Last month insideMAN was approached by a representative of Dame Rosemary Butler AM, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, who launched a Women in Public Life campaign in 2012, writes Glen Poole, news editor.
The reason for the approach was that to mark International Women’s Day, Women in Public Life, is hosting its first all-male panel discussion on the need to involve men to achieving gender equality and they wanted us to promote the event to our readers.
We asked if one of the all-male panel would share his views with us and a senior figure from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) very kindly offered to write an article on why he thinks it’s important to involve men in gender equality in Wales.
I was personally quite excited by this prospect for two reasons:
Firstly, the ONS has access to the most comprehensive statistics on the lives of men and women in the UK and any objective person who spends time studying these statistics knows there are many, many areas of life when gender inequality impacts men more and boys more than women and girls.
I hoped he would be able to expand on the rough and ready list of 10 Key Equalities Facing Men and Boys in Wales that I produced 15 months ago and provide us with more detail on how men and boys in Wales experience gender inequality---and what we, as men, can do about it. As the Director General of ONS, Glen Watson says: “policy makers at a local and national level need a really good information base on which to base their decision to make sure they’re being fair to everyone in society”.
So the ONS has a major role to play in helping us tackle the issues that affect men and boys, by making sure policy makers up and down the land are aware of the many different gender inequalities men and boys face, and those in charge of addressing these issues know that they need to take action.
Championing diversity of thought
Secondly, the man who approached us, Dr Neil Wooding, is a champion of diversity and not just diversity in terms of the usual suspects of gender, race, sexuality and so on---but a champion of diversity in terms of thoughts, views and beliefs.
I cannot overstate how important this is to men and boys in the UK. We currently have a huge sector of people charged with tackling gender inequality in the UK in different ways and the overwhelming majority seem to think in the same say from top to bottom:
- They think gender equality is about helping women and girls (but not men and boys)
- They think that women HAVE problems and men ARE problems
- They think that the feminist approach to gender issues is the only credible worldview
I wrote about this previously in 2011 when I said:
“The whole gender equality sector from the EHRC to people teaching and enrolled in gender studies courses, to equality officers all over the land, to the many excellent charities working with women is not diverse but dominated by women – and more importantly by a feminist, women’s rights perspective of gender equality. Which is why the Government Equalities Office’s opening remark on its website is “we lead on issues relating to women” and not “we lead on issues relating to gender equality” or “we lead on issues relating to women and men.
“If people – and particularly men – want to approach the issue from a non-feminist viewpoint, then why not encourage and support that? As a survey to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day found 80% of young women aren’t feminist – then it would seem to make sense to engage more non-feminist men AND women in the sector if it is to be representative of the communities it serves”.
So when I discovered Dr Wooding’s views on the importance of diversity of thought, I was brimming with anticipation to hear what he would say about engaging men in gender equality. Here’s what he’s said previously about diversity at the ONS:
“We know that organisations thrive on the basis of their differences and not their similarities. We know that diverse cultures are vibrant cultures are places where people are valued for the difference they bring.
Diversity is about people thinking differently
“We’ve been fortunate in ONS that over the past ten years we’ve recognised the importance of diversity and we’ve worked hard to create a culture where everybody is accepted for their differences and valued for the very things that they bring to the work environment that’s different from each other
“Diversity for ONS means many things it’s about people who think differently, who have different views, faiths and beliefs. It’s about the broad complex mix of humanity that lives inside our communities.”
On that basis, I awaited his article on men’s role in tackling gender equality in Wales with great anticipation. I expected an article packed with a long list of the most up to date statistics on the inequalities that men and boys fact and a call for those working to tackle gender issues in Wales to open their arms and embrace those who think differently.
To say the resulting article from Dr Neil Wooding was a disappointment is an understatement. The thrust of his argument is that men must “lead a personal transformation in our own behaviour and take responsibility for the role we play in helping women to achieve their full potential”.
Don't mention men!
Forgot the majority of homeless people; suicides; victims of violent crime; imprisoned; excluded from school; functionally illiterate; people who die at work; people who die prematurely; long-term unemployed; parents excluded from their children’s of lives; victims of domestic and sexual violence who don’t get help and lonely old people who are men and boys---they appear to be of no concern to Dr Wooding when it comes to gender equality, even though they have access to the detailed statistics that reveal the gendered nature of these problems.
No, the job of the many men and boys who experience inequality in Wales, it seems, is to transform their behaviour in order to benefit women.
I’d like to thank Dr Wooding for taking time to write for insideMAN, we pride ourselves on providing a platform for a diverse range of voices to promote conversations about men, masculinity and manhood. As he has previously said himself when promoting the vital importance of diversity of thought:
“We know that differences can create lots of dissention, but we also know that it creates lots of vibrancy and opportunity at the same time and what we want to do is be truly reflective of the wider society in which we live.”
In the spirit of encouraging a diversity of views on the topic of men and gender equality, we have decided to publish a range of articles on this topic as follows:
- It's men's responsibility to make gender work a reality (Dr Neil Wooding, ONS)
- Men in Wales face institutional sexism (Paul Apreda, FNF Both Parents Matter)
- Why can't men and women work together for equality (Anita Copley, National Assembly for Wales)
- The struggle to make a difference for male victims of domestic violence in Wales (Tony Stott, Healing Men)
Dr Wooding will be speaking at the “Men on our Side” discussion in Wales hosted by Women Making a Difference on Thursday 12th March. For details see the Women Making a Difference website.