International Women’s Day 2013: Men Are Short-Changed

Katy’s post stopped me short, when I first read it.  It talks about how we have forgotten men, in the debate on feminism.  That whilst we have been railing against the patriarchy, there are a few patriarchs that would…er…quite like to be heard, actually.  That there are fundamental constructs around being a woman then men would like to share…because it matters to them, too.

Over to you, Katy:    

I am not a man (hopefully that is obvious), and I’m not intending to write from a male perspective or pretending to think what a man is thinking. I just want to tell you my view on men and feminism, and why I think they are often a bit short changed in this entire discussion.

This probably comes from living with and being close to quite a lot of men over time, having male housemates and male friends coming to my hen party, and my fiancé being a male and about the best person ever. I have found men have a variety of views on life today, on traditionalism and feminism and the assumptions that are made about women and the injustices surround them.

I imagine they, and myself, would agree with nearly everything said by women on this blog on the topic.

But I have a problem. Maybe my problem is with how I define feminism – to me it is an equal start, equal opportunities and the chance to make a free, non-judged choice about your life. Notice I didn’t mention women.

Think about education. Statistics show that the absolute best thing a country can do for itself is to educate women. But this is not because women are cleverer and/or more innovative than men. It is simply common sense; you double the pool of people you can draw on, just as the USA and China do best at the Olympics because they have a bigger pool for talent to come out of.

Think about what we are fighting for here. A chance for a woman to not be discriminated against in the workplace, to push herself in her career or to be a stay-at-home mother, to make her own choices about her life. Shouldn’t we equally be fighting for these things for men? How can we be an equal society if we don’t recognise the differences between genders, and the inequalities they currently put up with, before tackling them?

Maybe less men will always want to stay at home and look after the children, maybe that’s genetic. Or maybe it’s not seen as a viable option, or workable or acceptable culturally. Think about the opportunities and experiences men are missing out on.

I know couples where both partners want to stay at home part time. But in our current work environment this is a much tougher option. In my workplace the majority of mothers work part time, but the option is not as freely available for fathers. They don’t get much time off; they can’t ‘trade in’ some of the mother’s maternity leave if they want to be at home in the later months once the mother has recovered, and the mother does not. Shouldn’t feminism be fighting for an equal opportunity for these men?

Think about abortion – a topic covered before in much detail on this blog and in other places. People debate the mother’s right to choose. Where is the father’s right? There is none.

I am not saying in every case it is applicable, but in a lot it is. If I got pregnant I could not consult my partner before aborting, even if we were married, and there would be no problem with that. That would break a lot of men’s hearts.

Maybe there is no way to make a law out of that, there could be no hard and fast rule – but the fact that it is seen as a woman’s choice and a woman’s body, although it may be technically true, upsets me. One woman does not a baby make.

Men are half of our society. How can we define ourselves without doing it in the context of them? Are we so self-centred that we only see our half of the inequalities? Are we so above it all that we don’t believe they have a hard time making the same choices as we do?

Men are discouraged from wanting to be a stay-at-home father, from baking, from enjoying music or drama or English at school, not out-right but subtly. Ask yourself honestly if you would judge a man who was a stay at home father. Ask yourself if you would find it as easy to include them in a play group or coffee morning, or stick up for him and not think less of him if his wife was the bread winner.

Maybe you can answer those questions saying you would honestly think nothing of it. I hope so. But I’m pretty sure not everyone in this country would agree with you, however much they want to or think they should. To a degree it is imprinted in our minds, as it is imprinted in traveller girls on “Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” that a woman must stay pure, and cook and clean the caravan and not get an education.

Along with fighting that women are portrayed as ugly or beautiful, sex objects or mothers only, we should be arguing about how a man can be instantly emasculated for doing something seen as ‘woman’s work’. There is a problem here. The same problem from two different angles.

As a society we’re moving on from this, but the change in our cultural mindset is slow and needs to be tackled from both sides.

I want to live in a world where there are better and more equal opportunities for women. I want to live in a world where a workplace has to accommodate a mother, where there is no discrimination in pay and no woman feels at risk just because she’s pregnant. But I also want to live in a world where my husband or my son could face the same choices, with no preconceptions about which is better, only about which is right for them.

I want us to stop feeling down-beaten and self-righteous. I want us to fight not only for ourselves, not only for Any Other Woman, but just, and simply, equality for everyone.

