EYE Review 2015

Sexism  prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

Out of curiosity EYE decided to type ‘sexism 2015’ into a popular search engine and was presented with the following top 3 results…..

In reverse order we had an article highlighting 13 examples of everydaysexism (including gender specific advertising and telling someone that they look slim); an I100 piece dating all the way back to new years day about some absurdly sexist advice on how to keep your man (every now and then cook him a meal or massage his feet) and, surprise surprise, top of the intolerance totem was a mini almanac prepared by Mx #everydaysexism herself Laura Bates.

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Laura looked at how women fared in 2015 and, unsurprisingly, found that it wasn’t pretty.  Lowlights included a patronizing tweet from the FA in the aftermath of the World Cup (or as EYElike to call it the Woman’s World Cup), women ruining Playstation FIFA for teenage boys, something incomprehensible and intersectional about multi millionaire sports icon Serrena Williams and the BBC apologizing to mums for letting Rita Ora let it all hang out on the One Show.

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Personally I think that Laura should probably stop reading the Daily Mail so much and perhaps focus on more pressing matters such as the estimated 50,000 women who are said to face pregnancy and maternity discrimination annually or the fact that Saudi Woman couldn’t drive themselves to the segregated polling booths that they got to use for the first time this year (provided they’d asked permission first obviously).

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As the picture (above) that accompanied the everydaysexism article ably demonstrates, ‘sexism’ can be a fairly subjective concept and, thankfully, looking in the general direction of a woman as she passes isn’t technically against the law.

While it may not apply to biased, opportunistic or hysterical headline grabbing journalists, in the interest of balance, fairness and (ahem) ‘equality’, the courts and industrial tribunals of the land are required to consider whether or not specific objective evidence can reasonably be considered to show that a person has experienced or committed sex discrimination.

Direct sex discrimination: Is when someone is treated differently and not as well as other people because of their sex.

In a year where air conditioning, clapping and ambition were deemed by some to be a bit ‘sexist’, it strikes me that Mx Bates has been so busy digging up increasingly diverse examples to postulate about in her weekly Guardian column (beer marketing anyone) that she’s completely missed this years most significant and obvious trend.

Because if we go by the slightly less subjective definition established under law it strikes me that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that 2015 is the year that #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination really started trending again…

Politics

Politicians tend to act like they own the country, so it’s hardly surprising that some of the most overt examples of this trend could be seen in the corridors in the corridors of power.  Nicola Sturgeon lead the way in late 2014 when she took over as Scotland’s First Minister and in 2015 the world’s second largest country followed suite when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled Canada’s first equally balanced cabinet consisting of 15 women and 15 men.

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In between these two historical events Labour’s Jermy Corbyn failed to make the type of headlines he’d hoped for after following a similar direction of travel when picking his parliamentary shadow cabinet.  Despite making a tiny bit of history himself, by appointing more women (16) than men (15) to his team, he was roundly criticized by the usual suspects for not giving any of the ‘top’ jobs to anyone purely on the basis of their biology.

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Such criticism seemed a bit harsh given that at least four of Labour’s most senior female MPs had publically ruled out serving in his cabinet before he even got his pen out.  Even so whether you think this 50:50 trend in ministerial selection practices is a good thing or otherwise, the fact of the matter is that it could only be achieved by adopting a course of action that is currently illegal both in UK and European law.

Mind you politician’s do often behave like there is  one rule for them and another for the rest of us which is why, in the interests of ‘equality of outcome’, as soon as the Labour Party were found guilty of direct sex discrimination for their ‘once only’ women only short-lists they simply shifted the goal posts as soon as Blair won the 1997 election.  Not for everyone obviously, just enough to make their own #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination practices exempt from them having to listen to the type of complaints that any other employer would immediately receive if they suddenly started behaving like some of our ‘democratically’ elected representatives.

A quick stroke of the pen provided political parties privileged protection from prosecution until 2030 at the very least and, given trends in other parts of Europe, it wouldn’t be surprising if the ‘exception’ is extended to allow 50:50 quotas to cut through the entire democratic process.

