The Mancunion

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The Executive Team doesn’t need a Men’s Officer

With an idea having been submitted to the upcoming Union assembly claiming ‘equal representation’, we examine if this is what a men’s officer would achieve…

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This week sees University, Union and Community assemblies taking place to debate a range of issues. The most contentious one is whether the “Union should introduce equal representation for men and women through the introduction of a full-time Men’s Officer” in which to “direct the Union’s work on men’s inclusion, representation and welfare.”

 

Where to start with this one? First of all, we don’t need to work on men’s inclusion and representation. At our university, as well as in greater society, men are already vastly over represented. The amount of buildings around university named in honour of male figures is testament to this; Steve Biko, Mansfield Cooper, John Rylands, Samuel Alexander, John Owens…do I need to go on? And then we have the Ellen Wilkinson building. There are glaring and measurable inequalities in society with the top positions in politics, law, business and sport dominated by men. We have a Minister for Women and Equalities in Parliament to recognise and address these structural imbalances. We also have a Women’s Officer at our university to work on the structural imbalances caused by a patriarchal system which disproportionately favours men at the expense of women. Unfortunately men do experience incidents of sexism at an individual level, but it is not a systemic problem that leads to the mass disenfranchisement of men. A Men’s Officer is unnecessary.

 

There have been seemingly legitimate arguments made as to why a men’s officer should be introduced, the most salient being those surrounding mental health issues and the rate of suicides amongst men. Men are half as likely as women to be diagnosed with depression, but twice as likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. Society plays a huge role prescribing and teaching men how to be “men”, with self-reliance and stoicism prized as positive masculine attributes. As a result, men generally are more reluctant to talk about mental health issues. I agree these are HUGE problems that need addressing, as soon as possible. It’s a good thing the Wellbeing Campaign this year has worked to try and remove the stigma attached to such issues, by providing safe spaces and encouraging men to talk about their mental health issues. Men’s wellbeing is catered for with the existence of the Wellbeing Officer, the Community Officer and Diversity Officer. The Women’s Campaign also directly tackles the misrepresentation of men by challenging and combating gender stereotypes. Men’s officer would have no remit, as men’s issues are already addressed by our Union. However, women’s issues cannot be subsumed into general issues the way men’s can, because women’s oppression is routinely side lined in a way that men’s aren’t.

 

A better use of an executive officer salary and the masses of energy and debate surrounding the need for this role would surely be better spent actually trying to improve mental health services within the union. It’s great that so many people are so passionate about mental health issues, more dialogue=less stigma yay! But maybe channel those energies into helping the Wellbeing Campaign instead of asking what about the menz?

The motion proposes equal representation for men and women through the introduction of a Men’s Officer. The motion is proposing we should have a Men’s Officer because we have a Women’s Officer. It seems very similar to the sentiments expressed by many people on International Women’s Day. Annually on 8th March, thousands of events are held around the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements of women. I was met with a barrage of questions as to why there isn’t an International Men’s Day to celebrate the achievements of men. Guess what? There is. It’s been on the 19th November every year since it started in 1999. It only seems like it’s every day. Why are people asking when this is and not celebrating it? Because much like the position of a Men’s Officer, it’s pointless and unnecessary.

 

Confronting and accepting your privilege is a difficult thing, and it can be hard to accept thatsociety is structured in a way that favours certain groups over others, especially if in being a member of a privileged group you see no discernible benefit to your life. But accept that privilege, instead of being defensive and having knee jerk reactions asking for a Men’s Officer just because we have a Women’s Officer. Equal representation in the Union will only be achieved if inequalities are tackled and removed. The introduction of a Men’s Officer represents a power grab, defensive reaction to the presence of a Women’s Officer. Inequalities in a system that structurally disenfranchise women do not disappear with the introduction of the Women’s Officer; the Women’s Officer is there to begin to address those imbalances. The physical manifestation of ‘equal representation’ – having a Men’s and a Women’s officer- will not address the inequalities in our society as current (mis)representation is not equal. The problem is that equality isn’t justice. Once gender inequalities are corrected, in a utopian world we won’t need a Women’s Officer. We will have fair representation because we don’t need gender specific Executive positions. But until that time, support the Women’s Campaign instead of constantly undermining it. Who knows? We may get there a bit quicker.

  • Purple

    yes. just yes

  • Purple

    yes again

  • Jordan

    Not really heard of many men actually in favour of a Men’s Officer. This issue is actually only ever spoken about by women who think it’s outrageous. What I think is outrageous is the desperate need to counter the proposition when hardly anyone is fighting for it. What a waste of time and energy.

  • Joe

    What the fuck Mancunion?