Categories: International Women's Day
31 interesting thoughts on this

31 Comments

  1. Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    One of my most frequent rants is that feminism is for men as well as for women, and that gender stereotyping is just as cruel to boys as to girls. I don’t believe masculinity has to mean strength, anymore than I think femininity means weakness (and we all I know I think that notion is bullcrap).

    I know male feminists, and they dislike the ‘male stereotype’ as much as I hate being defined by being a woman. I don’t think we should ever use gender to assume anything about people we meet: people are people, they’re all different anyway.

    I’m with you, I’m for equality.

    K x

  2. Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Abso-fucking-lutely!

    Every word. Every single word.

  3. Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Brilliant, I did actually think a couple of these points last night when writing down my own rambling thoughts on IWD and almost added about how I love that my husband has choices too and he bakes and cooks and I also get annoyed at how there is Paternity leave now (fab) but it’s only 2 weeks (as far as I am aware) and what if the parents want to swap? I’m so glad someone has written about this, and in more detail and so eloquently as I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in to my random attempt at serious writings. Great IWD post Katy!

    (I also love that when I asked my husband to read my post last night and whether he thought it was OK, he said it was really good and he was proud of me. I asked him if he was proud that I’m a feminist, he said yes, I asked him if he was a feminist, he said yes. I love it when he just gets me.)

    • Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      All the love. I’m glad everyone knows we all sent the posts in before or everyone would think I pinched mine from everyone else’s! Ha. Great minds!

    • Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      I met a Danish couple and their 18 month daughter on a long haul flight from London to Cape Town. In Denmark you get 2 years (or so) parental leave, to be shared between the parents, as they wish to share it. They decided to wait till she was old enough to fly long haul and travel the world for a year.

      I want to live in Denmark.

    • Becca
      Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Just to clarify that you can swop maternity leave to your husband. Not the paid six weeks 90% of your contractual pay but you can thereafter and receive the statutory £127.40 or whatever it is. I know quite a few people that have done it that work here because they earn more than their husbands.

      I’ll see if I can send this to one of them and get them to write an article on it and how they find it emotionally.

      • Becca
        Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        I should add that, at present, your employer isn’t obligated under statute to let you have the time off in the same way they would be a woman but there are regulations that they they must consider it if reasonable etc.

        • Posted March 8, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Has anyone done a lawyer-y post on parental leave? I feel a bit ignorant about it…

          • Yanthé
            Posted March 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

            I can sort that out. If not me, I know an excellent employment lawyer who would be happy to do one I’m sure.

  4. Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Don’t get me started on the injustices of 2 weeks paternity leave. 2 weeks! I agree with everything. I don’t see feminism as something that should separate us, but as something that should unite us in out fight for equality. Equality for all. I don’t buy into the view that men cannot be feminists, nor do I buy into the view that it’s only women who are unequal in society.

    Amazing post, Katy!

  5. Mahj
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Big fist pumping from me on this post. No doubt the fist pumping will continue ALL DAY!

    xoxo

  6. Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I’ve been trying to think of an articulate way to say what I think but basically…. YES!

  7. Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    y’all might want to check out the governments consultation in shared parental leave:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-administration-of-shared-parental-leave-and-pay

    • Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      *on, not in. And, please pretend I properly punctuated Government’s.

  8. ClaireH
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    A big yes from me too, great post Katy.

    There needs to be more emphasis on equality for everyone in everything – making it ok and providing the opportunities for both women and men to succeed and achieve at whatever they want to do, whether that’s running a FTSE100 company, staying at home, working part time, being a professional athlete/sports star etc etc…

  9. Jen
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Yes! This is such a valid point. I have just returned to work after a having baby and my husband had to fight so hard to get a day off to look after our boy in the week – despite flexible working laws, his company just did not ‘get’ why he needed this. So frustrating but we got there in the end.

  10. Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Yes! This is something we’ve discussed for if/when we have kids. My husband says he’d happily stay at home as it makes more financial sense for us, yet he still won’t call himself a feminist (philistine!)

  11. Lucy
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    As a teacher (of Drama in fact), I have spent so much of my professional time justifying my amazing subject to parents of male students. I set up a department in a previous job and the 3 boys who opted to take Drama where actively discouraged by the management team as it wasnt a subject for them! This was a predominately female management team.

    Frequently at options time my senior level course is put in the same column as Physics. To me that somes up educations need to think more equally – boys take Physics, girls take Drama.

    I have always said I am an equallist, not a feminist. Every single working person should have the same employment rights and conditions. We should be able to retire at the same age (and before Im 6bloody8).

    Arrrgh the bell’s gone. I shall be back to read more after school!

