Meet insideMAN reader Darren Ball, a jolly nice, North London, liberal sort of chap who has a bad habit of bringing up men's issues at dinner parties.
---This is article #16 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
After sharing a glass or few of chardonnay with my wife, she once told me something that surprised me; she said: "When you talk about gender issues you sound like a c**t".
She then said something that surprised me even more: "I told you that because I love you".
Okay, a little bit of work required on her bedside manner perhaps, but I sympathise with her. There exists online, a grotesque “manosphere” of angry individuals, claiming to talk for men and boys, but is really a cover for deeply held misogyny. As a Guardian-reading Stoke Newingtonite, I have a bit of an image problem.
I'm a socially-liberal atheist humanist, which is not at all contrary to feminism. I would be very happy to throw my weight behind feminism if only it campaigned on all gender issues in proportion to their relative significance: including problems faced by males. This is not like asking the Cat Protection League to rescue dogs: feminism is billed as being either, a movement for gender equality, or a movement to end the patriarchy. Operating under either remit it should care for a raft of male issues that currently, as a movement, it ignores.
If the genders were reversed there'd be a feminist shitstorm
Males have especially poor outcomes across a range of areas that affect their physical, mental and spatial wellbeing; education; and their role, status and place in the home (especially by family courts). We know there would be a feminist shitstorm if the genders were reversed on any of the issues that disadvantage males. We know this partly because, for some issues in the past, the genders were reversed and there was a shitstorm (e.g. education attainment gap), and partly because some societal ills have become women’s issues despite the fact that they predominantly disadvantage men (i.e. the Corston Report on vulnerable female inmates and a national strategy for women’s mental health – men would equally benefit from similar strategies directed at them but none exist despite men being the more affected gender).
Male’s inferior outcomes in these areas, and others, are due to some combination of unequal concern and the patriarchal hierarchy requiring a top and a bottom amongst men. Either way, true feminism should include these problems within its radius of concern. You'd have thought that somewhere on their spectrum between honour killings and female-targeted advertising, feminists would find a place for at least some issues where gender inequality/patriarchy negatively impacts upon males, but they would rather talk about being patronised by washing powder commercials and miss-sold probiotic yoghurt than the disproportionately high male suicide rate and their sons’ failed education.
If feminism won't campaign for gender inequalities delivering poor outcomes for males, then surely they won't mind if men form groups to help themselves? Wrong. If ambivalence towards males wasn’t bad enough, some feminist activism directly briefs against vulnerable males:
1) Leveraging off men to promote women’s interests.
When leveraging off men to promote women’s interests, Newton’s third law applies – that of equal and opposite forces. Women are pushed up by pushing down on men.
As before with the Corston Report for vulnerable female prisoners (as an example), Corston uses traditional notions of male stoicism to argue that conditions that are too degrading for women are acceptable for men. Rather than dismantling the patriarchy, Corston (a feminist BTW) is cynically using it to advance the interests of the five per cent of prisoners who are female while justifying atrocious conditions for 80,000 men. She even suggests taking women out of prison to make room to incarcerate even more men despite the fact we already imprison more men than any other country in Western Europe (absolute numbers and per capita), 70 per cent of whom have at least two diagnosed mental illnesses.
2) Actively denying that a vulnerable male group exists at all
Feminists have resisted male equivalents of female university groups, even though men are the minority and are living in a very changed world to their fathers. With the most serious forms and consequences of mental health problems disproportionately affecting young men, feminists should be encouraging space for young men to reflect upon what it is to be a young man in a modern western society. However they resist attempts by men to help themselves, often dismissing their concerns as “What about teh menz” and mislabelling them as misogynist.
Much worse however has been the feminist reaction to male victims of Domestic Violence (DV). Since the 1970s they have argued that DV is one of the ways in which men enforce the patriarchy, so it’s a bit inconvenient if they have to acknowledge female perpetrators.
Feminist groups have gone to great lengths to convince us all that men who claim they’ve been abused by women either deserved it or are exaggerating. Again the patriarchy, that feminists are avowed to dismantle, is used to advance their cause (we protect her and insist that he mans-up). This particularly virulent strain of feminist activism is actively vilifying an abused group with the full support of the liberal left and the conservative right.
I have also come to understand much more about the issues that affect women and girls. They do have a different path through life than men, meaning that they will face different challenges for which society should adjust. I don’t understand people, especially young women, who argue that feminism has run its course and women now have full equality. What about:
- The full spectrum of sexual harassment (from Page 3 onwards)
- Under-representation of women in our supposedly representative parliamentary democracy and judiciary
- Women in public life judged by their looks regardless of their profession
- Discrimination against women in certain careers(usually those where competitive men want to joust with each other, from fields as diverse as investment banking to comedy
- Online abuse of women by internet trolls – seemingly regardless of the subject
The reality is that sexism and patriarchy hurts males and females, just differently.
If I have succeeded in convincing both sides of the debate that my wife's tipsy description of me required no further explanation: good. I haven't a side, I'm a humanist.
Regular insideMAN reader Darren Ball, is as an individual with a keen interest in gender equality, who’s trying to find balance and make sense of it all. He considers himself neither a feminists nor a men’s rights activist.
---Picture credit: Flickr/AdronicusMax
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men's Day 2014 by clicking on this link---#100Voices4Men---and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
The views expressed in these articles are not the views of insideMAN editorial team. Whether you agree with the views expressed in this article or not we invite you to take take part in this important discussion, our only request is that you express yourself in a way that ensures everyone’s voice can be heard.