This is the official blog of the Feminism Society of Royal Holloway University of London.To join our mailing list or submit an article, feel free to email rhulfeminism@gmail.com. To pay your society membership please visit www.su.rhul.ac.uk

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Femininity, Masculinity, and Why Men’s Rights Issues are Feminist Issues.

By Jasmine Wyeth, founder and President 2011-2012.

Please be aware that this post will focus almost exclusively on binary genders. If you would like to submit blog posts about non-binary genders, feel free to email them to rhulfeminism@gmail.com. There will also be elements of heteronormativity.


Trigger warning for discussion of suicide.


Why would an Upper-Sixth student give up his Wednesday afternoons, which he would otherwise have free, to talk about human rights with Lower-Sixth students who chose Amnesty International as their compulsory enrichment activity? This was the question that someone asked James, one such Upper-Sixth student, running the Amnesty group when I was in it for my enrichment. “It’s good for your UCAS,” James replied. This was in the Autumn term, and he was thinking ahead to when he would be going to university in a few months- something which is a huge, exciting adventure for many young people.

Fast forward a few weeks. First day back at college after the Christmas holidays. Friends re-united after the break, pleased to see each other again, excitedly talking about what they got up to over the holidays. But the mood becomes subdued when our form tutor informs us that a student in the Upper-Sixth killed himself over the holidays.

I can’t remember when this part happened exactly- it was definitely within the same week, but it may not have been on the first day back. I was in a class, and a friend turned to me and said: “You know that boy who killed himself- it was James.”

James was just 18 years old when he died. I had only met him maybe 3 or 4 times - we weren’t close - but his death has always really affected me. I have no idea why he did it.  What I do know is that it never mattered how good his UCAS was.

Rest in peace, James.

***

Feminism is defined as a movement that fights for social, political and economic equality for all genders, and thus, by definition, feminists are people who fight for social, political and economic equality for all genders. Of course, this leads to some people questioning why the movement is called “feminism” rather than “equalism”, and leads to some people going even further and identifying as an “equalist” rather than as a “feminist”; after all, these people claim, the word “feminism” implies fighting for women’s superiority over men.

This isn’t true, of course - the movement is called “feminism” because it fights to liberate women in order to raise them up to an equal level with men in society. It does this by focusing on issues which primarily or solely affect women, such as abortion, rape, the representation of women in advertising etc. For many feminists, feminism is a movement which has historically focused exclusively on liberating women, and should remain so. I must admit that when I first came to feminism (around the time I turned 16 - I’m 20 now), I must have thought of the movement purely in terms of fighting for women’s rights, unaware of any gender-based struggles that men may face. However, I can see now that viewing feminism as a movement that focuses solely on women is na├»ve, and I hope I can illustrate why in this post.

In recent times, feminists have had opposition from “men’s rights activists” (MRAs). Of course, there have always been men who have opposed the fight for women’s rights, but in previous times, these men have recognised that women were restricted on the grounds of their gender, believed that these restrictions were justified and should continue to exist. MRAs view feminism differently – they believe that women achieved full equality with men long ago, and thus that feminism is no longer needed. In their view, today’s feminists are indeed just misandrists who are fighting for women’s superiority over men. They believe that feminism has gone too far and we live in a “feminised” society, where men are now the ones who are the victims of gender oppression.

MRAs often attack feminists, and feminists often criticise the men’s rights movement. Both groups have a tendency to view the other as being in direct opposition to themselves, and there appears to be very little/ no attempt at working together. I believe that this direct opposition and lack of constructive discussion is counter-productive to fighting for equal rights. Feminists fight to liberate women from gender oppression, men’s rights activists fight to liberate men from gender oppression – there is a correlation here, and I’m going to make the (perhaps controversial) statement that feminists and men’s rights activists should work together. Both groups are essentially working towards the same goal, that is, to liberate people from gender-based oppression - they are just working towards this goal from different perspectives. So, combining the two groups would strengthen each movement.

A lot of the gender-based oppression that women face arises from gender stereotypes. Such stereotypes include the notion that women are maternal and must thus want children, and the notion that women are very emotional and are good at talking about their feelings. These stereotypes promote a narrow ideal of femininity. However, for gender stereotypes about women to exist, there must also be gender stereotypes about men. Such stereotypes include the notion that men are the breadwinners who should be able to provide for their families, and the notion that men are tough, macho and unemotional and shouldn’t talk about their feelings. These stereotypes promote a narrow ideal of masculinity. Such stereotypes for women and men are often opposites and are complementary to each other, and they lead to complementary gender roles. So, both women and men are subjected to restrictive, limiting gender roles and stereotypes about what it means to be a woman or a man, and thus, it is logical to conclude that women cannot be liberated if men are also not liberated. It is therefore necessary to include discussion of masculinity and men’s rights in the feminist struggle.

I’m going to talk about a couple of issues that the men’s rights movement focuses on to illustrate my point. Firstly, one of the major issues is that of fatherhood and childcare. The men’s rights movement calls for a greater balance in the rewarding of custody of children. Many men perceive the family justice system as favouring mothers. In 90% of disputes over contact with children that are settled through the courts, the children go on to live mainly with one parent, and only in 12% of those do the children live with the father (although it is worth noting that only 10% of disputes are settled through the courts) (1).  Currently, there is also no presumption of shared parenting, although in response to many calls for such a presumption from fathers and grandparents, the government are looking at changing this, as long as any change in the law is framed in terms of what is best for children rather than in terms of parents having a right to custody of their children. There is a clear bias towards mothers and against fathers here. Men’s rights activists might claim that this is a clear example of systematic discrimination against men, and perhaps it is, but it will take more than legislative change to really address this imbalance – we need to change the ingrained attitudes that society has about the roles of women and men.