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Personally EYE is not especially troubled by this possibility.  Hypothetically it’s at least possible that a compulsory injection of oestrogen might herald a new golden age of democracy but in my own experience (not to mention pregnant workers up and down the land) the new boss somehow always tends to turn out depressingly similar to the old boss.

Let’s face it the most significant thing that the first female (albeit acting) leader of the Labour Party did during her brief stint was to order MP’s not to vote against the Tory Govt’s sweeping welfare reform bill. A Bill which included changes so significant that one dissenting MP described as something close to eugenics, especially for working families.

Sexist Sums

Sadly only 1 in 5 (new/old) Labour MP’s had the courage of their convictions and to defy Harriet Harman’s whip and vote against the cuts.  Cheerfully there were plenty of female MPs amongst the 48 ‘rebels’ but unsurprisingly leadership candidates Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendell both abstained.

As did former glamour model and Shadow Minister for Women & Equalities Gloria De Piero, which was particularly rich given that she had spent the run up to the election co-piloting Harriet Harman’s barbie bus telling anyone who would listen that women were bearing 85% of Tory austerity cuts.

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Of course this dramatic headline grabbing statistic was only possible by exhibiting the sort of information basis that would make a Marxist economist blush.  For starters she had to assume a savagely Stalinesque scenario where men are airbrushed out of the family unit entirely when it comes to counting tax credits and child benefits etc and, secondly, she (and the journalists who uncritically parroted her propaganda) had to willfully ignore any ‘objective justification’ notions that might serve to undermine and possibly completely reverse her argument.

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For the uninitiated: The ‘objective justification’ test is used in courts to determine whether or not an action can be considered to be reasonable or fair, even though it can be seen to impact on one particular group disproportionately.  In the case of De Piero’s austerity argument such a test is relatively easy to pass, which is why the we haven’t seen anyone trying to test her ‘sexism’ theory in the courts.

Indirect discrimination: Can occur where a crieria, practice or procedure is applied to everyone equally, but disadvantages people of a particular sex. For example, a requirement that job applicants must be six feet tall could be met by significantly fewer women than men. Indirect discrimination can sometimes be justified in particular situations.

Most obviously the reality is that 2 out of 3 public sector employees are female, so logically if everyone is being treated fairly you’d expect that more female staff would be affected by austerity downsizing.  In fact the only way to avoid ‘indirect discrimination’ against female public sector workers would be to directly discriminate against the minority of male workers which would be both unfair and illegal.

Funnily enough no one in Labour mentioned that when they were charging the Tories with everydaysexism and they certainly didn’t mention the fact that, even when you exclude family benefits etc, women (as a distinct homogenous group) claim significantly more from the public purse in benefits than men and contribute significantly less back in taxes.

Sounds like the politics of #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination to me.

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EYE is certainly not suggesting that women (as a distinct group) do not experience disadvantages or that the state does not have a duty to take steps to address this where it can.  My point is that whilst last century women could be literally kicked out of government jobs when they got married, in reality anyone taking a neutral approach to public policy analysis (as civil servants are now legally required to do) will struggle to find one example where the state directly discriminates against women.  The sad and increasingly stark fact is that the same can’t be said for men.

Public Policy

One of the most blatant examples of #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination in public policy can be seen in the current arrangements for government where we have an Equalities Office which actually excludes men completely from their own equality duty and establishes a gender advocacy gap that permeates throughout public service provision.

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One explanation for this very direct form of discrimination is based on the popular perspective that being a straight white male in life can essentially be compared to playing a computer game at the lowest difficulty setting there is.  Even if it were true that every woman experiences greater challenges in life than every man, it obviously does not follow that men and especially boys cannot be disadvantaged by specific public policies, especially if a predominately female public sector are ignoring them when considering their equality duty.

The public authority equality duty:  is a duty set out in section 149 of the Equality Act. In summary, those subject to the general equality duty must have due regard to the need to: Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation; Advance equality of opportunity between different groups; Foster good relations between different groups.

