The debate on SlutWalk (both here and on other blogs) raised some interesting questions about the ways in which men, as well as women, can feel at a disadvantage in society. A while ago the group Fathers 4 Justice came up in a (real world) conversation, and I pointed out that such groups were treated rather in the same way the suffragettes were – with hostility and ridicule.* The (comparative) unacceptability of such campaigns makes them tend to attract rather extreme types. I imagine that some men who think they might have a point feel inhibited from expressing sympathy. I’ve noticed that the men who do articulate a sense that they are hard done by (on CiF for example) nearly always seem driven by hostility to women and/or a sticky divorce.
Although women do still face some barriers and problems in the West, society is sufficiently equal to make it worth considering whether men, in some circumstances, are put at a disadvantage. Custody is one area in which women, once unfairly disadvantaged, now seem to have the upper hand. It could be argued that this is not because the courts are sexist but because women are more usually the main carer and it thus makes more sense for them to get custody following divorce. In so far as this is a female ‘advantage’ it ought to be placed in the balance when comparing male and female average earnings, given that a woman’s decision to go part time may cost her money but cost her partner custody.
Although I think it’s positive that women are now more likely to enter well paid trades, and have provided Sir Alan with his last two Apprentices, it’s also worth remembering that hard work and high pay come at a price. Men, for example, make up 94% of work related deaths.
Clearly most victims of domestic violence are women. Yet a surprising number of men are victims too, and they may find it more difficult to report a problem or know where to turn for support. The number of male victims of domestic abuse – as well as male vulnerability to violent attack more generally – perhaps calls into question the recent suggestion that there should be a special focus on male violence against women in schools.
Women are less likely than men to sexually abuse children, but there are still significant numbers of female sex offenders, and it is possible to identify many crimes which are more likely to be committed by those of a particular race, religion or class. Would that justify the kind of discriminatory treatment enforced by the Natural History Museum in its guidelines for the supervision of sleepover parties? (Scroll down to sleeping arrangements for boys and girls)
I think it would be helpful if such issues could be discussed in a way which is neither anti-women nor anti-feminist and acknowledges that people of both sexes may find that stereotyped views or society’s expectations work against them.
*A conversation stopper.