As mentioned before, women are restricted by the gender stereotype that they are maternal and that their primary role is that of a mother. Whilst women have made large gains in education and the workplace, this stereotype is still obvious when women who have had children want to continue with their careers, something which remains notoriously difficult. Feminists fight to make this easier, but in order for this to become easier, we need to break down this restrictive gender role of a woman as a mother. If we placed less emphasis on women being the primary care-givers to children, we could increase the balance of parenting between mothers and fathers, and the role of men as fathers could be promoted. With increased emphasis on the role of men as fathers, it should then become easier for men to gain shared/ sole custody of children after separating from their partners. Thus, in the context of family roles, by breaking down stereotypical notions of femininity and masculinity, both women and men would gain, and both feminists and MRAs would achieve some of their aims.

Another issue that men’s rights activists use as an example of the oppression of men in society is the fact that the suicide rate for men is so much higher than for women. I started this post by writing about James to show that I have a real, personal desire to address this issue. In 2010 in the UK, 5,608 people over the age of 15 killed themselves, and of these, 4,231 were men and 1,377 were women (2). This is despite the fact that more women than men are diagnosed with mental health problems. It is very possible that this disparity is at least partially due to men not feeling able to get help for their problems. Expressing one’s emotions and talking about one’s problems are seen as feminine traits, associated with the stereotype of the emotional woman. Such stereotypically feminine traits are generally seen as “weak”. Men cannot express such traits without also being seen as “weak” and unmanly, and any man who was to express feminine traits would likely be told to “man up”. Men are faced with the restrictive gender stereotype that they must be tough and unemotional, and this stereotype can stop men from getting the help that they need. This is a clear example of double-sexism: sexism against women because stereotypically feminine traits are seen as weak and negative, and sexism against men because they can’t get help if they need it.

In order to address this issue, we again need to break down gender stereotypes. We need to end the polarisation of femininity and masculinity. Expressing one’s emotions shouldn’t be seen as weak- it is a basic human thing to do, and should be something that all people feel free to do, regardless of their gender identity. Instead of stereotyping traits as being feminine or masculine, we need to neutralise them for the benefit of all. Men need to be able to talk about their feelings too, especially when faced with serious problems that could affect their mental health. If we neutralise the trait of being emotional, then it should become easier for men to get help when they need it, and then that would hopefully reduce the number of suicides. Feminists need to fight for this neutralisation so that women are no longer stereotyped as weak, and men need to fight for this neutralisation so that they can feel free to express their emotions and no long feel they have to live up to the stereotype of the macho man. Thus, in the context of emotions and mental health, by breaking down stereotypical notions of femininity and masculinity, both women and men would gain, and both feminists and MRAs would achieve some of their aims.  

I believe that both feminists and MRAs have to look at how the discrimination that women face relates to the discrimination that men face, and vice versa. Both sides have to understand that the gender-based discrimination that men face is inextricably linked to the gender-based discrimination that women face. Women cannot be liberated if men are also not liberated, as so long as one gender is boxed into a restrictive gender role, so will the other. Thus men’s rights issues are feminist issues, and the feminist movement needs to include more discussion of how men are affected by stereotypical notions of masculinity and what it means to be a man. Conversely, the men’s rights movement needs to recognise that women are far from achieving equality, and that men will face gender-based discrimination for as long as women face gender-based discrimination. By working together, feminists and MRAs could break down restrictive gender stereotypes together, and thus achieve their aims of liberating people from gender-based oppression much quicker and much more effectively. 


References:

1) Peacey, V, & Hunt, J. (2008) Problematic contact after separation and divorce. In Family Justice Review  Interim Report (2011), by Norgrove, D. et al., page 180.
2) Suicide rates in the United Kingdom, 2006-2010. Published by the Office for National Statistics. 

23 comments:

  1. Beautiful post. Thank you.

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  2. Hi Jasmine,

    This is a very good article, and I broadly agree with your position that on the face of it there are similarities and overlaps between the aims of Mens Rights Activists and feminists (I should declare here that I am a fathers' rights activist myself, and so somewhat aligned with MRAs, though only tangentally).

    However I would also want to be clear about the enormous scepticism you'd encounter from the MRA/Fathers - quite simply most of us have a pretty dim view of feminists, and frankly I think we've got every right to be. Modern feminism does not seem to be concerned with equality. Instead, it's become nothing more than a gender-based special interest group. Lobbying constantly for its own interests, even when that means special rights and privileges at the expense of equality, justice or fairness for other groups in society.

    I know you're not going to agree with that, so please allow me to give you one, fairly typical, example.

    Two months ago the feminist author Rachel Cusk wrote a book, 'Aftermath', about the break-up of her family. She instigated a divorce against her husband, after he'd given up work to look after their children, and as a result she lost respect for her now 'dependent' husband.

