WHAT ABOUT THE MEN? PART 1: INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY – 19th NOVEMBER

I’d hoped to get writing my “What about the men?” series a lot sooner than this, but I figured that International Men’s Day would be a suitable place to start.  Or as I like to call it, “International where-are-all-the-dudes-who-were-asking-about-international-men’s-day-on-international-women’s-day Day”.

It’s the same every International Women’s Day (which is 8th March) – all the Neanderthals congregate on Twitter to lament the inherent sexism in having a day for a group that still faces oppression in 2016. The poor dears, something in the public realm that’s not all about them for a change. Clearly a feminist conspiracy to overthrow the patriarchy (which is, of course, totally amazeballs and not disadvantageous to humans of all genders At All). If only there was a special day just for them, where we could focus on men’s issues (which are real and sometimes distinct from women’s). Well, there is – and it’s today:
NOVEMBER 19THI imagine that every 8th March, Richard Herring sits, rocking, mumbling "November 19th" over and over.

The worst thing about the “but-when-is-international-mens’-day” debacle is that it trivialises actual problems specific to people of all genders. In the case of women, concerns that IWD is meant to address are dismissed and minimised; and the problems men face (that IMD is meant to highlight) are ignored because the overwhelming number of men talking about IMD are only doing so to troll feminists. There are some genuine problems affecting men that society needs to take responsibility for, including: the high rate of male suicide, autonomy issues related to circumcision, male rape, intimate partner violence, employment discrimination, conditions in prison, illnesses specific to male bodies, cultural expectations of masculinity, etc, etc.

These are all real concerns that IMD is designed to raise the profile of, and yet I have not seen a single IMD in which these issues were raised, discussed, and challenged. There are thousands of men who have been dealt a crappy hand in the game of life. They are let down by the privileged few refusing to accept anyone else’s struggle, and assuming that every criticism of sexist behaviour is an accusation levelled directly at them.

There is also the inevitable whataboutery that occurs when someone brings up an issue that disproportionately affects women.  The pattern goes like this:

Person 1: “Problem XX harms women and it’s predominantly perpetrated by crappy men.”

Person 2: “Well, I’m not sexist, so your concerns are invalid.”

Person 1: “I’m not saying that you are sexist, I’m saying that this is a problem perpetuated by men to the detriment of women.”

Person 3: “Yeah but #notallmen”

Person 1: “Yes, I agree.  Not all men are like that.  But the way the problem manifests itself is in a single direction, and it needs to be addressed, by all of us.”

Person 2: “Yeah, but why do I need to do anything about it? I’m not sexist!  You’re sexist by saying men are sexist!”

Person 1: “No, I explicitly said that –”

Person 4: “What about issue XY?  That affects men!”

Person 1: “Well, we’re talking about problem XX now.  It doesn’t mean that issue XY isn’t also a problem.”

Person 3: “No-one ever talks about men’s issues! It’s discrimination!”

Person 1: “No-one’s saying that men don’t have problems related to their gender.  But on the whole, women have been socially and historically oppressed by society.”

Person 4: “You’re calling me an oppressor!  I’m not the oppressor!  See, you can’t trust women; forever making shit up!”

Person 1: “Actually, I’m a bloke.  Men can be feminists, too.”

Person 2: “LOL what a pussy! You gay or something?”

Person 1: *headdesk*

All this leads to is the notion that women’s problems don’t matter, and men’s problems don’t exist – a view promoted by men and women (it’s not just the extremes of the gender politics spectrum – like MRAs and Radical Feminists – that are doing this, it’s ordinary men and women too).  And it leads to IWD becoming a circus, and IMD becoming a joke.

This is bad enough in itself, but I’ve been carrying out a little experiment – unconsciously at first, but when I noticed a pattern, I couldn’t resist seeing what would happen if I pushed some more of the Male Identity Buttons. It’s nowhere near as dastardly as it sounds (no men were harmed in the making of this blog post); all I did was to post and retweet articles that talk about gender inequality to the detriment of men, as well as those I post on inequalities that particularly affect women (and other oppressed groups or minorities – but there is nowhere near the volume of pushback received if I were to post about racism, say. Unless it’s about #BlackLivesMatter; white people are losing their shit over that).

Predictably, there were the same old voices commenting on articles with a feminist perspective, diverting the conversation towards men.  And something else happened too.  I’d been running my “experiment” for over a year, and so was able to gather data on the type of comments made on articles from a men’s equality angle.  Let’s take a look at how many times people leapt into the comments thread to say that “women have problems too / not all women / what about men being sexist towards men / what about the struggles of disadvantaged male minorities / well, I don’t think men’s problems are real / men are forever making false accusations against women / what about, what about, what about…”

Oh.

There is a problem.

You see, the comments on articles about men’s issues didn’t follow the same pattern as those on the women’s issues posts. This is because there were no comments at all. A big, fat zero. Some people did “like/react” to these posts, but not any of the usual detractors. Additionally no-one commented with anything positive to say, but it’s difficult to say anything about the nature of comments that didn’t happen.

Which leads me to conclude that the “what about the men”-ers, and the “not all men”-ers, don’t actually care about gender equality for anyone. They just want an excuse to put women in their place and retain their position at the top of the social hierarchy. But you know what? International Men’s Day isn’t about women (that’s 8th March – yet no-one asks Richard Herring about that), although it is about how men can benefit both from feminism and from society recognising that there are some gender inequalities skewed in the other direction – and just like female oppression, male oppression harms us all.

Here is a selection of some of the male-issue-oriented articles and other findings that I posted and tweeted about:

 

“Son, men don’t get raped” | GQ

8 things men never talk about, but should | Joe.co.uk

A bit of #everydaysexism I encountered in Manchester Piccadilly railway station

How Sad Young Douchebags Took Over Modern Britain | VICE UK

A Stiff Upper Lip Is Killing British Men | VICE UK

Suicide Statistics Report 2016 | Samaritans

 

They’re all valid and troubling problems that society needs to overcome.  And yet we never see “Men’s Rights” types campaigning on these issues.  Remember that when you mock the idea of gender inequality, or stay quiet on men’s issues.

Who will speak up for the men?

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