The duty aims to make sure public authorities think about things like discrimination and the needs of people who are disadvantaged or suffer inequality, when they make decisions about how they provide their services and implement policies

Ironically the current Minister for Women and Equalities, The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP is also the Secretary of State for Education which possibly explains why in an era when girls are outperforming boys at every single level of education, her most pressing concern has been to argue that this fact somehow supports the increasingly dubious equal pay narrative that her office takes a lead role in propagating.

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Advocacy Gap

Dismissing (straight, white, able bodied, anglo saxon) men as the default setting, when considering the needs and interests of every other grouping, can mean that their voices can be ignored even when they might have something significant to say.

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Take the example of Greenwich Council’s recent domestic violence campaign which came under criticism for it’s stereotypical portrayal of dad’s.

The council brushed off criticism with simple logic that ‘the majority of incidents are committed by men’. On the surface that might appear to be a fairly reasonable argument but if you dig a little deeper things become more complicated.  When EYE enquired whether the Council had complied with their equality duty to consult with relevant stakeholders it turned out that they had, they just hadn’t bothered talking to any men’s charities or fathers groups.

Which is a pity because they might have been able to point out that not only are 1 in 3 domestic violence victims men but people under 25 are most at risk and the average age of fatherhood in the UK is now 32 years and six months.  Given that such facts are drawn directly from the same research the council used, which also shows more married men experiencing violence than married women, you begin to wonder if such a negative picture of dads didn’t come about as a result of some good olde fashioned #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination

Every Day is White Boy Day

For me the starkest example of #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination in public policy making can be highlighted by considering the commitment that the honourable member for Yardley recently communicated regarding championing the rights and privileges of her male constituents.

Phillips (yet another Welfare Bill abstainer) made some headlines in October on the back of her performance at a Backbench Business Committee where she burst out laughing and openly mocked the proposal that MPs should be allowed to debate a range of issues particularly affecting men to mark International Men’s Day.

In the same month that a coalition of experts were urging government to address the male suicide epidemic, Phillips attempted to veto the proposed parliamentary debate based primarily on her dubious logic that ‘every day is international men’s day’.

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The tragic fact is that in 2015 every day was the last day for 12 men or boys lost to suicide but remarkably Phillip’s comments went almost completely unreported until the media started to cover and exaggerate her uncharacteristically hyper sensitive claims about a ‘torrent of abuse’ and ‘vile rape threats’.

Some people described Phillip’s behaviour initial outburst as ‘reverse sexism’, whilst others seriously still argue the it’s not possible for men (and more particularly straight, white, able bodied, anglo saxon men) can’t experience discrimination.  In my humble subjective opinion they are both wrong, particularly if we’re considering the legal definition of sex discrimination.

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Sex discrimination is simply sex discrimination and it can either be justified or it can’t.  I suspect Phillip’s team understand this  very well and I also suspect this is why they opted to spin the story and appear to overegg the online abuse angle because they knew it might look a bit dodgy if one of the Party’s new generation of self-identifying equality champions suddenly started taking flack for talking like a back bar bigot.

The member for Yardley’s naïve moment of unguarded frankness may in part be explained by the virtual woman only exclusion zone that she has spent most of her working life in, up to and including the moment she was selected to represent the labour party in the May election.

Beneath the Surface

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Phillips has emerged from a sector that has a historically hostile past and a problematic present when it comes to men.  EYE speak of course about the ‘woman’s sector’ which (perhaps understandably) have traditionally taken a relatively ‘separatist’ path when it comes to engaging with and sharing resources with their brothers.

EYE don’t intend to speak ill of the sector as a whole because it would be largely undeserved.  We are talking about a rich and diverse tapestry of often small, local, grass roots organizations supporting and empowering people in their communities and often grafting away while surviving hand to mouth when it comes to much needed funding.

