How is it in men's interests to dismantle a system that also seems to serve their interests? Bob Pease, an man who has been active in anti-sexist politics since 1975 and who was one of the architects of the first Men Against Sexual Assault group, explains the paradox. He is interviewed by Michael Flood.
Originally published in Social Alternatives, 16(3), July 1997. (For a PDF version of the published article, click here.)
Men's rights groups represent a hostile backlash to feminism, but their efforts in fact are unhelpful and even harmful for men themselves. Michael Flood describes how we can respond.
Men have a vital role to play in improving relations between the sexes. But Michael Flood is not sure that they can be feminists.
Men’s lives have changed in substantial ways over the past three decades. They have changed in the context of broader upheavals in gender relations and sexual relations, prompted particularly by the women’s movements and feminisms. There are at least four key areas of change. The legitimacy of men’s monopoly of political and institutional power has weakened dramatically. The gendered organisation of paid work has been disrupted. Public alternatives to heterosexuality have emerged. And new images of alternative masculine identity are evident.
The men’s movement is a contradictory phenomenon, involving both the defence of men’s privilege and efforts to undo it. It incorporates diverse strands — men’s liberationist, pro-feminist, spiritual or mythopoetic, and men’s rights and fathers’ rights — with differing agendas, emphases and understandings. While personal growth and therapy have been important focuses, increasingly these are being complemented by public political activism.
Men's rights groups use flawed methodology to make false claims about the impact of fatherlessness. In Fatherhood and Fatherlessness (Australia Institute, Discussion Paper No. 59, November, pp. 21-23) Michael Flood reveals the junk science behind the National Fatherhood Forum's claim that "boys from a fatherless home are 14 times more likely to commit rape".
Why International Men's Day is a bad idea.
There are a number of important problems with International Men’s Day:
IMD offers a false parallel to International Women’s Day.
IMD invites a conservative understanding of gender relations.
IMD potentially alienates services and organisations that might otherwise support measures aimed at improving men’s wellbeing or service responses to men.
There are better ways to achieve the same goals.
IMD may be ineffective at engaging men.