The Mancunion

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Feminism and the new threat to equality

Will Baldwin-Pask argues that the debate surrounding gender equality can exclude men from something that they should, and need to be a part of

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It was International Men’s Day (IMD) last Thursday. This year, the organisers presented the day as an opportunity to promote “a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models,” according to their website. This year was also, however, the first time that the day had ever seen such controversy. Since 1999, IMD has never caused as much of a discussion about what was going on across the nation, particularly this week. This signals a new development in our gender equality movement and raises a new question about whether those who are causing it most harm are in fact those claiming to champion it.

I am, of course, talking about the feminist movement. In a dramatic resurgence matched only by the Star Wars franchise, feminism has, in recent years, become a big topic of societal conversation in which women’s rights are finally being given the media and political attention they need. However, this is not an analysis of the last five years of feminism, or a grand exploration of the International Men’s Day argument—this is an evaluation of recent standout examples of feminist factions which are unintentionally ruining gender equality for everyone.

First, the backlash towards International Men’s Day: this has come in varied forms, including articles typified and published (perhaps unexpectedly) in The Independent. Labour MP Jess Philips’ article is soaked through with cynicism—she dismisses the need for a mens’ day as “men are celebrated, elevated and awarded every day of the week on every day of the year.” Less scathing but missing the point similarly, is Michael Kimmel’s article for The Guardian, where he questions whether IMD is just a response to the growing popularity of International Women’s Day—which has a stronger case to make for its own existence.

The argument against International Men’s Day on the grounds that it undermines the gender disparity that women experience is, itself, contradictory—how can someone claiming to endorse equality be so against the annual one-day celebration of one sex, but at the same time, be so supportive of the other?

Initially, IMD’s tremors were in fact felt in the university community. York had to disband its plans for celebrating the day after an open letter complaint had accused IMD of anti-feminist ideals. This complaint was met with its own opposition in the form of a 4,000-signature strong counter-petition. In the case of York, a clear bilateral debate had taken place over whether IMD was conducive to equality or not. Now an unhealthy standoff whereby feminists are seen as prohibiting a day dedicated to men from being celebrated exists—and so as a result, men want that day more than ever.

This is not the first time feminism in a university context has been the bad guy. According to an article in The Telegraph, at Durham University last year, a student’s attempt to set up a men’s issues society in the wake of his friend’s suicide was rejected by the university’s Societies Committee—yet the Feminist Society was unable to cater for these issues as it apparently “would be extremely unreasonable to expect [Fem Soc] to support and cater for the needs of men.” Though the Feminist Society did not object to the student’s raising awareness of such issues, it was not the platform for gender equality that both men and women should be able to utilise. In failing to cater for both women and men, it had failed in its sole purpose. Gender equality was once again divisive.

Now back to September 2014. We all remember when Emma Watson had made the most circulated contemporary speech on feminism at the UN, publicising the ‘HeForShe’ campaign and defining the feminist goal to have equality of the sexes, not at the expense of men. A month later, the door that had been opened for male involvement was slammed back over the furore surrounding astronaut Dr. Matt Taylor’s decision to wear a provocative shirt on TV. Through a weeping apology, the man who had helped land a rocket on a comet showed how ruthless some feminists had become over tedious cases of contestable ‘sexism’.

At this point, men had felt very much unwelcome at the party, decided to leave early, and came back with ‘Meninism’. Described on Wikipedia as semi-satirical, this supposed movement rather tragically throws up the rare point about gender issues for men amongst a murky stream of sexist bile. A ridiculous response to what many men see as the man-hating, delusion of feminism, they have successfully distorted the work of everyday feminists so that all feminists appear radical. This has gotten to a point where the 90’s term ‘feminazi’ is no longer applicable in the eyes of a ‘meninist’ follower, as all feminists are ‘militants’ and menstruation is a nasty chemical weapon that makes them the greatest national security threat since Jeremy Corbyn.

‘Meninists’ and ‘feminazis’ may be the most over-the-top examples of gender rights campaigns, however, there is no question of a growing conflict-like discourse in the gender equality space. Yes, men have been against feminism before feminism had even existed, but now in the 21st century resurgence of the movement, we have seen an increasingly recurring instances of harmless men being punished. Women’s rights still require some serious progress, but this does not mean men should be ignored.

We need a policy of gender-blind inclusion. It is crucial that men join in on the conversation, but it is vital that women are the ones who make space at the table. Women dominate the feminist sphere, they can ultimately decide the role men play; after all the inferiority that a patriarchal society brings, women know better than anything what it’s like to have your side of the argument shunned.

