? Will you be watching it?
To be honest, I think all-male episodes are a gimmick. Since when has there been a market for men-led shows? It’s just not realistic. Some people take the masculist agenda too far. So, no, I won’t be watching it.
How do you draw the line between embracing and celebrating your masculinity and reinforcing male stereotypes?
That’s a really interesting question. Some people ask me why I’m wearing men’s shoes if I don’t want my feet to be looked at. Other people question my choice to wear a tie, which is clearly designed to point towards the penis area. I think there is a fine line between exploiting your masculinity and celebrating it. Unfortunately, no man has ever got this right. You mention male stereotypes, but we must acknowledge the fact that men are actually born to be decorative and that, I’m afraid to say, is science.
The Man Who Has It All is a satirical Twitter account and author of “The Man Who Has It All: A Patronizing Parody of Self-Help Books for Women”, the first trailblazing guide that empowers men and shows them how they, too, can have it all!