DontMancriminate; how not to start conversations about Mens issues

So a post appeared on my Facebook wall recently, shared by a number of people, under the hashtag #DontMancriminate. It was a series of pictures depicting men being gagged with a little slogan and statements supporting the slogan and were doing the rounds on social media last year. I think I’m going to file it under “perfect example of missing the point” or possibly “how to completely trivialise real issues faced by men and women”. The fact they’ve made a re-appearance suggests that people think they have a point so here’s my take on them.

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Men can (and indeed do) wear heels or even large heeled shoes and wear makeup. Problem is doing so usually results in bullying from other men!!!! Companies usually make products to fulfil demand so perhaps the reason these products don’t exist is because men don’t feel comfortable wearing them due to social pressures? The same social pressures that make women feel forced to conform to strict beauty standards, which is why they wear make-up to avoid being branded ugly? As for stupid men being blonde, I know many blonde men who fit the stereotype and if men want “dumb men” jokes to be equal I’m sure there’s a comedian out there happy to oblige. But why would you want jokes made matching your hair colour to your I.Q?

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Here’s the thing with these 2; holding a door for someone, carrying their bags or giving up your seat is called courtesy; doesn’t matter if they’re a woman, elderly or disabled; but what have these got to do with this “It’s a man’s world”? Men haven’t had to fight very hard for rights , more often than not men are in power, men get portrayed as powerful in movies/books, men don’t get regarded as inferior purely because of their gender. Here’s the funny thing about these though. Women get free drinks because men buy them for them!! Women are completely able to buy their own drinks or buy them for men. Women get free entry because men let them in for free!! Women are able to pay for themselves or pay for men to get in for free. No one is forcing men to do this though and perhaps we should be asking why men feel compelled to act in this way toward women. Is there a sense of entitlement that some men feel, that when they buy a woman a drink they expect sex in return? Do men like to feel impressive and in control so they buy the woman a drink? How many woman actually enjoy the unwanted attention and are perfectly happy being left alone?

The last statement has the same root cause as the others above. Men don’t get sympathy because men have made it shameful to be weak!! As with wearing heels, men get bullied by other men for expressing emotions like fear, sadness etc. We’re told that men have to be strong and be the provider which is why they buy women drinks, let them in for free, give up their seats etc. Women accept these because they’re told they’re weaker than men and standing up to men often results in fairly dire consequences. If men are unhappy with women getting these things, then breaking the lies is the first step.

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Let’s get this bit out of the way. Yes, men are judged based on the size of their penis. Women judge them, but usually it’s other men judge them because the size of your penis defines you as a man according to society. For every article penned by a woman saying “size does matter” there are an equal amount saying it doesn’t. Also this picture is just flat out lying because men do discriminate against a “pussy” and we probably have pornography to thank for both problems. Rates of vaginal plastic surgery are huge and growing, far outweighing any equivalent seen in men. Much of this is brought on by porn and men claiming that vaginas need to look a certain way to be “clean”. They do nothing but reduce the value of a person to the size and appearance of their genitalia. This is an issue that does affect men but pitching it against women, especially lying in the process, is just not going to help anyone. We need to get away from us vs them and start having the conversation about body shaming and how it affects people.

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This is an awkward one because I actually agree with this one, but it also seems to trivialize the very real issue of domestic violence. Men suffer abuse at the hands of their partners, but don’t report it for the reasons I’ve said earlier: it’s too shameful and tied to a toxic masculinity. This is why it’s woefully under reported and men don’t get the support they need. When a woman attacks her partner and vice versa, it needs to be classified as domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is about power and control, far more than it is about rage and anger issues and women initiating violence towards men (statistically far less prevalent than the other way round) is usually also to do with control and domination. In which case, the phrase “I was wrong” is correct but is also equally correct for the male if he is the perpetrator. Instead the man simply repeats the all too common trope of “you made me hit you, look what you made me do, if only you had listened to me” etc. etc”. These can be used both ways but due to the ongoing stereotype of the man being the dominant partner in a relationship, are more common in men.

Now some will cite self-defence as a reason, I don’t have too many issues with this but possibly linked to the picture is this; what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear a story of a woman slapping a man? Now what about a man slapping a woman? Was it “self-defence” in the first instance and “assault” for the second? Domestic violence is a massive issue for all genders and pitching the 2 genders against each other in this way again blocks the very necessary discussion of how to tackle this problem. Why do people feel it’s OK to hit their partners? Many men have “anger issues” because anger is the only emotion that other men deem to be acceptable to express. Women can be abusers, let me be clear on that, and yes there is a disparity in how abuse is seen depending on who the abuser is, but instead of pitching this a gender equality issue, lets tackle the actual problem of abuse.

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As face value this one seems absolutely spot on. It seems very much the case that women get half the men’s savings in most divorce cases regardless of the reasons for divorce. However, a quick investigation (google search) into this showed that the situation is infinitely more complex. It seems studies have shown that women are usually much worse off after divorce and there are other factors in how the monies are split .