    "My husband said he wanted half of everything, including the children. No, I said. What do you mean no, he said. You can't divide people in half, I said. They should be with me half the time, he said. They're my children, I said. They belong to me."

    "I conscripted my husband into care of the children. He gave up his law job, and I gave up the exclusivity of my primitive maternal right over the children."

    "I had hated my husband's unwaged domesticity just as much as I had hated my mother's; and he, like her, had claimed to be contented with his lot. Why had I hated it so? Because it represented dependence."

    You can read an extract from 'Aftermath' here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/17/rachel-cusk-divorce-the-aftermath

    I could go on, but I hope you see my point. The problem is that it's not a 'patriarchy' or 'men' who fight to enforce traditional gender roles for men and women. It's just women. Every major feminist group in the UK, Australia, Canada and the USA has come out forcefully against the presumption of shared custody. Not one of them backed any campaign for paternity rights. That's a fact. It is only Fathers groups and men's groups who are campaigning for equality.

    One of the reasons why feminism has marginalised itself is because it seems unable to view women in anything other than an idealised, victimised way. For instance, women commit just as much domestic abuse as men - it's just that they abuse verbally, emotionally and psychologically. You only have to observe girl friendship groups in a school setting or workplaces where women are the majority to see this. Women often argue, threaten or chronically verbally abuse men into suicide (see the recent cases of Gary Speed and PC David Rathband); they stop fathers seeing their children, causing immense distress (separated and divorced fathers are 14 times more likely than average to kill themselves). This abuse is not considered 'domestic abuse' - but can you see any reason why it shouldn't be?

    As a liberal, open-minded man, I'm disappointed by feminism, and it's obsession with rape (what is that about by the way?) and its reactionary opposition to social justice and equality.

    13murphy13 (Twitter)

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    1. I couldn't agree more with this..

      Jasmine has written a thoughtful argument and in theory she is right.

      Unfortunately in practice feminism continues to fail in achieving true equality.

      I'm afraid Jasmine, where us MRA's see feminism as the route cause of some of men's issue, we are not inclined to trust that this can be fixed with yet more feminism. We have decided to fight our own corner and that is what we are going to do.

      Perhaps the answer is for feminism to take a back seat on men's issues and let us sort out our own problems. As you say you still feel a need to fight for woman's issues so letting us do our own work will free you up to concentrate on your own world.

      You did right a good article here and I imagine that you are one of the nice feminists. But you are the exception to rule in my experience.

      All the best.

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Hi Murphy,

    I used to have a lot of sympathy with MRAs, until I until I realised that feminism was about the fight against patriarchal attitudes rather than just fighting for women's rights. There aren't many feminist campaigns that are solely for the promotion of one side or the other, except where one side is being institutionally oppressed.

    I wouldn't take the book as a sole voice of women around the world. She's obviously been through quite an emotional rollercoaster and is speaking about a man (not all men) she particularly dislikes. Though it shouldn't take away from her story, remember that she is a professional writer trying to sell a book, so it isn't going to be a boring every day story, and the guardain serialising it will be taking the most controversial extracts from it (in an interview she did with the Guardian she says that "prose is such a vulnerable medium: the Guardian's "extract" from Aftermath consisted in fact of lines taken from all over the book and compressed into something I could barely recognise as my own writing", though that doesn't seem to have stopped her getting about 5 separate articles published promoting the book).

    On your comment that feminists don't campaign for men's rights, paternity leave is a very good example of a campaign supported by feminists (http://fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=1209) because there are two dimensions of oppression created by patriarchy. One from the angle of a man who cannot look after his children and one from the angle of a woman who is assumed to go on maternity leave at some point so is paid less.

    I disagree that spaces which operate with a majority of women cause bulling and abuse. One of the reasons I have remained an active member of RHUL Feminist Society is because of the 'safe space' and welcoming attitude I have felt at meetings which isn't present at any other political space (or any other space, come to think of it!) I have been to. What may more likely be the problem is that not all women are nice people just because they are women, as well as work places being hyper-competitive and aggressive (often referred to as being 'masculine') due to the capitalist system we operate in and the 'dog eat dog' mentality of many workplaces (though my socialist qualms with society and the workplace are for another blog post...).

    I understand why you may be confused as to why feminists talk about rape so often. I admit that I was a bit ignorant on the issue until I started talking to my non-feminist friends. As a man you view a walk home alone in the dark in a much different way to a woman, who sees a dark or secluded ally as a risk that you may not notice. This is probably something only a woman can see, so I don't expect most men to fully understand it (I admit I don't), but we should certainly campaign on the issue as it is another case of institutional discrimination of women, as a disproportionate amount of rape cases do not lead to convictions.

    Of course my views here are my own, and other members of RHUL FemSoc may disagree with me or feel I've missed something out, so I'm sure they will continue the debate below. However, the sooner we all realise that most feminist and MRA campaigns are two sides of the same coin in the struggle against patriarchy the sooner we can unite together under one banner to fight gender oppression in society.

    RustamM (Twitter)

    (Previous comment was deleted because I forgot to proof read it!)

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  5. Hi RustamM,

    Thanks for the response, you make some very valid points which I certainly respect as an alternative point of view.

