Unfortunately, since a white male writing anything to do with feminism is such an offensive act for many feminists, I have to start this blog post with some personal clarifications. It is clear that feminism has been a vital movement in recent times; just in a few decades Western society has been transformed from one permeated with misogyny into one far more accommodating for women today. Just ask your parents about workplace sexism in the 70s and 80s for example; it’s likely they have many shocking stories about it. And it is true that feminism’s job isn’t totally ‘finished’ yet, there are many areas of society which have a clear need for gender equality to be achieved (e.g. in the House of Commons just 191 MPs out of 650 are women).
However, what I do object to is feminists’ general attitude of total indifference, often scorn, towards men’s issues. I understand that the whole point of feminism is to achieve equality for women- but I don’t understand why this necessitates a collective blindness towards problems that the other sex might be experiencing. People who even hint that there may be areas in life where men are worse off than women are typically ridiculed or discarded in a haze of vitriol (at least, this is true in my experience of surfing the myriad of feminist blogs and websites in recent years).
Statistically speaking, however, there several significant parameters in which men fare far worse than women. In 2013, 78% of all suicides were male in the UK. Homelessness is a male-dominated issue too- around 83% of those sleeping rough in the UK are men. Poor male students tend to do far worse during GCSEs than their female counterparts, with poor white males being the worst-performing socio-economic group academically. Last year, among 18-year olds, 26% of men received a place at university compared to 34% of women– the widest ever gap. Over 95% of prisoners are male (i.e. people that have been totally failed by society, if you believe that your socio-economic environment during youth strongly influences your future life out-comes).
A frequent response of feminists who acknowledge these statistics is that ‘the patriarchy hurts everyone’. This is an incredibly common trope essentially used as a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card’ to escape any sort of critique of feminist ideology. It is a lazy way of maintaining the apparent infallibility of their core agenda whilst discarding men’s issues in a rhetorical flourish. The issues mentioned are extremely complex and have various causes- do feminists really believe that focussing on the parameters where women fare worse (i.e. ‘fighting the patriarchy’) will simultaneously and satisfactorily address the problems that disproportionately affect men? I for one am extremely sceptical about this.
Furthermore, there is a significant opportunity cost to ‘fighting the patriarchy’ and that is fighting neoliberal capitalism, which I would argue is the root cause of wealth inequality, poverty and various other issues. Take, for example, corporations. Corporations are now the dominant institution globally (governments might appear powerful but in reality they are largely under the control of corporate forces). Corporations will institutionally stay the same, no matter how gender-equal they get. For instance, it does not matter if the CEO of Shell, Goldman Sachs or Halliburton is a man or woman- those institutions will still be legally obliged to maximise share-holder revenue- short-term profit will always be the principal driver of their actions. My point here is that a lot of the things feminist’s are pushing for -such as quotas for females in top positions -will not address the true underlying drivers of poverty and exploitation.
To conclude, as I have pointed out, there are many areas in which males objectively fare far worse than females, including the dominance of males among society’s homeless and those that decided to take their own lives. It is disingenuous and illogical to try and blame all these, and other, stats on the existence of an amorphous blob of a concept such as patriarchy. Feminists should come to accept that maybe there are some tragic parameters which men pip them to the post- and that it is acceptable for people to put effort into trying to address these issues without being constrained by the ideology of feminism.