The glass looking glass: is a metaphor employed to describe the concept of considering gender equality matters based on outcomes experienced by men and boys (as apposed to women and girls), most particularly in areas where they clearly experience disadvantage.
Analysis of inequality through the glass looking glass essentially involves inverting gender equality data to consider outcomes experienced by men.
It defined as the glass looking glass because of the relatively surreal fact that equality champions currently tend to ignore, dismiss or excuse significantly stark inequality trends that are revealed if they look through it. Trends such the fact that men (as a homogeneous group) are significantly more likely to experience exclusion from school, violent crime, unemployment, homelessness, and suicide (when compared to women).
It is derived from the terms ‘looking glass’: which means a mirror or when normal or familiar circumstances are reversed (in allusion to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass) and ‘glass ceiling’ which is a political term used to describe “the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps women (and minorities) from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.
The concept of Gender equality is traditionally and most commonly considered from the perspective of women. This is obviously due to the fact that ‘gender equality’ concepts have primarily arisen from the need to address extremely overt and institutionally sanctioned inequalities and discrimination experienced by women. Especially due to the efforts of first and second wave feminists, many overt manifestations of direct discrimination against women such as voting rights and employment bars have long since been removed in most western countries.
Women do still endure incidents of direct discrimination (such as pregnancy discrimination) or sexual harassment, however given that laws have long since been established outlawing such treatment, ‘feminism’ has shifted into a third wave, placing greater emphasis and focus into on how women are stereotyped and disadvantaged by structural manifestations of patriarchy, as well as extending the civil rights scope further into multi-identity areas such as race, class and sexuality.
One consequence of this shift has been an enhanced emphasis on scientific research designed to identify and map trends in relation to outcomes and participation rates for women in a wide range of areas, including pay, education and civic leadership. The emphasis and interpretation of such research is predominately (often exclusively) focused on establishing evidence of disadvantage and (less overt) discrimination affecting women (and sometimes their children).
Interpretations placed on statistical research is often debated and equality analysts can sometimes be criticized for using data out of context or cherry-picking to suit their preferred narrative. One highly significant trend in mainstream media reporting of equality narratives is, broadly speaking, that if women are below parity in any area (in comparison to men) then this is generally a bad thing and often identified as evidence of structural / institutional sexism.
Conversely, if women exceed parity then this is generally seen as a good thing and potentially further evidence of discrimination. For example, female graduates now exceed male graduates (good thing) and yet men still significantly outnumber women in senior management and public leadership roles (bad thing).
Another significant trend is the propensity for mainstream media equality champions to, either ignore any interpretation of this research drawing attention to negative outcomes for men, exclusively blame men for creating these outcomes or actively or vicariously supporting the shaming tactic of labelling anyone highlighting the significance of such trends as a whinny misogynistic man babies and yet further evidence of discrimination against women (and sometimes their children).
This behaviour creates the conditions that allow the glass looking glass to exist.