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But what about TEH MENZ?!!!

2011 March 24

Most people who read feminist blogs won’t even need me to explain this title. We see it every day.

International Women’s Day on the 8th of March turned Twitter into an amazing parade of support for women, delight in their progress towards equality and celebration of the women in each of our lives.

Elsewhere, it was business as usual. If you could have hashtagged “Why don’t men get a day, EH?” then it’d have been the global number one tag all over the internet. (They do get a day – November 19th – but that’s not my point here.) I’m writing this post so that next year I can just link it every time someone tells me feminism “isn’t needed” or is unfair to men in some way.

To the people (all of whom were men) who had to ask me what the title of this post meant: look at almost any online article about women’s rights or feminism. Chances are within the first few comments you will have a man asking “What about men’s rights?”

As the James Bond clip which did the rounds quotes: “Women perform 66% of the world’s work, earn 10% of world’s income and own 1% of the world’s property.” What about the men? Fine. Let’s reverse that for a new quote:

Men perform 33% of the world’s work, earn 90% of world’s income and own 99% of the world’s property.

They also suffer much less domestic violence, rape, genital mutilation, sexual shame, sex trafficking, and have far more control over their lives and bodies. Their options for work aren’t limited, they are not considered to automatically have a duty to represent their whole gender if they reach the top of a profession or political office, and aren’t scrutinised as mercilessly if their partner does.

They don’t face becoming part of the epidemic of rape during war, having their testimony count for half a man’s in court, legal challenges on precisely how much they are allowed to be beaten before it’s not acceptable, they’re far less likely to face being property, victims of honour killings and acid attacks, or living under social or legal pressure to hide their bodies from sight (or the more familiar pressure in the UK to expose them, provided they’re the ‘correct’ shape, if they want to be successful).

Speaking as a white cis male in a first world country, if you can’t see why feminism ‘is still needed’ globally then you haven’t tried looking for even a second. We may have a different set of inequalities at home, but that doesn’t mean they’re not just as pervasive and damaging in society. Is the UK some amazing bastion of freedom where women have no problems anymore? The Equality and Human Rights Commission says a BIG no.

Other people raised a much more valid secondary point during International Women’s Day, which was the hesitation a lot of men have about the word ‘feminism’. Even though the movement is about seeking equality, the term suggests seeking female superiority to a lot of people. It’s been debated constantly in feminist circles, but we sometimes forget that this instinctive mis-definition hasn’t changed in the minds of many of the mainstream. The argument about reclaiming it (and then making the version we want actually take root in the general public) is a whole post on its own, and not what I want to do here. We know that feminism has an image problem.

For our readers (of any gender) who may be in doubt, here is my personal definition: feminism is about womens’ right to live as human beings. To make choices about their own lives and bodies. Things which we would consider imprisonment or torture on ‘a person’ are inflicted on women every day, and equality is not going to happen without a lot of effort to fight that status quo. Reaching equality doesn’t take anything away from men that we should not be ashamed of and glad to lose anyway.

We haven’t gained this balance yet in the UK, and we’re catastrophically nowhere near it internationally.

An otter standing up on its back legs, with its mouth open, catching snowflakes on its tongue. It is a very cute and calming image.

This is an Otter eating Snowflakes. It has nothing to do with men or women, but Steve needed a calming picture at this point. Image from http://unizoo.exblog.jp/12102064

It’s not just the men who need to learn this. I have several stories from female friends where it is women who are enforcing the partriachal norms on other women most harshly. Everyone has a long way to go before we get a situation which is more equal.

Can you seriously ask “What about the men?” Get the depressing stats on inequality: that 92% of our judges in the UK are white men from Oxford / Cambridge, that… look, this could go on forever.

In Egypt (where they recently had a revolution, with women very much involved at the front of it) they had the parades for International Women’s Day which have become traditional in many parts of the world. The women in the parade were heckled and threatened by men chanting anti-female slogans.

