Fragile Male Ego


This evening, we watched Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe interviewed by Emma Barnett. I strongly recommend this piece of broadcasting. We all know the story, but the key thing is to see it told by Nazanin, who is the epitome of dignity, courage, truthfulness, and restraint. Very early in the interview she was asked what sustained her in her eight and a half months of solitary confinement: one thing was the love of her daughter Gabriella, the other was her faith. Yes, her Muslim faith. I hope that does not lose her the interest of Christians.

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What has this to do with writing? I think it calls for things to be acknowledged and things to be said, especially by men. There is an outstanding specimen of womanhood at the centre of this story, with varying examples of manhood surrounding her, as it were.

Her husband Richard stands out, of course, as a hero, for his dogged campaign for her release. It was moving to hear Nazanin acknowledge how what he did has deepened their love. Richard is manhood at its best.

Beside him we see another man. As politics are not allowed in this blog, I will just call him a senior official of the British government. His inaccurate and careless remark in 2017 that Nazanin had been training journalists fed directly into the fictitious case that the Revolutionary Guards were constructing and so contributed to the next four years of her sentence.

But the Iranian Revolutionary Guard himself is a more significant specimen of manhood in this story. Let us not make the mistake of blaming his Iranian blood (Iranians are on the whole a decent nation) or his Muslim faith (that faith sustained Nazanin in her torment). No, his sort exists in every nation, and, it seems, has risen to power in recent years in more nations than ever before. What marks his sort out is not just his extreme beliefs about society, not just his addiction to violence and coercion, but his love of mental (as well as physical) torture, especially towards women.

Nazanin was still breastfeeding Gabriella when they were forcibly separated. Visits by children to the imprisoned women took place, but the guards would cancel them as an instrument of power. And how can anyone devise imprisonment in a windowless cell, one by two metres, with the light on day and night? Of course, they torture men as well as women. But why do such men torture women at all? It is assuredly not based on the belief that men and women are equal!

The fact is that there is something in a man that is deeply threatened by a free and independent woman, or one who claims such a status. When the one confronts the other, gallantry goes by the board. Full advantage is taken of the generally inferior physical strength of the woman. Christ alone among men was free of this trait.

Men need to do a lot more to admit, and express contrition for, their unconscious feeling of being threatened by women. I call it the fragile male ego. Christian men, for whom contrition is, or should be, a daily habit, should set an example. And Christian male writers should give expression to it, in their writings.

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