    For anyone with a more than cursory understanding of contemporary feminism, and the various strands of thought present within feminism, it is frustrating to find that feminists of all stripes reflexively assume that if you disagree with them you must simply be ignorant or irredemably retrogressive. Thanks for not doing that Usually, it's as though they cannot believe that you can have read Simone de Beauvoir, had a mother who was inspired by Germaine Greer, scratched your head over Camille Paglia, or struggled with Gayatri Chakravorty (all true in my case) and STILL believe much modern feminism is badly misguided and damaging to both men and women.

    Either that or they can't believe your effrontary in daring to express an opinion. 'Typical man - dominating, 'mansplaining' failing to respect my lived experience as a women etc. etc.'

    I understand your perspective that 'feminism is about the fight against patriarchal attitudes rather than just fighting for womens rights', all I would say is that feminism certainly doesn't look like that's what it's about. Firstly, by setting up the 'patriarchy' label, feminists automatically strike an oppositional stance, as 'patriarchy' is understood to be male. However I understand from feminists that both men and women support 'patriarchal' behaviours, systems and inequalities, in which case, why is it called 'patriarchy'? Ah, that's because although both men and women collaborate to perpetuate 'patriarchy', it's men who have the power, and who are manipulating/controlling the unenlightened women involved. The solution is for feminists to raise the consciousness of other women, while simultaneously working to weaken the grip men have on power. Is it possible that entrenched class systems and political structures have a greater role to play in creating an unequal society than a gender-based perspective can explain? Um...that sounds a bit hard, let's park that for the moment and have a slutwalk instead.

    Rachel Cusk is not representative of feminism. Neither is Julie Bindel [shiver]. In fact no feminist is representative of feminism. Has the added benefit of ensuring that no feminist is accountable or responsible for anything.

    Rape is a serious crime. The conviction rate though (59%) is the same as for other serious crimes including Grievous Bodily Harm, murder and manslaughter. The controversy over false accusations is interesting. Some MRAs argue false accusations are endemic, womens groups argue they are either non-existent or no higher than for any other serious crime. The latter ignores the fact that rape is the only serious crime where a false accusation is possible, the former that the legal system in all democratic societies should contain sufficient safeguards to minimise injustices. Difficult to know precisely where the truth lies on that one, though it's probably fair to say that rape is both a very rare crime, and that when it does occur it is prosecuted no less successfully than any other crime.

    The feminist obsession with rape is a result of three factors: firstly it is an area where it is clearly straightforward to portray women as victims and men as perpetrators (feminists love pointing to campaigns against male rape - a vanishingly rare crime - for the same reason); secondly it reflects the shift in feminism in the 1960s away from political engagement to issues of the body and self-identity; thirdly - and most controversially - it excites submission fantasies. I certainly would not dream of commenting on that last point as I am clearly not qualified to expand upon it.

    (Cont.)

    13murphy13

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  6. If it weren't for this skewed perspective, feminists might find more urgent courses of campaign activity. For instance, elderly women are overwhelmingly (1,487%) more likely to be the victims of postal fraud (the result of more women in that demographic, and issues to do with the electoral register and mail-order databases) and across the UK elderly women over 70 are defrauded of more than £570m annually, elderly men just £3.5m.

    Yes the Fawcett Society did welcome the introduction of increased paternity leave. Depressingly they did so on the basis that they believed it would help reduce the gender pay gap. It hasn't of course, because the gender pay gap isn't the result of that, but still, even lukewarm and double-edged support is support of a kind I suppose. It's surprising how many people believe women are paid less than men as a result of discrimination, even 48 years after such discrimination was made illegal.

    I believe women and girls abuse as much as men and boys, but that they do so differently - more likely to use rumour-spreading, verbal and emotional abuse, excusion, mobbbing etc. I've never seen much research on the subject mind, but I've yet to meet anyone who disagrees with me. We tend not to see this as serious as physical abuse, but I feel that it is. You may disagree, though I'm not sure the mother of a teenage girl driven to suicide by nasty texts from her 'mates' would.

    Finally, a dark alley presents just as much, if not more, risk to you and me as it does to a woman. I'm saddened that you don't think men can understand a woman's fear of assault. I'm a bit mystified as well. Personally, I find the idea of being repeatedly stabbed over and over again and then dying in a puddle, pretty horrible. I also don't find it difficult to imagine other people feel the same way. I would have thought most people had that degree of empathy, psychopaths and nazis aside obviously.

    Anyway, perhaps we can agree that actively campaigning against shared parenting doesn't reflect well on feminist groups?

    13murphy13

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  7. Hi again Murphy,

    I have to wonder whether your experience of feminists are based on a few bad eggs. My first introduction with a feminist didn't give my opinion of feminism a great start, but meeting and talking with RHUL's feminists turned my opinion around completely. I'm not going to pretend that just because people are feminists they are nice people (though that does seem to be the trend here at RHUL!). If this is the case, then try not to mix up the personality of people with their views and take a dislike to both because of one!

    I don't think many feminists view the problems with class system in seclusion to fighting patriarchy. A lot of feminists here are involved with the anti-cuts movement and other left wing groups. However, different people tend to view the problems with the structure of society with differing levels of importance. Feminists believe that patriarchy is a large problem, marxists believe class is the big issue, and I've always thought that generational inequalities are what we should be fighting against (I'm mainly an eco-socialist, but I moonlight as a feminist). However, just because one ideology thinks that a certain issue is the biggest problem doesn't mean they disregard the others, and the three previous examples all think that the other issues are important.

