The flood of womens’ anger seen in the last week at a culture of male entitlement has led to a renewed call for men to do more to sort out men’s violence and a consequent increase in numbers of men looking to do that.
The overwhelming reason to be involved in challenging male power and control is simple. “It’s wrong”. As well as that fundamental issue of Human Rights, men have a plenty to gain by challenging ourselves and traditional ways of behaving.
We get more freedom of ways to behave. One well known way of looking at this is to see that we exist inside “the Man Box” with constraints upon the way we act and behave. A new outlook enables us to feel OK about stepping outside the ManBox and destroying it entirely, enjoying childcare, joining choirs, keep fit classes and dancing or painting. On Monday nights I do a Zumba class .Sometimes I’m the only man there – “Your loss” I say it’s a blast . On Thursday I sing in a community choir which has about 15% male membership.
A changed outlook to domestic responsibilities means new worklife balances are possible with a real opportunity to take up that offer of male parental leave. Male parental leave will only be taken up in really significant numbers when it is really incentivised or made mandatory.
Really sharing roles also means a lot less stress. Men are always told “You are really powerful, and you must give up your power.” However many men, if asked, would not say they feel powerful, they just feel stressed.
A survey on Gender equality of a large number of men in Sweden discovered that Men want to spend more time with children, that they feel there should be equal representation in the workplace, and that they strongly opposed male violence against women, and agreed that men benefit from gender equality, but they didn’t want to do anything about making it happen.
In 16 years of working to involve men in challenging male privilege, and male abuse of women, only a small proportion of men -10% who are involved do it because its a human rights issue, 70% of men do it because it is their paid employment for example as a safeguarding officer, firefighter or police officer, an academic or because they work for one of the ngo agencies promoting equality. I once exasperated at a conference asked “How many people would be here if we had held the conference on a weekend” and 20% of men are involved because a relative or friend has suffered often very serious abuse or violence.
Recognition is important . Whenever I see a good email or tweet I try to write back . If more men realise they are not alone in wanting to change traditional outlooks , we are more likely to challenge inappropriate behaviour again. Practising good interventions is useful too. Some Bystander training rehearses interventions to make so that you know what you might say instead of just bursting out with “You Shouldn’t Say That” although that too has its place. I also believe in wearing badges , giving out posters, as such things cost little, stimulate conversations and remind those you give them to about their commitments
For me the big question remains how do we demonstrate more clearly that is hugely in our interests to be involved in becoming allies of progress in gender politics.
Maybe it’s just that if you stand in the middle of the road trying to stop a juggernaut of progress your old fashioned views may get run over.