Sunday, 22 November 2015

International Men's Day and awareness of "privilege"

The University of York cancelled recognition of International Men's Day (IMD) on its campus, after women's rights campaigners lobbied against the university doing so on the basis of IMD failing to recognize the "structural inequalities" that women, rather than men, are affected by. In the UK, women are the most predominant victims of domestic and sexual violence, are being adversely impacted by austerity such as cuts to benefits and public services, and have marginalized representation in the media, politics and employment. All of us committed to advocating for social justice and inequality can and should acknowledge these facts. We should also bear in mind the appropriation of the cause of "Men's Rights" by trolls and misogynists who tend to care little about the legitimate issues highlighted by IMD anyway.

However, modern feminism frequently makes reference to the concepts of of "privilege" and "intersectionality", which in practice are supposed to identify that social discrimination and inequality varies throughout social groups according to various factors, including gender, race and sexuality. But it does not appear that those who lobbied against respect for IMD at York are willing to apply these ideas to their own standing in life and society.

During International Men's Day I noticed many commentators, not limited to women, making a mockery of IMD on the apparent basis of it being an absurdity for there to be a day commemorating the gender that socioeconomically, or perhaps patriarchally, dominates society. Which is distasteful given that one of the prime issues affecting men and boys that IMD focuses on is male mental health and suicide.

Men in middle age from disadvantaged backgrounds are the social group in the UK most at risk of dying from suicide. Interrelating with this statistic is that white boys from poor households suffer the most in terms of low attainment of employment and academic success later in life. Austerity, as well as deepening poverty and inequality as a whole, has had a disproportionate, arguably systemically racist impact on black and ethnic minority communities, with men from BME communities working in part-time jobs more prevalently than their white counterparts. Cuts to disability benefits and mental health services are worsening rates of mental illness and suicide in all groups.

So there is a certain ironic cruelty women at a Russell Group university, socially privileged in contrast to these men and boys, belittling the annual event that intends to raise awareness of such inequality.

In the criminal justice system men are less likely than women to report already underreported crimes such as rape and child sexual abuse, with sexual and domestic violence against men and boys being among the prime issues that IMD focuses on. In terms of discrimination, in 2014-2015 police forces in the UK registered a 22% increase in homophobic hate crimes and a 9% increase in transphobic hate crimes, with the victims presumably including gay, bisexual and trans men. Trans and gender nonconforming men are also face deprivation in NHS treatment for their mental health and gender identity, a problem being worsened by cuts to these services.

It clearly a disservice to the cause of equality for feminists to trivialize awareness of these forms of inequality, violence and discrimination that intersect with the same that also harm women and girls in the UK and internationally. Feminism does not need to degrade this awareness to advance its own cause.

No comments:

Post a Comment