Thursday, December 03, 2009

Guest post - Men's Societies in Universities

I have been sent this by Natalie, who asked if i could put it up on the blog .

Truth Not Fiction

When it comes to politics, it can seem as if some people live in a different world to the rest of us. Either this, or we must be forced to concede that amongst the attendees at one of Britain’s most prestigious Universities, are some of the most utterly clueless and dangerously idiotic folks in the world. I mean, how many people genuinely have trouble getting to grips with the fact that a) women are an oppressed group and b) men are not? You’d think the answer would be somewhere between “fairly few” and “no one could possibly be that impervious to reality”, but alas, it seems one particular group of individuals at Manchester University - the recently formed MENS Society - are really that naive.

Why yes, they genuinely appear to believe men are an oppressed group and no amount of pay gaps, glass ceilings and double burdens is going to shake their unshakable belief that we live in a woman’s world.

The Men’s Society was formed with a number of stated aims, including Top Gear viewing, mandatory pub crawls, beard growing contests, trips to gadget fairs and participation in “Tough Guy” contests. Assuming that there wouldn’t be genuine coercion involved in the mandatory pub crawls, these aims are all fairly harmless taken by themselves. But when they form the core activities of a Men’s Society which also subscribes to the aim of constructing a “male identity”, it’s clear why this is harmful. Some people (including such nominal lefties as Reuben at The Third Estate) have attempted to argue that the Men’s Society is going to open up a debate about society’s normative gender roles and how to conquer them. But if beard growing and proving oneself a “Tough Guy” are the vehicles through which gender can be openly debated, the women’s movement thus far has missed a big trick.

The founder of the Men’s Society - curiously enough an abstinent, teetotal evangelical Christian - has expressed interest in campaigning for a Men’s Officer in the Students’ Union and said that straight pride is “an idea”. He’s also OK in principal with the existence of a White Society, which at least shows he’s not as hypocritical as the Men’s Society cheerleaders who baulk at the idea of racism replacing sexism in our Students’ Unions.

The problem is, too many people - especially amongst the bureaucrats who control these Unions - have totally forgotten why Women’s Officers and Women’s Groups exist in the first place. They’re there because women still suffer oppression in society; they’re not there to promote knitting, shopping and makeup. The argument that we should have a Men’s Officer because we have a Woman’s Officer, or Men’s Groups because we have Women’s Groups is utterly fallacious; these things exist for women to help compensate for the oppression suffered under patriarchy and to advocate that men should have the same under the banner of “equality” represents a huge leap backwards in the struggle for genuine equality.

This notion of men’s oppression doesn’t stop with Manchester’s Men’s Society either. This week alone, articles have appeared in The Mail and The Times both arguing the needs for “men’s lib”. Hang on, you might be thinking, what happened to women’s lib? I’ll tell you: it’s on the back burner because the topic de jour is male oppression and the “examples” of it are rife. It’s not so upsetting that the paper which supported both Hitler and Mosley’s British Union of Fascists is in favour of the Men’s Society, but The Times, at least carries a bit more intellectual weight.

According to The Times, men are oppressed because there isn’t a “Ministry for Men” in government and there is a multibillion pound cosmetics market targeting men (the fact that it is dwarfed by the female cosmetics market and the beauty expectations placed upon the perfectly waxed, tanned and made-up women of the world, is neither here nor there). The slogan “Mums shop at Iceland” is another example of male oppression and nothing to do with the patriarchal society in which women are raised from birth with the intent of fulfilling all the roles of mother and housewife. Jo Brand is also, presumably by her very existence, listed as a man-oppressing force.

Well I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. There is a reason why if you ask someone on the street what “misandry” means, 9 times out of 10 they won’t have a bloody clue.

Unfortunately, the Men’s Society virus appears to be spreading. A group has now been formed at Oxford, where a number of men are also falling foul of the imaginary misandry plague. Now, just to be clear, in the regular world white male Oxbridge students are about as oppressed as the Royal Family or the Pope. If they are experiencing any social trauma, then they need to be seeing a Doctor or Counsellor, not banding together as men and organising under the unfortunate tagline “Have you got balls? Literally.” Fortunately, at Oxford Women’s President is campaigning against this grouping; at Manchester, the Woman’s Officer - the Students’ Union official whose job it is to campaign for the liberation of women students - has dogmatically refused to take a side.

Men’s societies, groups and clubs should be seen for what they are: part of the backlash against the gains made by the women’s movement. It’s no coincidence that they have hit the national headlines at the same time as the Policing and Crime Bill (penalising women sex workers) and the Welfare Reform Bill (attacking single mothers) were passed, and a Vogue Editor publicly stated that maternity rights have made women unemployable.

But what would I know? I’m just a “feminist Nazi dyke” as one of our opponents puts it.

More here at the Facebook group.

Picture nicked from Jim J , who also posts on this topic.

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