    Recall that I wrote in my previous post that it wasn't actually feminists that alerted me to the worries that women have about rape, but my non-feminist friends, so it can't just be pinned on feminists having an odd fascination. I also have to disagree on your view that rape is a rare crime. Many surveys say that between 1/3 and 1/6 women are victims of sexual violence at some point in their lives. Personally, I don't think 1/3 people I know have been murdered (or even assaulted) so it is a shockingly common crime. When people are charged they are often convicted, but that's only when the CPS are fairly sure they can get a conviction, and the problem is that not enough rapes are reported, and even when they are many don't make it to court. The 1/3 - 1/6 statistic also explains why women view dark alleys (and other unsafe places) differently to men. Although I'm not particularly keen on getting stabbed, I know it probably won't happen while I'm walking down the alleys I usually do, and that over my entire lifetime it probably won't happen to me. If you can imagine that walking down alleyways was a contribution to getting cancer (which also affects about 1/3 people) then you may view them as dangerously as women do.

    Isn't reducing the gender pay gap is as good a reason as any to be in favour of paternity leave? One of the biggest and most obvious cases of institutional sexism is the gender pay gap, and maternity leave is one of the most cited reasons why large, high paying companies shy away from employing women. It will also do a lot of good in breaking down the patriarchal view that pervades society of women being the only ones to look after children, which is what MRAs are aiming for (once again showing that both sides want the same end goal).

    I know I haven't responded to every point you raised, but hopefully some of the other feminists will be able to continue from here, as I'm running short on time to reply to your posts due to exams so my responses will only get more delayed!

    Rustam

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    1. Hi Rustam,

      You are incorrect when you say: "maternity leave is one of the most cited reasons why large, high paying companies shy away from employing women", or that this is the result of 'patriarchy'.

      I have never seen any reliable evidence that companies 'shy away' from employing women for any reason whatsoever. As someone who has worked for several large, prestigious, high-profile companies, I can assure you that this would never even enter the thinking of any responsible business. The overwhelming majority of companies are strongly committed to diversity. All businesses simply see maternity leave as part of their normal day-to-day work: clients, customers, partners and other partners would be deeply disturbed if there was any suggestion that an organisation they were dealing with treated women, or any other group, in an obviously-discriminatory fashion.

      The fact is though, that work - even in very large, very well-run, very prestigous organisations, which do all the right things - can be very, very hard.

      Let me give you an example. Accenture is one of the world's greatest companies, you may well have heard of it. It is renowned as a great place to work, regularly featuring in major surveys of best places to work as an LGBT employee, working mother or ethnic minority.

      For the last ten years, 'Working Mother' magazine has rated it a TOP 100 employer: "Whatever their personal goals may be, women can find support for them at this management consulting, technology and outsourcing firm."

      http://www.workingmother.com/100-best-companies/2010/08/accenture

      Not all their employees find this to be the case:

      "travel time IS NOT billable so they basically get upwards of 10-18 hrs of OUR family time FREE each week and he is expected to fly out on Sunday and not leave the client site till late Friday....RUN, nay FLYYYYYY as fast as you can away from this company. It may be a sweet bonus to have that Accenture name on a resume, but our family can vouch that it is NOT worth the rip off of crap they make the employee and their family deal with."

      http://www.topix.com/forum/com/acn/TMKSH6ORAQ26JQGHV

      Which is true? Answer: both are. Accenture is a fantastic place to work, it's also a very demanding place to work. Both men, and women, find it difficult to balance home and work. However, more men, more frequently feel obligated to make the personal sacrifices necessary to support their families.

      Because of this, they will more frequently be paid more. They will also experience more stress, loneliness and unhappiness. On the whole, women don't want to make those sacrifices.

      That's fine, that's their choice. But it's not discrimination.

      Delete
  8. Hi there,

    Just researching feminism for exams when I came across this article, do you not think that there is no longer a need for feminism? (In this country and the U.S. at least).

    In the UK, women have the same opportunities as men; they have access to higher education, they out perform males in school. In 2011, 27% of females achieved A*-A at GCSE whereas 20% of males achieved the same grades. At the majority of British universities there are more females than males. 86 out of 134 [universities] have a female majority whereas 36 out of 134 have a male majority. Indeed at this writers university, (RHUL FTW), the ratio is 46 men to every 54 females. Women have been able to vote (since 1918), I'm sure many did in the Runnymede Borough Council Elections. Therefore there is nothing preventing both genders from selecting the political ideology that suits them and their agenda/beliefs.

    I'm not going to go into the whole "rape/divorce/reproductive laws 'favouring women' idea" because that stirs up more baloney and misinformation than an Italian sausage factory.

    I think one of the most disputed topics of gender equality is the wage gap, or lack of. It can be agreed there is a lot of variation in the methods of research and distortion of data on the wage gap in independent studies, especially by MRAs and the women's movement. I believe that, in time, because of current gender equality, (obviously) this gap will close as women work their way up corporate and job ladders. However I do not think that the wage gap between men a women will ever be equal. There are too many variables to consider when calculating salaries; overtime pay, whether holiday time is taken advantage of, mental attitude in the workplace, productivity and the fact that salaries will always differ due to the net value of companies, profit margins and economic depression or boom. Furthermore, as people move in and out of jobs because of maternity leave, other job offers, illness or being laid off due to budget cuts, salaries between genders and members of the same gender will constantly change. It is unavoidable. As a result, in the future the wage gap will constantly be in flux.