    How about running an article from somebody in favour of a men’s officer, since, you know, that’s the viewpoint nobody hears. Mental health is NOT the number one reason.

    If, when a man tries to raise his gender-specific issues he gets told to “man up” and “check his privilege , that’s precisely the reason he needs an outlet that *won’t* judge him for it. *That is precisely why he needs an officer*. It’s not about spreading mysogyny or fighting back against women.

    This is the most absurd article.

    • comment

      what is the number on reason then joe?

      • Joe

        This article also sums it up pretty nicely:
        http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-men.html

        Men have unique needs that can’t be addressed the same way we address general issues. It sucks, but it’s a fact of life. What’s the best way to address them? Appoint somebody who’s job it is to understand and cater to them.

        It doesn’t have anything to do with oppression.

        • tom

          This is so true.
          It has nothing to do with oppression, despite the fact that the President and Vice-Chancellor of UoM is a woman, the newly elected president of UMSU is a woman, the newly elected president of the NUS (despite the fact that she’s never been to uni) is a woman, the chief-executive of UCAS is a woman, the student voice manager at UMSU is a woman, there is a women’s officer and not men’s.
          It’s about democracy.
          The only place oppression comes into it is that denying equal representation is oppression.

          • NUS hack

            Tom, the membership of NUS includes universities and further education (FE) colleges and any student attending either a university or an FE college can attend NUS conferences and run for an executive position on NUS Council via their students’ union. Toni Pearce, the new NUS president, attended an FE college, which has a students’ union with membership in NUS and so Toni, as a student, was able to become involved in NUS. Membership in the National Union of Students is for all students in the HE and FE sectors. The clue is in the name. If you would prefer a NUS that does not include FE students, you are welcome to return to the elitist 1920s when only University students were included.

            • tom

              trivial and irrelevant.

    • comment

      what is the number one reason then Joe?

      • Joe

        Look it up yourself. Google “men’s issues”. I shouldn’t have to tell you to.

        When I did it, just now, this was the 4th result:
        http://internationalmensdayuk.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/top-10-mens-issues-revealed-on-international-mens-day/

        We don’t have an outlet for men to go to and say “hey, I’m twice as likely not to get a job when I graduate. Can you help me with this?”

        We don’t have an outlet for men to go to and say “hey, I’m in an abusive relationship. Can you help me with this?”

        We don’t have an outlet for men to go to and say “hey, I’m scared of walking home at night because I’m more than twice as likely to be attacked as any other group. Can you help me with this?”

        It’s got nothing to do with a women’s officer and it doesn’t represent a power grab. It’s literally about giving men a chance to be helped in a way they currently aren’t, and that’s it.

        This whole argument is ridiculous.

        • Emily

          Actually, Joe, within the university/union we do have all of those things.

          Careers events throughout the year are tailored to specific graduate fields rather than gender.Most of the event which I have noticed being publicised are those which target STEM students, who are predominantly male.

          The Wellbeing Officer exists to act as an outlet for people in abusive relationships, regardless of their gender or sexuality. The Advice Centre, located in the Student Voice office on the ground floor of the union can also provide advice and support for victims/survivors of domestic abuse.

          With regards to not feeling safe walking home alone, you’re right, that’s a massive problem for men in Manchester. Lucky, then, that the first initiative taken by this year’s Women’s Officer was to implement a safe taxi scheme for all students to use – so that whether or not you can afford it right away, you can get home safely after a night out/in the library. I believe the Community Officer has also been working with the GMP to set up “Student Safe Zones” where students can wait in the evenings to stay safe.

          I would like to end by pointing out that it is easy to criticise the union exec for not understanding men’s issues, but I would ask when was the last time you went in and spoke to the union about the issues you don’t feel they are addressing? The union staff are a lot of things, but they can’t read minds. Having a Men’s Officer, and spending £20 000 on the privilege, will seriously reduce the amount of money remaining in the campaigns budget for these activities to be put in place. Perhaps that money would be better spent on campaigns which you feel are necessary, through the channels which already exist.

          • nacatak

            If the university already has a bunch of gender-blind access to these things… then why is there a need for a women’s officer?

            OBVIOUSLY taking a gender-neutral approach to certain things is not the best answer, that’s why there is a women’s officer… the fact that you would completely ignore that and just perpetuate this ridiculous double standard just shows how much of a sexist you are.

            If you are going to go the route of “well the women’s officer helps out both genders”… then why call the position “women’s officer”? It’s primary purpose is to still look out for women, and from the name alone, the people elected to that position are going to be the ones that promote female-specific things the most… all- in all, that’s a shit excuse.