Men chanting against us were very furious. It offended them that we were calling for equal rights. … They were chanting “Down with Women”.
- @Egyptocracy on twitter

There are reports of violence, including sexual assaults. A comment from Equality Now‘s Facebook page: “That Egyptian women … grow up *expecting* to be fondled in public as a form of intimidation is just gut-wrenching.”

The main direction of this post will not be new to most feminists, and every area I’ve mentioned deserves a huge amount of debate, but I wanted to write something specifically for those people who can in all seriousness still ask “What about the men?”

Forget that question. There are very valid problems which are uniquely facing men in modern society, and I think some of them must be solved if we are to make progress in feminism, but really, my response to the people who seriously typed that line on International Women’s Day: stop hijacking every single goddamn thread about real issues with this inane question, there’s work to do!

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Rob permalink
    March 24, 2011

    On the subject of why feminism is still needed, and global issues, there’s a bit in MacKinnon’s ‘Are Women Human?’ that sums it up quite nicely with the comparison that claiming equality for women in one country without focusing on world issues is like trying to clear the air in one corner of a room while the house burns down around you.

  2. Lilith permalink
    March 24, 2011

    Good stuff Stephen!
    I know there are more definitions of feminism than there are feminists, but my favourite definition to use in any conversation (especially with the kind of person who asks “what about the men, eh?”) is:
    A feminist is a person who looks at the world, sees that men and women are not treated/viewed equally, don’t have the same chances, are being limited because of their gender, and wishes it was different.
    This definition includes men, seems to leave space for most kinds of feminism and sounds incredibly un-threatening :)

  3. Russell permalink
    March 24, 2011

    I normally only do two things, mild trolling and playing devil’s advocate, but this is a great article, and I agree with every single thing you say in it. Bravo!

  4. March 25, 2011

    Brilliant!

  5. Dee permalink
    April 5, 2011

    Darling, I really hope to visit London someday so I can hug you in person. ;-)

    Mysa

  6. Anne Marie permalink
    September 29, 2011

    I really just wanted to comment on the otter picture…It’s adorable… But I did read everything and I really feel that it ‘s an important topic that should be addressed more often. As a woman I used to ask this question “What about the men?” because I thought it was fair in terms of equality but you’re right! There is work to be done!

  7. nick permalink
    November 23, 2011

    international mens days is 19th november. It should be recognised by all countries , just as int womens day is.

    There is nothing wrong with being a man and no one should say otherwise.

    • Miranda permalink*
      November 23, 2011

      Yes – it does good work in many countries where it is observed. Unfortunately not many people have heard of it and not many men I know are publicising it as you are here.

      In fairness to Steve, he actually mentioned it in the post: “don’t men get a day, EH?” … (They do get a day – November 19th – but that’s not my point here.) I’m writing this post so that next year I can just link it every time someone tells me feminism “isn’t needed” or is unfair to men in some way.

  8. ... permalink
    February 28, 2012

    This is exactly why I do not call myself a feminist, you trivialise the fact everyone is given a shitty time just becuase of their sex, just becuase you’ve got it into your head that you’re particular group have it ‘worse’ than they do, this is a phenomenon known as ‘opression olympics’, and it just isn’t right.

    • Stephen B permalink
      March 13, 2012

      With respect, I don’t think I trivialised anything. The majority of reactions on the day were that women don’t deserve a ‘women’s day’ because feminism has made everything equal.

      There are vast areas where men are worse off (especially in how strictly they have to appear masculine at all times) and I’ve mentioned that in many of my other posts on here, but the point of this one was to push back against the tide of dismissive or abusive reaction to the Day. I listed some of the issues women face which the male commenters apparently don’t know or care about: none of those are trivial, and none of them are point-scoring for one gender or another.

      I don’t seek to portray women as victims in order to win an Olympics, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other sources I quoted simply relay facts and experiences on the ground. It’s real, not part of any oppression game.

      Sorry if you think this post is agenda-driven or one-sided. I focused on women’s experiences because it was IWD, and because the entire internet resounded to talking about men. This was a reply, not an overview of the hardships sexism brings to the whole of society.

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