Pale, stale and male … and invisible

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British Writer Mo FanningI’m a middle-aged, white man, who cares deeply about ingrained social and economic inequality. I give more than a single shit about climate change, and hang my head in shame as other middle-aged white men dictate Britain’s place in Europe and encourage Americans to worship the buck over the book.

My ‘lot’ have all the power. And yet, I feel invisible.

At a time when I happen to have a few spare quid, advertisers no longer care. With Christmas around the corner, luxury brands take out TV ads that blend sophisticated visuals with edgy music. Most advertisers don’t know how to grab the attention without pretty young things.

As a middle-aged white man, I’m not allowed to suggest that this makes me feel undervalued. After all, I’m not in any way disadvantaged. If I add in ‘gay’ I guess I could score a few points, but still, by and large society looks after me. I have all I could need.

Simon Jenkins was widely derided for a Guardian piece in which he complained of the discrimination suffered by Pale Stale Men (PSMs). After all, said fellow PSM Richard Osman, ‘it’s not like they have a voice’. And to be fair Jenkins did make Britain in 2016 sound like it was geared up for a remake of ‘Logan’s Run’.

It’s all too easy to hold up a photo of those Supreme Court judges considering Brexit. Nobody can deny that the people we place in ‘power’ are mostly white, mostly male, and mostly lacking in imagination. But they don’t represent every pale stale man. Just as having a black man in the White House didn’t suddenly make everything tickety-boo for every black man in America.

Even as I write this, I’m sure that others will hear only the voice of privilege. How dare a man who earns a good living, and who writes novels in his spare time complain?

When the non-male, non-white and young need someone to blame for things not being perfect, the PSMs get it.

Perhaps the feeling of becoming invisible is made worse because until now society had largely been on my side. Apart from the odd hairy moment, when I was gay-bashed with a baseball bat in Salford or spat at in broad daylight London, I’ve not experienced much in the way of discrimination. Nobody paid me less or told I couldn’t do something because of my gender or skin tone.

And yet, middle-age white people now account for a third of all US suicides. Men in the UK aged 20 to 49 are now more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death.

75 per cent of people who take their own lives have no diagnosis of a mental health problem. Only five per cent of people who suffer from depression go on to take their own lives.

My next book will tackle how it feels to sleepwalk your way into middle age. To find that when faced with a big decision (as a pale stale male), you’re on your own. That because society conditions men to hide their emotions, they don’t nurture friendships that accept and support weakness. And if all this sounds like too radical a change of style, don’t worry. I’ll still tackle the other big issues like genital stubble, unredeemable hair and male spanx.

Ding dong merrily on high.

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