To mark International Men’s Day in November last year, Mike Parker, a psychology student at Surrey University, gave a talk on men’s issues to his university’s feminist society. Here is how one of the society’s members responded to the talk.
As part of International Men’s day in November, we at the University of Surrey’s Feminist Society wanted to have an event which thought about the role of men in the Feminist movement, Men’s issues and how Feminism should address these issues.
We turned to Mike Parker who had come to our meetings regularly and had frequently displayed a good knowledge of men’s issues and he was willing to make a presentation looking at some of the things that men face in modern society. Despite Mike’s insistence that he was “not an expert”, the amount of research that Mike put into his presentation was extremely thorough, and despite the inevitable vagaries of statistics, it really conveyed the issues in a fully rounded way and giving a focus towards the whole context.
Mike particularly managed to create a presentation which linked back to the feminist society itself, thinking about the effect of masculine and feminine gender roles in creating and shaping these issues, how it fitted into feminism and include it fully into the agenda of feminism, and how feminism can help men.
'What is feminism's role in tackling men's issues?'
Specifically, Mike focused on domestic violence towards men, male victims of sexual violence, men’s depression and suicide and what can be, and is being, done about these issues. Unfortunately, there were was only a finite number of issues that we could address, but Mike still briefly highlighted other issues throughout the presentation, such as the disparity of achievement between girls and boys in the education system and the harsher sentences men generally receive in court.
Something that I found particularly interesting in Mike’s presentation was the issue of domestic violence towards men and the lack of safe spaces and support for men to seek out, and more broadly the lack of visibility of this problem. Of course for the feminist society, the important task was finding our role, the role of feminism, in dealing with these issues, and despite statements to the contrary, it was clear form Mike’s presentation that focusing on women’s issues does not prevent us from also dealing with men’s issues, particularly as the issues frequently intertwine and influence one another.
For example, Mike mentioned the fact that in divorce cases women are much more likely to get custody of the children: and this stems from gender stereotypes of women as emotional carers, and conversely men as unemotional and in a sense ‘unfit’ for taking care of children. It is clearly important to see the whole context of issues in order for us to be able to solve them. While frequently the world is seen as one where men prosper at women’s expense, it is, at the very least, not that simple.
Mike’s presentation was impeccably researched, very informative as well as showing how Feminism should be concerned with the interests of all people. There are clearly a great many issues which men face today, and a great many which are almost invisible to the public at large, and I believe that is much that Feminism as a broad movement can do to solve, mitigate and highlight these issues.
By Ed Mumby
You can read the article Mike wrote about his talk here