            ” but I would ask when was the last time you went in and spoke to the union about the issues you don’t feel they are addressing”

            Holy fuck you are stupid. THEY ARE TRYING TO DO SOMETHING TO GET THEIR ISSUES ADDRESSED WITH THE CREATION OF A MENS OFFICER… and you are opposing that for 100% sexist reasons you stupid daft sexist cunt,.

            Seriously, you say “oh, why don’t you just bring up men’s issues” and then in the next breath you say “get the fuck out of here with bringing up men’s issues” when they actually try and do it.

            Please read what you actually type FFS.

          • dungone

            If that is the case, then why is there a need for a women’s officer? It sounds to me like all of women’s needs are also catered to equally well by the Advice Center, Wellbeing Officer, Community Officer and various Career events. Could it possibly be that if only women just went and spoke to the union exec about their issues, then all of their collegiate problems would be solved as well?

        • Purple

          Ok the thing with the issues you are talking about, is though some of them do impact men, they also impact everyone; these are human problems. Abusive relationships are terrible, and yes, perhaps its true that men are statistically more likely to feel unable to talk about certain things such as mental health.

          When it comes for men feeling like they don’t have an outlet to talk about these things, this is to do with gender stereotypes that are perpetuated by a patriarchal system. A patriarchal system can be just as poisonous for men as it is for women and even more so for any non-gender binary person or trans*.
          BUT for all the things you mentioned, THERE ARE services and outlets for men, and anyone else to go and use, just cause you might not know about them does not mean they aren’t there. These are services such as the counselling service, advice centre …. perhaps what need to be focused on is making them more visible, more accessible.

          The fact that men might feel less comfortable about talking about mental health is rooted in negative gender-binary stereotypes.These stereotypes are challenged by campaigns led by the Womens Officer. These campaigns help challenge a patriarchal system that creates dangerous normative stereotypes that we should all supposedly live up to. By challenging the patriarchal system ALL genders benefit, not just women.

          We live world that is dominated by men, and that is mostly straight, white rich men. We also live in a world that infringes on womens basic freedoms, it infringes on the basic freedoms of LGBTQ people, of anyone of colour, of anyone that is not upper-middle class. This world removes opportunity to escape or change these conditions. If you have been oppressed, it is down to your colour, your sexuality, your class… not because you are a man. Also, perhaps individually you may have been given the short straw in life, and for this I am sorry and yes its unfair. But this is not down to a society that takes away opportunities for men or silences them. Individually, you may have had a different experience. But this is not reflective of wider society. One only has to look to parliament to see who runs the country; rich, white, old men.

          Yes the streets are unsafe, but they are unsafe for everyone. Perhaps young men might be more likely to get mugged, but women are more likely to get raped. And if you are going to go down the line of comparing experiences and suggesting that frequency is an issue, how about the daily harassment that women receive. Have you every experienced sexual harassment in broad daylight on a busy street and been told to take it as a compliment?! Have you ever been called a slut, or cat-called because of what you decided to wear that day? Also don’t even get me STARTED on the daily abuse trans* people experience when walking down the street.

          Yes mental health is a serious concern, but no one feels comfortable talking about it. Why don’t you start up a campaign with the Well-being officer to focus on that?!

          Also the introduction of a mens officer could actually do harm, as it would perpetuate the gender binary, which would reinforce the stereotypes of what a ‘real man’ and a ‘real woman’ are. Which is just a bit shitty….

    • Becky

      you’re welcome to write one! send it to comment.mancunion@gmail.com, no more than 800 words

  • Joe

    Sam, that campaign is being run because he’s a dick, not because he cares about men’s issues.

  • A woman

    “However, women’s issues cannot be subsumed into general issues the way
    men’s can, because women’s oppression is routinely side lined in a way
    that men’s aren’t.”

    Similarly, nor can black and ethnic minority students be subsumed into the “diversity officer” position. If women can have a separate officer, then why not ethnic minorities, LGBT and disabled students?

    By ignoring this, once again some groups are privileged over others. Our approach to liberation and the unequal spread of resources seriously needs some thought.

    • Woman 2

      Submit it as a motion

      • Woman

        Have done just now, thank you for the suggestion!

        I sincerely hope some attention is paid to this. I support fair representation and equality for all, and it’s about time we thought about who we are not adequately representing, and how poorly resourced we are to handle their issues on campus. Global Aspirations shambles, anyone?

        We need to follow the NUS liberation campaign structure at least, though it is not perfect, it is better than what we currently have at Manchester

        • Luke Newton

          We already do have reps for BME, LGBT and Disabled students. They’re autonomous like in NUS as well, they also have their own pot of campaign money that they can use as well. They have 2 reps each which are part time and voluntary but it would be impractical to have a full time officer for each of them!