    Here is an example of this flux. Over the next 5 years men earn more then women, then women earn more, catch up and there is equality in the gender wage gap. Due to the influx of women in higher education and academia (and consequently tertiary, quaternary and quinary sectors), the wage gap widens so women earn more on average than men. In a few years there may be a shift back to men earning more, and this continual fluctuation will carry on for as long as energy sources, security and viability enable us to work in the tertiary, quaternary and quinary sectors. (I.e. until we can no longer generate electricity to keep the global economy from total collapse.

    Based on the above (stats sourced from the guardian and daily mail online statistics), is there a need for the preservation of the feminist and women's rights movement in the UK/US?

    Sorry if this comment is in completely the wrong place (this is the article hit i got on google). I'd appreciate it if any replies could include statistics (and respective references) as I need a detailed argument that I could use in an essay if it ever came up.

    Regards,

    thatguy

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  9. Firstly, I'm really glad people are debating Feminsim issues because even when people differ in opinion, it means people care enough to argue, and it means this things are being talked about, which is really cool.
    However, i’m afraid i'm going to have to take issue with your use of the word 'obsession'. Obsession by its very definition means a pre occupation with something that is irrational and unhealthy. I don’t think there is anything irrational or unhealthy about wanting to do something about a horrific crime that is horrifically common.
    You use the word ‘rare’ to describe rape. The world ‘rare’ is relative and subjective in this instance and I don’t claim to know in what sense you use it. However, I personally wouldn’t class a crime that reports show are committed on between 1 in 3 and 1 in 6 women as rare.

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    1. Could you post a link for the 1 in 3/6 rape statistics?

      Delete
  10. I, and an upsetting number of women I know have had experiences with this kind of sexual assault and calling it rare only alienates and detaches it further from society. Rape should not be a taboo subject and therefore the importance feminism places on it (what I believe you’re calling feminism’s obsession) is vital. Rape is a crime that feeds off oppression, self-blame and silence. The less it is talked about and the more victims are encouraged to view it as something they had the potential to prevent, the more it is going to occur. It is not a victim’s short skirt that makes her vulnerable to rape, I’m sure I need not enter into the victim-blaming debate with you. I struggle to comprehend how anybody can believe that a short skirt says ‘yes sleep with me’ any louder than any girl can say NO. However, sadly these attitudes exist. There is nothing more harmful to a rape victim than for them to hear on the TV, in the media, from other people, that what happened to her/him is their own fault. I appreciate that at times Feminism may appear to focus on rape a lot, but I don’t quite see how this can be seen as a bad thing. Rarity isn’t an argument for ignoring issues. Whether it happens to 1 in 3 or 1 in 300 women, that in itself is not an argument for not bothering to change it. As it is, to my mind, it is a shockingly frequent crime, probably even more frequent than statistics ever show because of the shame and guilt that often prevent victims from sharing their experience with anybody at all.
    It is also important to remember that conviction rates are not the whole story, more so than murder and violence there are an immense number of rapes that are never reported to the police at all. The flip side of what you have already acknowledged: that rape is a crime in which false allegations can be made- is that rape is also a crime which is harder to physically prove, in contrast to murder and GBH which have very obvious physical consequences. This is unfortunate but hard to change. What is upsettingly easy to change is the stigma, shame and blame that often surrounds rape victims. Feminism’s ongoing campaign against rape is not purely about raising conviction rates, though as you yourself pointed out, conviction rates have thankfully increased, it is about increasing general awareness and understanding of the issue. Studies have shown that a lot of young men and women aren’t fully aware of what even constitutes rape. There are men that think having sex with women that are asleep or paralytic is acceptable; and there are women that think that if they are going out with a boy or have already kissed them, it isn’t rape. This is difficult to prove in numbers and statistics but these are real attitudes and opinions said to me by real people. The fact that there are girls out there who have been raped but don’t know it; that are traumatised by the experience and yet think they’re just being silly because nobody has told them they are entitled to feel like that, that what happened to them was wrong, is frankly awful. These attitudes are built into our society, this study points out some of the problems http://www.thehavens.co.uk/docs/where_is_the_line.pdf though it cannot encapsulate the whole problem. Feminism is directly addressing these issues, in it's 'obsession' with rape it is trying to ensure people understand exactly what it is, so that men and women have a better attitude toward it.

