Mike’s unique presentation style is reflected in the party’s manifesto which is as arrogant, unwelcoming and unwieldy as their main website. The eighty page doorsteper doesn’t even offer an executive summary, let alone the sort of snappy five point priority message we’re used to seeing from our parliamentary candidates these days.
A brief introduction establishes that the purpose of standing against the Shadow Minister for Women in a marginal constituency is to ‘improve public understanding about the state’s assaults on the human rights of men and boys’. We then launch straight off the deep end into, what I can only assume are the three priority issues Mike wishes to educate the nation on. In reverse order of priority these are genital mutilation, foetal alcohol syndrome and abortion rights.
I accept that all three of these subjects have a relevance to men which is all too often overlooked or dismissed. That said, while I fundamentally disagree with a proposal like criminalizing women who have abortions, my most immediate observation is that, in my humble subjective opinion, there are much, much bigger fish to fry.
Subjects like education, employment and health immediately spring to mind, as does the fact that these are more universal subjects, less emotive and less likely to invite immediate inferences that the party has a tendency to come across as more than a tad women hatey.
Personally I agree that rights around MGM should be taken seriously but nevertheless I feel extremely uncomfortable when it is equated as equally abhorrent to the significantly more invasive FGM. In short, if the party really feel strongly about making this a priority issue I think they could address it in a cleverer and more constructive manner.
In general I certainly accept that the twenty action areas identified cover very real issues but I’m not certain about some of the proposed solutions. Some proposals I certainly do agree with but time and time again I feel that they either tend to lean towards a nanny state solution or come across as a tad women hatey for my liking. Either that or they’re falling into the, probably inevitable trap of presenting an ‘ourselves alone’ playground solution to a boys v girls perception of the world.
Before it sounds like there is no merit to be found in 80 pages of graft, let’s adopt a more positive outlook and start with an area that I personally think should be a priority issue and consider to be one of the most obvious areas of state sponsored sexism currently evidenced in the UK.
The current framework for the provision of services to victims of domestic abuse or intimate partner violence in the UK has been dramatically influenced the extreme ideological position of the two largest service providers and their preferred patriarchal position on partner violence.
In short, male victims of domestic abuse have lost out spectacularly because the strategy of government after government has been to primarily fund services provided by ‘women only organisations’ who’s long established position is to provide women only services whilst promoting their perception that men should only ever be considered as perpetrators.
In my humble subjective opinion, it’s nothing short of a national scandal that such radical ideology is allowed to trump empirical scientific evidence when such a vulnerable group of stakeholders are involved, especially in this so called enlightened times when plenty of tax payers money is poured into paying people to ponder on the principal of public sector equality duties.
The state sponsored framework that has lead to such transparent inequality in service provision that it becomes pretty obvious to any decent human being who actually stops for a moment to consider the facts. Perhaps this is one reason why J4MB’s manifesto proposals on this subject appear so obvious:
J4MB Proposal: The government should hold a public inquiry with a view to ensuring Local Authorities should make funding available, and other support, to groups supporting male victims of IPV without reducing the support given to female victims of IPV.
I can’t help feel that if the party had made this the number 1 priority issue on a very short list of priorities then Mike might have achieved something more tangible by the end of May than possibly securing his deposit.
The CRE proposals for educational restructuring that J4MB’s champion seem fairly sensible, even if they are quite ambitious given the current state of education. A move away from a ‘one size fits all approach’ to a more flexible system allowing children to progress between ‘key stages’ based on ability rather than age certainly sounds like an approach that would benefit boys without disadvantaging girls.
Where I start to struggle is when J4MB fall into the well established ‘boy v girl trap’ in two very different ways by calling for the option of all boys schools with all male teachers and the abolition of positive action initiatives for women like STEM.
I’m not especially one for nanny state social engineering but personally the only main issue I have with (non discriminatory) positive action initiatives aimed at encouraging women into predominately male industries is that the focus of publicly funded equalities bodies continues to be so ridiculously one sided.
For example, I would personally consider positive action to encourage men into teaching careers (especially at primary level) to be a bigger priority as far as Government funded initiatives go. After all ‘The State’ is much more directly responsible for ensuring equality in public sector employment and service provision.
There are major concerns about the lack of male role models for children of both sexes during their development years. Meanwhile STEM initiatives are largely pushing employment opportunities in the private sector and if those industries are particularly concerned about gender related succession planning maybe they should be footing the bill if the Equalities Office can’t pay for both.