  12. Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much everyone, glad you ‘get it’!

    Thanks for the link Catherine, I don’t pretend to be very up on the legal side of things. A step in the right direction perhaps?

    I have to point out in my household discussion of this post prompted an argument about gender equality vs. feminism. To me they are the same thing. Tell me AOW, am I wrong?

    • Posted March 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      You can sort of sum it up by everyone should be excellent to one another. Caitlin Moran says feminism is fundamentally just being polite to each other – and that works the same for gender equality too. So yes, I think you can be a feminist and want to banish gender inequalities for both genders – one doesn’t undermine the other.

      Also what I love about AOW is that although most (all?) of us would say we are feminists, there is no man-bashing here (maybe in part because it started as a wedding/marriage blog?), because the issue is not about women vs men, it’s about everyone being excellent to one another and then things start equalling out!

      Great post Katy!

      K x

  13. Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I agree I think feminism is such a dirty word because it is misunderstood. Brilliant piece of writing

    • Posted March 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Yes, maybe we should make up our own word! Feminista maybe?? (I personally never liked Feminism as a word because it sounds like all the bad isms! Sexism, racism, fascism…)

  14. Posted March 8, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Good post and comments. At my last midwife appointment I was seen by a male midwife, and it really challenged me. I don’t need the midwife to have been through pregnancy/child birth to think them good, but why being a man did it feel strange. The consultant I see at the hospital, who does exactly the same as the midwife, is a man but yet I don’t find that strange.
    Second, about attainment and achievement. The groups that we have concerns for in education are boys, but yet… so we need to tackle disadvantage and inequality whereever. Happy IWD everyone.

  15. Zan
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I agree with those who say the word feminism is misunderstood. It should be the same as fighting for gender equality. No one gender is better or more worthy. Some of the most ‘feminist’ people I know are men. And I’m proud to know them.

    Fantastic post Katy!

  16. Hannah
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Totally agree with all of this. I actively avoid “women’s” events at work, as I imagine that I would be pretty enraged if there was a “men’s” equivalent

    I’m all for eqaulity and a meritocracy, although sometimes we do need to recognise that we don’t live in utopia and there are a lot of people (not just women) who, for whatever reason, don’t get the opportunities that they ought to

  17. Jessie
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    This is excellent! Nodding away!
    Male, female whatever – you have to be able to make your own choices. Choice is my favourite word!

  18. Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I remember being 18 years old and in a seminar. The seminar tutor (te fabulous then Dr Bridget Bennet now Professor Bridget Bennet) asked us all if we were feminists. One by one people said they were not because they believed in equality and feminism was not about that. I was getting confused as I believed in equality and thought that was what feminism was for – the patriarchy fucks things up for men and women. But I ended up saying the same as the others in my group. And then Bridget explained that feminism was for men and women that the fight was for equality and I felt ashamed to have denied my feminism but happy that what I’d perceived as feminism was just that. And she inspired me throughout my time at Leeds to be a feminist at a time when people thought of girl power or feminists as men hating and for that I am entirely grateful.

    Thanks for reminding me of that. And I want to say its not feminism that has shafted men, it’s what feminism is trying to fight that has.

  19. Yanthé
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I am part of a women’s only networking group and it enrages my boyfriend. He, quite rightly, questioned whether I would be angry if there were a men’s only networking group I couldn’t join. Well, yes, I probably would be. Katy this makes so much sense and it’s so flipping well written.

  20. Posted March 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    This is a wonderful post – I completely agree that it is all about equality at the end of the day.

    I would love to be in a position where choosing to be a stay-at-home father or not was based solely on our family needs at the time. The idea that other people would judge me for this makes me quite angry (but wouldn’t stop me).

    I do think that things are changing in our society though. I love baking bread and F bought me an Artisan Baking course day (Bake with Maria) which we went to yesterday! (Still eating our way through the results, yum!!) There were eight people on the course – four guys and four girls. This contrasts with last year’s present – a cookery course at the Ashburton Cookery School (I know, she buys me the best presents, right!) – of which I was the only guy out of ten people on the course.

    The rest of my team at work are a generation older than me, and it shows. When I told them that F and I were engaged the best piece of wedding advice they could find for me was “try to stay out of the way”. When I took a week off to do some wedding planning I got condolences …

    Yet I have enjoyed every moment of it so far, and continue to do so.

  21. Jess F
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Katy, this is so, so brilliant. Love your final sentence- feel like I should have it on a t-shirt with the rest of your post of the back so everyone can read this! How great are the posts today?

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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