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  11. If feminism’s ‘obsession’ with rape can bring it out into the open more, bring it into the living rooms and government offices of this country, ensure it isn’t ignored or swept under the carpet or seen as an ‘unfortunate inevitably’, then well done feminism. If feminism’s ‘obsession’ with rape can make it easier for even a few victims to come forward with their experiences and get help, then I’m proud of feminism. I know how hard it is to open up about these kind of things, but it is inevitably made easier when the people you open up to are educated in and understanding of the experience.
    I also think your mention of submission fantasies is absolutely irrelevant and unnecessary. Fantasies are an element of most healthy sexual relationships- rape is not. Rape is the exertion of power, driven by a desire to humiliate and exert control- this has long since been established. Rape is used as a weapon in wars, a symbol of oppression and power by corrupt governments. It happens on the elderly, the young, and everybody else in between. Whatever somebody fantasises about in the bedroom, their attitude to rape should be the same. As a feminist who, by your definition has an ‘obsession’ with rape, I can assure you it is fuelled by no such fantasy but by a desire to change the shitty attitudes that surround rape at the moment.
    If you appreciate the efforts made my Feminism to tackle this crime, regardless of the level of your own personal interest in it, I’m afraid I don’t understand why you use such a derogatory word as ‘obsession’. Feminism’s ‘obsession’ with rape is fuelled entirely by a desperate desire to make things better for people- I really don’t see how that can ever be bad or how you can have a problem with it.
    Anyway, like I said, i'm not sure what you meant by 'obsession with rape' and it was only a small part of your overall point, however, it seems unfair to belittle the attempts of thousands of people across the globe as an 'obsession' when they are quite honestly acting purely because they care.

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  12. Hello,

    I posted a comment here this morning (I am currently researching for exams). I know that the facts and ideas I presented in it are probably controversial to most feminists beliefs, but that doesn't mean that you can delete it just because you oppose these facts. I set out my argument in a carefully worded, academic and by no means offensive way, and your only response is to delete it. Not even an opinion on or answer to my question. I thought the whole idea of coming to university was to recognise both sides of every issue, critically analyse them and present your counter-arguments or agreements in a concise and logical manner? To me university is all about expanding your knowledge base, even if you don't like the content provided, and forming or possibly re-forming your own opinions based on what you learn.

    I spent a lot of time researching and constructing my comment and would love to hear your opinions on this matter.

    Regards,

    Ricardo

    Reply if you want me to repost...

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    1. Hello Ricardo,

      We did not delete your comment, because this post was a while back and we have to read through comments before we publish them it took a time to get to. Since your comment was not related to this post but brought interesting points up we plan to reply in another post. We are very busy due to exams and campaigns so it may take a few days.

      Regards

      Delete
    2. Apologies, take all the time you need.

      Delete
    3. Apologies accepted.
      Are you prepared to wait until next week, one member wants to reply to you be has exams now, and we have a really busy multiple campaign week ahead.

      Delete
  13. One thing I forgot to say in my last post to Murphy is that you said:
    "It's surprising how many people believe women are paid less than men as a result of discrimination, even 48 years after such discrimination was made illegal."
    It turns out that even though it's illegal, it still happens. Statistics say it happens, and even here at RHUL it happens. A lecturer recently took the university to court after she realised that male collogues were being paid more than her for doing exactly the same job, so it turns out that many people believe it because it is true!

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    1. Hi Rustam,

      With respect, it is not true - you are mistaken. The key phrase here is 'as a result of discrimination'.

      Policy-makers, politicians, activist groups and campaigners have worked for many years to eliminate the 'gender pay gap', and have found it remarkably persistent. Occasionally it narrows - usually in economically prosperous periods - but it then widens during economic downturns. The problem they run into, time and again, is that the 'gap', such as it exists, does not result from 'discrimination', but from the different life and career choices made by men and women.

      A proviso here, of course, is that one can always find some isolated, and well-publicised cases where discrimination HAS occured (some high profile cases in the City of London for instance), but these are rare (equality legislation is cited in less than one per cent of cases brought to tribunal for instance).

      There IS a 'gender pay gap' - that much is true. Across most societies in the world, men ARE paid more than women, frequently for 'doing the same work, doing exactly the same job'.

      However there are well-understood reasons for this. In short, men chose to work in more difficult locations, at more unsocial hours, travel longer commutes, sacrifice time with loved ones, in more uncomfortable, demanding, isolated and dangerous roles and locales. They also do so for longer hours, and take less time off sick.

      This is not a contentious statement. It is well-understood and has been studied in depth by multiple organisations, public and private, academic and corporate. There are literally hundreds of research reports which reach similar conclusions. Simply googling 'gender pay gap, facts' will throw up several widely-accepted reports conducted in the last five years alone.

      For example, the U.S. Department of Labor report 'An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women' (January 2009) states:

      "This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers."

      http://www.consad.com/content/reports/Gender%20Wage%20Gap%20Final%20Report.pdf

      You may also want to read the book by Warren Farrell 'Why Men Earn More'.

      I hope that helps.

      Delete
  14. As someone concerned with fathers’ rights, I don’t have a particular view on rape – and actually I rather wish I’d never mentioned it at all – however in response to these comments I am willing to discuss my view, with respect to the fact that I am neither a woman nor a rape victim.

    I don’t believe there is a serious rape problem in the UK.

    If rape was commonplace in the UK, and if we had a rape culture, rape would be a common practice; people would routinely and casually talk about raping or being raped by someone. People would discuss what styles or methods of rape they prefer. Public figures would speak in favour of rape. These things don’t happen.

    In terms of crime, rape falls somewhere on the spectrum between serious robbery and murder. The number of people who commit rape is a tiny percentage of the population: the vast majority of people are not criminals.

    Rape is a rare, and isolated, crime – and that is not to say it is not a serious crime. As one commentator has said: “beyond the physical harm the victim suffers, rape erodes trust; like any crime, it arouses fear.”