The problem for anyone with a passing or contractual interest in #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination is that, especially in these austere times where many in the sector are experiencing pretty savage cuts some may be reluctant to speak out in support of and possibly even, however unintentionally, demonize and undermine the needs of their fellow man.

The inevitable consequence of this can be seen in the remarkably stark differences in services, support and outcome for victims of domestic violence depending on gender given that the Woman’s Sector has largely cornered the market when it comes to providing services on behalf of the tax payer.

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Such a situation has developed for two reasons, firstly as a consequence of the questionable and overreaching application of entirely reasonable and sensible exceptions built into sex discrimination legislation allowing charities to provide services to one sex only or an employer to recruit someone from a particular sex in order to do a certain job if they can show it essential to doing the actual job.

This has accommodated the growth of a very vocal market leader that are only prepared to work with and lobby on behalf of roughly 2 out of every 3 victims of domestic violence.  That promote an approach to understanding and addressing domestic violence  focused on feminist notions of patriarchy which completely disregards evidence of bi-directional behaviours and often has the consequence of doubly damming male victims by downplaying their numbers and emphasising the possibility that a man presenting as victim will often be a perpetrator in disguise.

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Good Night Men’s Rights

This goes some way to explaining why the Government’s strategy for tackling doemstic violnce is contained within a document called the Violence against women and girls strategy.  It also helps to rationalize why so many self identifying ‘equality’ champions in the mainstream are so remarkably dismissive of the notion of men’s rights.  It’s not so much about actively hating men as it is about a reluctance to share the funding, resources, good will and spotlight that exclusivity in victim status can afford.

It also explains why some in the media have attempted to portray men’s rights activists as one step away from terrorism.

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Consider the excessive reaction from the metropolitan police when two fathers4justice activists were arrested for protesting and putting a sticker over one Greenwich council poster at Woolwich Station.  Such an approach stands in stark contrast to the approach they have taken to the direct action activities of Sisters Uncut which has been widely celebrated in the media.

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The majority of Sisters Uncut members work in the extremely segregated domestic violence and their purpose is to protest the cuts to specialist support services to female victims of domestic violence but as the stickers they have displayed across TFL’s property portfolio clearly show, they have a very different view about services for men.

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Old Media New Media

When Mx Bates recent wrote in the Guardian about the state funding crisis in specialist support services for domestic violence victims, she completely omitted any mention of one particular type of specialist services or the fact that the main charity for male victims (who’s funding runs out in three months) receives not state funding at all.

This is not remotely surprising because in my experience Mx Bates’ project and the Guardian appear to happy to indulge in a bit of #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination themselves when it suits them and depressingly it does seem to be something of an accepted trend in the liberal section of the London centric UK media at the moment.

The remarkably biased or poorly researched cut and paste efforts spewed out on a regular basis from some of this country’s main opinion makers goes quite a long way to explaining how in this age of equality such blatantly overt #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination can go unchecked.

By way of example consider the approach taken to coverage of social media trends like February’s ‘questions for men’ hilarity.

male tears

Indeed the perspective offered in this post is as likely to be shot down with patronizing crys of male tears, what about teh menz or worst still completely shut down with fainting couch claims of misogyny and sexism.

It is disgraceful enough that such matters are so often ignored but players like the Guardian actively contribute to a phenomenon that this year’s rising star of the inevitable pushback (Milo Yiannopoulos) describes as quantum state feminism.

Quantum Superstate Feminism: A phenomenon observed when feminist activism exists as both victim and aggressor when eliciting or exploiting preferential treatment from Big Government.

As the VAWG example shows this can have very real world implications for the way the state chooses to support and mould the society it purports to serve and it doesn’t necessarily bode well for those with a liberal free speech or libertarian point of view.

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Labour leadership loser Yvette Cooper has recently reinvented herself as the self identifying savior of the internet with her #reclaimtheinternet campaign.  It’s not entirely clear who exactly she want’s to reclaim it from (Leonard Kleinrock and various other men who help invent and develop it?) but her intention appears to be more about claiming it for people like her by championing censorship and silencing views she disagrees with by labelling them as abusive trolls.