Feminism needs to get men on its side as much as it needs to get women on its side. Jess Philips’ claim that “being a man is its own reward” not only smacks of misandry, it sums up a poisonous attitude in the feminist community that needs to go—along with all the typical obstacles for women gaining total social equality. Men can be obstacles, but we can also be here to help—only if you’ll let us.

  • Anthony Zarat

    Men and boys are 92% of the unsheltered homeless, 81% of suicide victims, live shorter lives and are far more likely to die early from accidents, disease, or violence. Boys are doing much worse than girls in primary education, and young man are far less likely than young women to attend university. The slur that “boing a man is its own reward” is a hateful and destructive poison. Feminism is not the solution, feminism is the problem.

    • NatDaHat

      On the contrary, Anthony, I contend that ‘boing [sic] a man is its own reward’ is a cogent observation…

      On the other hand, ‘bEing a man is its own reward’ is indeed a hateful and destructive poison. Human Beings Vs Human Doings etc etc…

  • EvilPundit

    It’s too late for feminists to keep up the pretence that they are in any way concerned with equality. For fifty years the movement has shown, again and again, that it has an agenda of misandry.

    The only question is whether or not the egalitarian men’s rights movement can turn the tide.

  • rtdave

    Feminism is beyond reform. I salute the likes of Christina Hoff Sommers for trying, but she isn’t accepted as being a feminist by most of them.

    The writer of this article appears to accept such feminist doctrines as patriarchy and the oppression of women, but there are plenty of people who believe in fairness, justice and due process who don’t. Feminists have a habit of branding all those who disagree with them with ‘hate’ labels. If you don’t accept a narrative of permanent female victimhood you will get labelled as some sort of hater. Dialogue is not productive in such circumstances, so I guess those who oppose feminism are just going to have to fight it.

  • Fraga123

    Clitoral Rhapsody to Feminism

    Malerapistplunderer
    Sick phallus polluting
    Gaia, our Mother
    Violencemurderkill
    Destroydebasedefile
    MaleMaleMale

  • Hzle

    This is kind of late in coming. Gender roles always included discrimination of sorts against both sexes. WOmen had to put up with unfair property laws and what they now call sexism, and men had to die in war or go down into coal mines. We have always been more protective of our women-folk

    Feminism pretended that only one sex had disadvantages under that system. Of course, if we remedy just women’s problems, we will soon find that men are the disadvantaged ones. This is pretty much what has happened

    The situation is now quite serious, Boys and men are discriminated against. Women wield considerable power, just by complaining! And still we’re told relentlessly * that to even question a feminist equates to hatred of women. It’s insane. Something has to give

    * feminism has taken root in the popular press, big time. And in politics, unfortunately.

  • Whothehell Cares

    ” It is crucial that men join in on the conversation, but it is vital that women are the ones who make space at the table.”
    Actually, men don’t need to join in on your conversation or sit at your feminist table. We are quite able to start our own conversation at our own table, and happy to leave you with yours.

  • Pingback: Latest Equality Feminism News()

  • Krull

    I’m with Michael McIntyre on the oddness of choosing to name a city MANchester. Look at where it leads….

  • -DJ-

    Feminism is not, and never has been about equality. They are just, in their last desperate hours, finally demonstrating such.

    They are a hate group, no different then any other hate group. If one was to hold their literature next to that of, say, the KKK, the parallel would certainly be an eye-opener. If they were to hold it up next to early Nazi dictate in reference to their “oppression” at the hands of Jews, the coloration would scare the ever living hell out of you.

    The collapse of feminist (not at all to be equated with women’s liberation adn women’s rights), is imminant, and sorely needed. Men have no doubt about this, but women still tend to cling, even slightly, to the notion that feminism represents them. It does not and they need to understand that “women” are just the shield that feminist use to hide behind, and like a shield, it is women that aer taking the heat for the hate that these individuals spew forth at men.

    Both man and women need to come clean, come together, end this hate group, and begin to do the work that we need to bring the genders back to a time when they actually liked each other, where men would give their lives for women, and women worked and sacrificed to care for and protect our men.

    We talk about harmful roles of the past? Certainly were. Women were oppressed and men were cannon fodder, but never have I seen, in all the history I’ve read, a closeness between men and women as there was during WWII (the worst of times).

    My father was a twice wounded vet, mother was “Rosie the riveter”. Through strife, hardship, terror and fear, they still held onto a basic premise that we’ve all long forgotten, but need to rekindle.

    …and the time is now, Ladies and Gentlemen.