    I am struck by the reasoning often presented about ‘unknown’ crime. That we don’t know how many rapes are unreported, or the rate of men who are raped, and which, the language of informal logic, is an example of argumentum ad ignorantiam, or ‘the appeal to ignorance’. Imagine someone saying: “I don’t know that UFOs are not visiting Earth, or that aliens are not watching us, and so I presume that this happens, and has happened, a lot.” This is a logical fallacy.

    Clearly I cannot put myself into a woman’s shoes, or she mine. However, when we bandy around inflated statistics, when we look at every man as a potential rapist, and when we condemn different opinions as ‘promoting’ or ‘enabling’ rape, we are creating an environment of suspicion. This suspicion, like crime, erodes trust and arouses fear.

    I find it very difficult to know what to say to someone who believes that 1 in 3 British women have experienced rape in their lifetime.

    According to the 2001 census, there are 49 million adults in the UK: 30.3 million women and 29.6 million men. According to the 1 in 3 figure, 10.15 million UK women have been raped.

    So if approximately 2 per cent of men are gay, (and presumably they do not rape women), then we can take out 592,000 men from the calculation, so we’re down to 29,008,000 men in the frame. We should also probably take out the 3.3 million disabled men of working age.

    That’s 25.7 million men left.

    So if each rapist rapes only one woman, and there are 10.15 million rapists in the UK: that’s just shy of 40 per cent of all men: are we seriously claiming that more than 2 in 5 of all UK men over the age of 16 are rapists? That’s the entire population of straight, able-bodied men outside the South East.

    If we were to say there are only a few bad apples, and that every rapist has actually raped four separate women, then a still staggering 10.15 per cent, or 1 in 10, straight men have raped a woman.

    That’s a bit more like it: now we know that the equivalent of the entire straight, male, able-bodied population of Scotland (2.1 million) plus Liverpool (299,000) and Newcastle (267,000) have raped four women.

    So either every third straight man one meets is a rapist, or we have an entire country, plus two major urban centres, worth of serial rapists, or we’re somewhere on the spectrum in-between the two?

    With respect, I would suggest that this does not pass the test of being convincing to a reasonable person.

    Rape is a serious crime for which the penalties are severe. Victims should be treated with compassion and dignity.

    However it is simply not acceptable to arouse fear between men and women and erode trust by inflating and exaggerating the incidence of what is, thankfully, a rare and uncommon crime.

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  15. Although you have put it well, I agree with your article, and in an ideal world it would be great if feminists and MRAs would work together, I really can't see it happening, as all the MRAs I've ever come across have been militants who believe that feminists hate men and want to be superior to them. This usually seems to be based on a bad personal experience, and I don't think any amount of arguing would change their mind, unfortunately.

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  16. "This isn’t true, of course - the movement is called “feminism” because it fights to liberate women in order to raise them up to an equal level with men in society." - This is what I feel is the logical fallacy of the feminist movement. It presumes the attitude that essentially men are up at the top in terms of rights whilst women are further down. I don't think this is the correct attitude, and in some sense is in and of itself misogynistic (paradoxically). What I feel is really the case is that true equality is a singular point up at the top, and no gender has reached that pointed. In that sense I would say in fact that the genders are "equally unequal". Another way of thinking is as a Venn diagram. In one circle you have the rights of men, and in the other circle you have the rights of women. There is significant overlap between the two but on both sides there are rights that one have that the other doesn't.

    For example, its socially acceptable for a women to dress in clothes belonging to either gender, but heaven forbid if a man were to wear a dress (in fact wearing a dress I recall its technically classed as indecent exposure in some places).

    Also the father usually has no say, legally, over what he feels is best for his children. The law always believes only the mother can say. Also there is the big thing that according to UK law, only a man can perform sexual assault. And even if women could be prosecuted, men would be discouraged from reporting if they had been the victim of assault from a women, because apparently society thinks rape is funny if the victim is a man... There is plenty support for rape victims if you are a women, but not so many for if you are a man.

    Also just look at the modern media. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaxSX04xWzA The carte doir noire advert in this link depicts a woman and her husband. The man goes off stage and then along comes a hot male model. If the genders of every character in that advert had been swapped, this advert would be taken down in an instant, but because its men being exploited its okay. Also countless number of shows at some point depicting a vicious breakup between a girl and a guy. In various cases the situation involves the women hitting a guy, breaking his stuff, scratching his car, infecting him with some disease or otherwise maiming him... and usually the girl is portrayed as the hero, good on her for standing up to the cheating scum... who cares that she just committed grave bodily harm. Actually on the subject of gbh, I recently read a yahoo news article where a woman was convicted for cutting off her ex boyfriends balls. The article's response: "lol sucks to be him".

    The above paragraph, does help to illustrate one other point. This perception of feminists as wanting to suppress men, is kind of the feminist media's fault. Whenever a piece of media wants to go "you go girl" or "GO GIRL POWER", it does usually involve some pretty graphic abuse/exploitation of men. Even as I write this the theme song for 9 to 5 is going around my head, a film where a man gets kidnapped (admittedly the guy is a bit of a **** but still).

    MRA and Feminism should work together a bit more. However in order for that to ever happen we need to change our own perceptions of what the equality goal is. The equality struggle isn't about men having ALL the rights, and women only having some. Its about men having some rights, and women have some others, and trying to bridge the gap between the two.

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