          • Woman

            Hi Luke, but why do we have a Woman’s Officer, and no dedicated officer for these positions? It makes it seem like somehow they are considered less important issues than the women’s officer role. This is an issue that can’t be side-stepped by pointing to reps, who, let’s be honest, are second-class citizens in the field of student politics. Otherwise, if they are equal in status, why not swap, and let’s have a BME Officer and a woman’s rep instead?

            Also, elected officers and their issues get far more publicity and recognition on campus and in the newspaper.

            And here is a criticism, for the reps or the union, I don’t know: As a black femal student, how come I have never even known about or heard of the black rep? How come I don’t even know their names, and had no idea of when they were even up for election, and didn’t get to vote for them? What the hell are they doing with that pot of money – in my name?

            Something is amiss here.

            Anybody who is a rep should make sure they email all the people they are supposed to be representing at the beginning of the academic year, making themselves known, as well as what they are there for., and how they can be contacted.

            I’m pretty annoyed about this!

            • Luke

              It sounds like you need to hold your reps to account by asking them this! http://manchesterstudentsunion.com/top-navigation/student-voice/elected-reps/student-reps/liberation-reps

            • Woman

              I would also like the Union to address why all other liberation groups only get “reps”, while Women get both a full time exec officer and two reps.

              Who decided that Women (or to be accurate, white, secular feminists) were the most important liberation group?

              Someone must answer this.

            • Woman

              Isn’t there an end of year audit/report where they all have to say what they’ve done and how they spent our money? If there isn’t then there should be one. Or I want my money back.

          • Woman

            And where were they throughout the Global Aspirations mess? Didn’t hear a peep from *any* liberation person, and our “diversity” guy wasn’t even here. Clearly it shows that as far a representing all these different groups and interests, the diversity officer role and arguably some of the others just weren’t/arent fit for purpose. Execs and reps need some serious training.

  • A woman

    When only 56% of Manchester students are “white”, don’t you think it’s time there was a BME Officer? Why, when we are part of the NUS, do we totally ignore the NUS’s apporach to liberation?

    The NUS campaigns are womens, black, LGBT, disabled, postgraduate, international.

    Why do we consistently marginalise the same people? Sort it out…….

    • tom

      post grad liberation? whut

  • M14

    A working-class officer would be good.

  • tom

    It’s interesting how the mancunion decided to run this completely one sided article which conforms to the execs views, while it is also asking for more money and a paid editor in the very same assembly?
    The idea for mens officer was originally third on the list to be voted on but strangely moved down to fifth to be voted on after the mancunions ideas.
    The comments on this idea were also strangely not working on the su website.

  • http://twitter.com/CitymanMichael CitymanMichael

    Why are you so against equality? What are you afraid of? Men have issues that contempory history tells us that women have ignored. It is time NOW for a Men’s Officer.

  • frankw

    If you think a man whose campaign slogan (which wasn’t even written by him but by a friend as a joke) is “Kirk for Female Officer – Because Bitches Deserve Better” is in any way a representative of the Men’s Rights Movement or its goals, you are either incredibly misinformed or deliberately trying to slander the MRM by false association. This person has absolutely nothing to do with men’s rights and there is not a single men’s issue listed in his manifesto. The right to be misogynistic is not a part of any men’s rights platform.

    Leading female authors on men’s issues such include professors Christina Hoff-Sommers and Janice Fiamenco, and many of the most popular men’s rights activists in the blogosphere such as Karen Straughan (whose video “Feminism and the Disposable Male” is the 2nd most watched men’s rights video on youtube) are also women. If you think the men’s right’s movement is composed of woman-hating men, you need to start taking things feminists tell you with a pinch of salt.

  • Purple

    Margaret Thatcher was NOT a feminist and is NOT a feminist, and i find it insulting that you would insinuate so. She herself said that ‘feminism’ was poison, and she did so many things to hurt women, and continue to hurt women. I would rather eat my own face that see thatcher in power again, and I would eat my own face, vomit it up then eat it again than to see thatcher in power 650 times over.

    i cant be bothered to continue to this conversation with someone that believes that “Any gaps that remain between men and women in politics and business are not the result of laws but rather a combination of culture and innate average differences between the sexes.”

    thats right ladies, you are still on average paid 19.7% less than men because of our innate average differences…

    • frankw

      If you thought I was saying Margaret Thatcher was a feminist or that there is no such thing as socialization, then it’s really no wonder you believe the west is a patriarchy. If your comprehension skills are that poor, I can only imagine what you must make of the world around you.

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