There’s also custody battles that come with this and statistics show that in the vast majority of cases women win custody of the children but again, this seems to be more complex than face value. This seems to be largely down to traditional gender roles which encourage us to see women as the automatic carers over men. This obviously needs to be challenged but when custody is court-ordered, Men Rights Activists etc. often blame this on feminism. Our court system is anything but feminist, never over the past few hundred years has it ever been feminist. The judiciary is arguably the most patriarchal of all our current institutions with a huge amount of judges being not only male, but also white and privately educated. I think the whole issue of divorce and custody are aspects that needs to be looked at but I guess my message on this one is things are not as simple as this makes out.

That last sentence, “things are not as simple as this makes out” could have been applied to all these pictures really. They oversimplify complex issues by ignoring root causes and instead of helping their cause of highlighting areas that men are impacted to help solve them (assuming that is their aim), actually damage it. All too often these discussions get dragged into “our issue is worse than yours” and these pictures just fuel the persecuted mentality some have developed. Men suffer many issues in this world and these need to be addressed, but pitching this against women’s issues or suggesting it’s women’s fault is just throwing up smokescreens. Until we acknowledge that whatever the root cause, it’s affecting everyone, we go nowhere.

 

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Something has got to change

Some people may have seen this article in the Telegraph. Short story, it’s a great exercise in how to completely miss the point.

As many will I know I am a volunteer facilitator for The Great Men Project, one of the organizations the author takes a shot at, and I really have no idea where they get the idea we are about indoctrination from. They’ve read the website and……well, that seems to be about it. I’m pretty sure they’ve never attended a workshop so what is his information based on? Probably the same scare-mongering information that many Men Rights Activists (MRA’s) like to spread so here’s what actually happens during a session.

First thing is a word race where the boys write down as many words that come to mind when given a word. Those words given are usually “Man” and “Woman”. The aim is to see what they have in mind when they think about men and women. This essentially drives the conversation from then on. Next up is a discussion session where a statement is given, they stand in different parts of the room depending on whether they agree or disagree with the statement and the conversation goes from there. The role of the facilitator is to essentially keep order and ensure everyone who wants to say something gets the opportunity to do so. We may step in to challenge certain statements if they are homophobic, racist, etc. in nature, but usually it’s just to ask questions to get them to think about the topic of gender equality, masculinity and to ensure a safe space for them to express themselves.

The author mentions videos. Yes we show videos, they’re on YouTube and you can check them out yourselves (they’re here and here) but please do more than the author has done and get beyond the title. The second part after lunch is about thinking about some statistics and since the author loves statistics, here’s some more:

  • Most common cause of death in men under 35 is suicide
  • 1 in 4 girls across the globe have experienced sexual violence
  • 94% of the prison population is men

Towards the end we ask them what they can do to help lower these statistics, to make their schools a much safer place for everyone. And then they go home. Now I don’t have a degree in English language, but none of that sounds like indoctrination to me; but since when has teaching and indoctrination ever been the same thing? The aim is to provide a space for boys to think about difficult issues (most adults struggle with these) to express their views and work through them. There is no exam, there is no pressure for them to say anything, to get involved; but if it gets them thinking about it then it’s job done. The statistics above are shocking, so are the ones in that article, but this is not about men vs women. This is not about putting womens rights above mens no matter what many MRA’s want to claim, this is about making society as a whole a better place for everyone. Indeed 2 of the 3 stats above are about the pressures and issues facing men.

This is not about making them feel bad because they are boys. The exact opposite is true, it’s about breaking down those fears that they are less of a man because they do or don’t do certain things that society expects them to; and the boys openly express such pressure. The notion that groups such as Great Men make boys feel bad for being boys and label them a potential abuser is frankly nonsense and insulting. In the training each facilitator receives it is stressed that we absolutely do the exact opposite because we don’t even see them as that (never even crossed my mind to) we see people who can make a difference and unless you’re happy with the current situation, we need to be empowering the next generation to go out to show a better way. Sadly from the article itself and the comments on it, it seems many are happy with how things are and don’t like people trying to change the status quo (and almost everyone who benefits calls what we do indoctrination) which means we have much work ahead of us.

So why aren’t there programs like this for girls? Probably because no one has set one up so maybe the author should think about starting a Kickstarter campaign and start raising money to do just that. I’ve not exactly been polite to that article, we do seem to share similar concerns regarding the issues men face, but completely misrepresenting organizations trying to do something about it is not the way to go and unnecessarily clouds the issue .

If you want to know more about The Great Men Project, get in contact with them, they’ll be happy to answer any queries and many are covered in the Info section. For me though, I’m going to keep doing what I do because I see a problem; a problem that is affecting men and women and causing great harm to both; and something has got to change.