Harassment: When unwanted conduct related to a person’s sex causes a distressing, humiliating or offensive environment for that person

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Decorations in the Guardian Office

It should go without saying that genuine harassment should always be addressed and the laws already exist to do exactly that but based on three of the four high profile cases Cooper referred to when launching her hashtag I seriously wonder who is briefing her and wether they didn’t sex up her dossier with a dose of #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination.  Don’t believe me check out this case study.

As Cooper has so ably shown, high profile western feminists are more concerned about someone using the shared space that is social media to call them ‘darling’ than they are about ISIS using it for recruitment purposes and to broadcast their public beheadings.

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They’re also supremely arrogant or else they just don’t really understand how social media platforms work, most especially when they don’t especially work for them.

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Online campaigns like the everyday sexism project are frequently lauded in the mainstream for inspiring a generation of networked feminist activism.  As the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club discovered this year, if Laura Bates doesn’t like your message, one tweet can set a social media frenzy outrage of poor PR proportions upon your head.

Meanwhile if you were one of the many people who took to twitter to politely admonish one of our democratically accountable representatives for their blatant sexism, then according to Cooper you have basically committed a thought crime.  Possibly the only thing more ridiculous than listening to Jess Phillips claim that she was a victim of  an unjustifiable co-ordinated attack by well organized misogynists is the fact that the publicly funded broadcasting Corporation that let her promote this perception without challenge regularly promote clicktivists like Mx Bates as role models for young woman.

The biggest element of it was an organized misogynistic group of people who were obviously talking to each other on some other bit of the internet and then I would get thousands of the same messages saying you hate men, your sons are disgusted to have a mother like you. Jess Phillips MP 

The Goldsmith Double Standard

London’s famous Goldsmith University was caught up in two old media amplified social media whirlwinds this year, which between them very clearly show exactly which way the wind is currently blowing when it comes to #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination

One involved the forced resignation of the Nobel Prize winning scientist Tim Hunt in a knee jerk reaction to the #distractinglysexy twitter storm that was sparked by the exaggerated claims of science journalist Connie St Louis.

One of the reasons that the story gained so much traction so quickly was because it just seemed such an unlikely tale of stereotypical misogyny in the year 2015.  The other reason was that it was quickly jumped on by those seeking to promote the wider Government Sponsored women into STEM campaign.  Fair enough as far as it’s fair enough but given that initial reports have turned out to have been exceptionally wide of the mark it is ironic that ultimately there is a good argument to suggest that the most high profile victim of #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination in science this year was in fact Tim Hunt himself.  Don’t take my word for it, check out Scientist Debbie Kennet’s thorough analysis of  the whole affair.

UCL’s knee jerk reaction to the Tim Hunt Kerfuffle stood in marked contrast to the way they sought to distance themselves from the controversy arising from some eyebrow raising allegations about their ‘Diversity Officer’ after she announced that men and white people weren’t welcome at an anti-inequality event run by the Student Union.

Whilst generously conceding that it was ‘unprofessional‘ to describe someone as ‘white trash‘ on a work account, gender studies graduate Bahar Mustafa brilliantly dismissed all allegations of sexism and racism levelled at her by explaining that, as an ethnic-minority woman, she ‘cannot be racist or sexist to white men, because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender’.  Also the #killallwhitemen hashtag she was allegedly tweeting is just the way queer feminists express themselves these days.

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And in fairness, is it any wonder that one of our modern day gatekeepers of equality has the confidence to declare herself entirely exempt from the Single Equality Act 2010 given the reaction we witnessed from some other extremely influential and privileged gatekeepers.

UCL’s position was simply that that it was the Student Union’s problem to deal with because Mustafa was “not an employee of the university and is not a student”.  In turn the Students Union issued a statement making it clear that they ‘stand in solidarity with Bahar Mustafa‘ and even expressed their disappointment about the eventual u-turn on the ‘no whites’ approach.  Meanwhile the Commissioning Editor at Independent Voices (who’s deputy was involved in the Tim Hunt Twitch-hunt) spoke out in her support and ‘speaking as-a-white-man [was] surprised-more-women-aren’t-tweeting-the-hashtag-killallwhitemen‘.

