EYE Review 2015 – Part 3: #Good Night Men’s Rights

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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Next | 4: #BigSisterVersusTheInternet

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