A Minister for Men?

Yes, we’ve heard it before. Why is there a Minister for Women and not a Minister for Men? Why is there an International Women’s Day but not an International Men’s Day? Why do we need the Orange Prize and the Stella Prize? And so on.

I have just commented on the need for a Minister for Men over at a blog, linked on Pav Cat’s blog (Stilllifewithcat), called The Conversation. I think the premise of the blog post is a good one – what could gender equity goals for men’s well-being look like? So how do we stop large numbers of young men dying in car accidents? How do we stop large numbers of men dying from preventable heart disease? Good questions and as a married woman and mother of a son, sister and aunty to three gorgeous nephews I want to prevent these things too. But is a Minister for Men really going to achieve this?

The post also asks how do we get more gender equity into nursing, childcare and education? I answered that you pay more to those professions. This may be a simple answer but I think it is a pertinent one. Get men to take more leave for childcare and family responsibilities? Now you are getting into the difficult stuff.

How would a Minister for Men change society so that people taking leave for childcare and family weren’t seen as slacking off? So that they weren’t sidelined from promotion or training. So that it wasn’t assumed that they couldn’t give their all for their employer because their loyalties were split? How do we change the perception of caregivers to people who are valuable to the community, who are saving tax payers an enormous amount of money with their unpaid labour, ensuring that the money is spent on people who really need the support and assistance? How do we value unpaid labour? (ha! say feminists since like forever)

I think what concerns me most is that the author of the the blog post on The Conversation is a member of a Gender Advisory group for the ABS. I’m hoping that his question about a Minister for Men was a bit of trolluming trying to get some debate going. I really hope so. Otherwise what is a Minister for Men but an empty gesture so they can say – see Gender Equity, Ministers for Men and Women. Done.

NB: to comment on The Conversation you have to sign up with them. I did so through facebook so my full name is on my comment. Just be aware if you want to preserve your anonymity. I haven’t put in links because I don’t want to bring in commenters who may be anti-feminist who we then have to deal with. You can find the link to The Conversation in the side bar of Stilllifewithcat.

Categories: Culture, culture wars, gender & feminism, Life, parenting, Politics, work and family

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10 replies

  1. ”Get men to take more leave for childcare and family responsibilities?”

    You could certainly promote men’s existing rights to request and take unpaid parental leave. Of the large number of heterosexual couples in my age cohort that are reproducing at the moment*, I only know of one man who has taken a significant period of unpaid leave to look after an infant. The others are fine fathers, but it does seem to be that the mothers that are the ones dropping careers and leaving the workforce to look after babies. I wonder how much these fathers will regret this when they are older.

  2. Challenging the idea that there is one primary caretaker who gets leave would also be a good thing.
    I view myself and my husband as being co-primary carers, probably switching back to a more traditional model as he has taken on a longer commute, but continuing to actively change the responsibilities as time goes on. But the leave models are really really not set up this way. Having two parents taking overlapping leave, except for the very meagre two week provision that some workplaces have, is just not on at all. A child gets one and only one caretaker, in the eyes of workplaces and the state.
    Little babies in particular are damned difficult to look after: partnered primary carers without paid help or non-working friends and family living nearby often have a very hard time with their partner’s return to work… two weeks in!

  3. Mary @ 2 – agreed – the parental leave provisions are not nearly as flexible as they need to be. They implicitly assume that one person is going to be the primary carer.

    But is a Minister for Men really going to achieve this?

    A Minister for Men isn’t going to be able to achieve much by themself anymore than a Minister for Women can. The minister would need cooperation from the other parts of the government. But the ministry could act as a focus for issues which primarily affect men – many of which you have already listed.

  4. But the Minister for the Status of Women is all about illustrating that the status of women still lags behind that of men. Creating a Minister for the Status of Men suggests that women have caught up, when we haven’t. I think the answer is as you suggest a whole of government approach, rather than a specific ministry. But in order to get that we have to get an Opposition that focuses more on policy than the gender of the PM. We’ve got a long way to go and at the moment we are still going backwards.

  5. But the Minister for the Status of Women is all about illustrating that the status of women still lags behind that of men.

    Is it really? Or is it illustrating the specific areas in which the status of women lags behind men? For example men pretty clearly are doing much better in the paid employment areas, but its also clear that boys academic performance at school is now worse than girls. Life expectancy is still worse for men and there are still many fathers who due to lack of work flexibility are not as easily able to participate in the upbringing of their children than women.
    I don’t think the existence of an minister for mens issues needs to take away the importance or influence of the role of a minister for women.

  6. International Men’s Day takes place in over 50 countries anually on November 19 (for those who have been asleep).
    The ‘Woman’s Day’ magazine has, for fifty years- carried the slogan, “Because every day is a woman’s day”. If that is true then I’m sure it explains why people wish to offer just one day of each year to supporting men and boys.
    This year’s theme for International Men’s Day is, ‘Giving Boys The Best Possible Start In Life’.

  7. I’m not sure that a magazine’s marketing slogan is a good guide to examining “what is true”, Paul: but obviously any movements focussing on addressing the many ways in which men as a whole get the short end of the stick (because of the way the playing field is tilted towards the protection and propagation of elite male hierarchies) is moving the conversation about children’s rights and gender binary rigidity in the right direction.

  8. Tigtog,
    I agree, referring to “elite male hierarchies” tends to deflect conversation away from the very real fact that men and boys too suffer physical disabilities and illnesses, suffer mental illnesses, are among the homeless, are among the less educated, and are among the abused and impoverished. Moreover, men and boys also need guidance in how to negotiate everyday life and relationships, hence the benefit of IMD’s focus on ‘positive male role models’.
    Spouting only generalities about who has power and agency (as others do) suggests nothing more than an unwillingness to help those who need help- it is time to stop the gender war, and is time to get out on the street and support those in need, people who happen to be both female and male. Young boys in particular will be helped by this event.

  9. PS. The reference to the Woman’s Day slogan was to preempt the inevitable reference to “every day is men’s day – so males don’t need anything”. I agree that the magazine slogan does not suggest what is true (quite the reverse) and I should have made it clearer that I was attempting to dismiss generalizations, not promote them. Referring to an entire sex with a single generality (eg. power, agency, hegemony, victimhood,) not only obliterates the nuances, but tends to encourage a lack of response to those in need of support.

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