 

The Good News

All this talk of #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination may be making you feeling a bit depressed but before you think about ringing a 24 hour helpline (10 to 5pm, excluding lunch if you’re a man) I should mention that EYE is supremely optimistic about the future and believe in years to come we will look back and see that 2015 has been a landmark year in the eternal struggle for equity and harmony between the sexes.

We may have witnessed some jaw dropping examples of #EveryDayDirectSexDiscrimination that would make Mad Men blush but in fairness I truly think we’ve reached a tipping point.  Decent fair minded men and women have fought inequality for years and encouragingly some of the most effective advocates speaking up for men are actually women.

Modern feminists have damaged the brand so much that we started the year witnessing the majority of Time Magazine readers voting to ban the word from the dictionary (before feminist demanded that it was banned as an option) and in December over 10,000 opted for cancer over feminism in a tounge in cheek but deliberately provocative seasonal survey.

Throughout history the vast majority of men and woman have shared, cared, loved and lived together in relative harmony and this year was no different.  Times are changing and it was encouraging to see that Northumbria Police quickly taking on board criticism about gender stereotyping in their domestic violence campaign.  Their Police and Crime Commissioner may not have followed suit but then she is a member of the Labour Party.

Despite the best efforts of Jess Phillips, The Independent and the Guardian International Men’s Day was a major positive success story, both in the mainstream and social media where it trended throughout the day. EYE even did my bit to dispel the myth that every day is International Men’s Day.

Bahar Mustafa did everyone a favour by resigning under a cloud of bullying allegations and even if the BBC were still struggling to get their facts right Tim Hunt’s sorry tale had a happy ending thanks mainly to the commendable efforts of a number of female journalists and scientists.

Hilariously even Jess Phillips ended the year taking the hump after she found herself trending on Twitter because the internet decided to take her literally when she appeared to issue a death threat to her dear leader via you tube.

Just so we can get the record straight, and by that I don’t mean literally getting a record and unbending it, so let’s start again. I want to be clear and transparent, by which I of course do not mean that I wish literally for people to be able to see through me… let’s try again.

I want to spell out, I (space ) D I D (space) N O T (space) T H R E A T E N (space) T O (space) K I L L (space) J E R E M Y (space) C O R B Y N (stop).

WE Together

In concluding this reflection on a crazy year I thought I’d offer a bit of advice for anyone thinking about putting their head above the parapet and pursuing a career in politics, or for that matter even bothering to turn up to vote for these chancers.

Just in case you’re thinking of joining or supporting the Women’s Equality Party please bear in mind that you will most likely risk taking votes away from the mainstream party most aligned with their aims. Northern Ireland’s short lived Woman’s Coalition experiment is a good example of this, with the 2% of votes they took during the critical post good Friday agreement elections largely coming from people who would have otherwise voted for the only established non-sectarian party.

Relatively soon after the single issue woman’s party imploded after their leader(s) secured well paid employment outside of politics, meanwhile the Alliance Party (who don’t support quotas) went on to spectacularly take the First Minister’s seat in 2010 returning a female MP to parliament.

The Woman’s Coalition only got their feet under the table for the famous talks that lead to the Good Friday agreement because the powers that be rigged a once only undemocratic quota system for the sole purpose of ensuring that men with guns (and no political mandate) got into the talks. The stated purpose of the party was to encourage more women involved in politics but none of their membership emerged into the mainstream.  Meanwhile in the year 2015 the DUP, who aren’t exactly renowned for their progressive politics (just ask the LGBT community) unanimously elected a woman as party leader (and First Minister) based solely on her leadership qualities and track record within the party….

2016 not 1916.  It’s time we started working together for the sake of our children.

yingyang3

 

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