Speaking of footing the bill… J4MB’s proposal for a new cabinet Minister for Men and Equalities sums up one of two main issues I have with the party. In my humble subjective opinion, the future possibility of a Minister for Men and Equalities sounds as stupid as the current reality of having a Minister for Women and Equalities.
The one possible argument for creating a Minister for Men would be to act as a counter to some of the blatantly one sided propaganda that can occasionally emanate from the Minister for Women’s backyard.
Men and women clearly both experience inequalities during their lifetime and the single best way of addressing both of these realities is to stop pandering to the biggest victim takes all / going our own way psyche of so many single gender activists. If it was a choice between two equalities offices or none at all, I’m pretty sure I can guess how the public would vote.
In the same way that art’s graduates like Laura Bates are perfectly free to go and learn how to build bridges if they feel particularly strongly about the lack of female engineers in this world. Existing Government sponsored Equality Bodies should simply be directed to get their shit together and address inequalities in a more balanced way, most obviously by looking up the food chain occasionally as opposed to their current obsession with tracking vertical dichotomies .
While I welcome any proposals to help long term unemployed people back into work I don’t think it’s helpful to focus on identifying initiatives that exclusively help men, even if the majority of long term unemployed are men.
Similarly I’m not entirely convinced by the party’s proposals for the Equality Act mainly because the current arrangements should not amount in practice to discrimination in favour of women.
J4MB Proposal: The terms in the Equality Act 2010 advantaging people with ‘protected characteristics’ should be scrapped. The terms amount in practice to positive discrimination in favour of women. Recruitment and promotion should be based on individual merit, not on gender or any other characteristic.
J4MB Proposal: The physical fitness requirements for candidates for the firefighting and police services should be returned to what they were before they were artificially lowered to enable more women to enter the professions, as should the physical fitness requirements for serving firefighters and police officers.
J4MB Proposal: Women should not be appointed to senior positions for ideological reasons.
I would accept the party’s concern about how instruments such as the mildly controversial ‘tie-break clause’ may be interpreted in some public sector offices but like any anecdotal concerns their members may have raised about physical fitness requirements being artificially lowered these matters can be examined and addressed through the existing employment tribunal infrastructure
I’m also not convinced by the assertion that the government are forcing companies to increase the proportion of women on their boards as apposed to simply encouraging positive action. I appreciate it may sometimes feel like they go further but the enforcement of quotas are and will hopefully continue to remain illegal in this country.
Without claiming to be anything near an expert in these areas, the perception that men are significantly short changed by UK courts clearly needs to be taken seriously. Impacting as it does on issues as diverse as divorce, father’s rights and criminal justice outcomes. Many of J4MB’s proposals in these areas seem relatively sensible as do suggestions to address homelessness, health and suicide.
J4MB Proposal: The government needs to go beyond warehousing male criminals, and to invest a great deal more on rehabilitation. It should hold a public inquiry to explore why other countries have far lower re-offending rates than the UK, with a view to following their examples.
J4MB Proposal: The government should introduce initiatives with the objective of reducing the male suicide rate by at least 50% within ten years.
J4MB Proposal: It is perverse that the gender equality legislation that forbids positive gender discrimination isn’t applicable to the selection of PPCs. The government should repeal The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002. All-women shortlists are an assault on democracy, and highly anti-meritocratic.
It does take significant effort to wade through 80 pages and establish the biggest priorities and the most common sense recommendations. Regrettably they have hamstrung their opportunity to use their soapbox to champion male rights because some of the more controversial proposals can be jumped on by critics to push the focus towards the concept that the party is more anti-women than it is pro-men.
For example proposals to introduce compulsory paternity testing for all new-born babies seems as intrusive and (quite literally) nanny state as anything Harriet Harmon might ever manage to dream up.
In summary, my overarching thought about the party is very similar to my thoughts about one particular policy proposal…
J4MB Proposal: The government should set the ages at which men and women are entitled to receive the state pension, at levels which ensure that (on average) men and woman can expect to draw their state pension for the same number of years.
In principal as a man I’d be in favour but on principal, as a gentleman, I think they need to catch themselves on. After all, as the protogee of Magic Mike’s political hero likes to remdind us, we’re supposed to all be in this together.