John Barry is a chartered psychologist who likes the idea of gender equality for women and girls and thinks it should be applied to men and boys too.
—This is article #33 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
We see it time and again: in hurt and high moral tones, someone makes a deliberately attention-grabbing remark supporting gender equality for women; a valid challenge to the point is made but dismissed without proper consideration, and the challenger quickly feels that proper discussion of gender equality is effectively prohibited.
For example, Ms X says ‘We need gender quotas to get more women into the boardroom to redress the historic culture of gender inequality in the workplace’, to which Mr Y replies ‘Quotas don’t promote equality, they impose positive discrimination. People should get jobs by virtue of their skills not by virtue of their sex’.
Although his rebuttal is completely reasonable, his point falls on deaf ears. But maybe there is an important lesson to be learned here: if the way you make your point always leads to the dog house, then it’s time to think about making your point in a different way.
Gender equality could be a common goal
Put it this way: if a feminist is says ‘I want equal rights for women’ and you say ‘In reality you are demanding special rights for women, and that tramples on the rights of men’, the result is usually two people not listening to each other, and the potential for progress is limited.
However if you step back for a second you see that on one level both people are demanding the same thing: equal gender rights. In other words, they are really on the same team. Therefore instead of each person taking the opposite side in a debate, maybe both could focus on fighting for their common goal of gender equality.
So how do we start to focus more common goals?
Well here are some suggestions. Next time someone says ‘We need gender quotas to get more women into engineering’, you might say ‘If we want to use quotas to achieve gender equality, then let’s also have quotas for men in fields that are dominated by women, for example, quotas for male teachers in the classroom and quotas for male psychologists’.
Taking another example, if someone says ‘Most women don’t report when they are raped. We need better support for rape victims’, try saying ‘Yes, we need to hear the voices of rape victims, including the thousands of men who are raped every year in prison, which is hardly ever reported. Let’s work together to support male and female victims of rape’.
Men are a gender too!
Or if someone says ‘Women earn less than men in sports, due to sexism’, you might say ‘Yes: one solution would be to make all sports mixed-sex and let the most successful sportsperson earn the most pay. In addition, let’s have equal pay for male part time workers and male models, who at present earn less than women’.
What I am suggesting is that if someone says they want gender equality, then it might be necessary to remind them that ‘gender’ includes men, and that ‘equality’ implies equal treatment. If someone claims to support gender equality but only for women, they need to know that they have either misinterpreted the term ‘equality’ to mean ‘special rights for women only’, or misunderstood the term ‘gender’ to mean ‘women only’.
So if they really want gender equality, let’s remind them that they need to dedicate themselves to championing men’s rights just as vociferously as they do women’s rights.
—Picture credit: Flickr/Tom Magliery
John Barry is a chartered psychologist and works as a Research Associate at UCL Medical School, London.
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.