Male supremacist “men’s rights” and “fathers’ rights” groups have been calling for things like a “Ministry for Men” or “Office for Men” for years.
In Australia, the fathers' rights Lone Fathers Association called for these back in 2003, racist and anti-feminist politician Pauline Hanson did so in October 2020, and there is currently a petition before the Australian Parliament calling for one. (The language of the Australian petition is confused, referring to both a Ministry for Men and Minister for Women, although there is no “Ministry for Women” in Australia.) Similar calls are visible in anti-feminist men’s advocacy in the UK, New Zealand, and else where.
There are three problems with proposals for a “Ministry for Men” or “Office for Men”.
1) We already have one:
- We already have a “Ministry for Men” in effect, in two ways. First, men monopolise the top decision-making and powerful positions in Australia.
- Men were 84% of Federal Government cabinet ministers, 80% of Federal Government ministers, and 70% of Federal parliamentarians, in 2019 (ABS, 2020, Gender Indicators, Australia).
- Over the past 10 years, there has been little change in these proportions, and in some cases they have even gone down (ABS Gender Indicators). E.g., in 2006, men were 82% of Federal Government cabinet ministers (now up to 84%), and still 80% of Federal Government ministers.
- Second, the Federal government’s decisions often benefit men rather than women.
- A powerful recent example of how the government already works as a ‘ministry for men’ is the recovery planning for COVID-19 and budget, which invested heavily in male dominated industries, like construction, that were not as deeply affected as female dominated workforces such as childcare that were overlooked for government economic stimulus measures. That is, the government has crafted a ‘blokey’ recovery.
- As Senator Larissa Waters responded in 2018 when asked by Senator David Leyonhjelm about an “Office for Men”, “It’s called Parliament.”
- In addition, policy machinery addressing gender equality has been wound back by successive Federal governments since John Howard became Prime Minister. There has been an erosion of the expertise and capacity of government to address gender inequalities.
2) The proposed position or Ministry implies that men are now disadvantaged overall relative to women, and that is false.
The position of Minister for Women is driven by equity, by the evidence of women’s disadvantage. Similarly, Australia has a Minister for Indigenous People. The equivalent of a “Minister for Men” would be to have a “Minister for White People”.
To have a Ministry for Men would mean accepting the premise that men are disadvantaged broadly across society by government policies and social structures, and that is simply false.
3) A Ministry for Men or Minister for Men is a flawed policy proposal to address a genuine policy need.
Yes, there are important areas of male suffering or disadvantage, such as men’s health and suicide. First, most are already addressed by important areas of government policy, and the MRA policy proposals show no knowledge of or engagement with these.
Second, many such areas do need more effort, but not through a ‘Minister for Men’. Government policies on men and gender (e.g., men’s health, fathering, areas of male disadvantage, etc.) should be integrated into well-developed policy on gender, not organised as separate or parallel. They should involve collaboration with women’s rights groups, and a ‘gender mainstreaming’ approach.
Male supremacist proposals for a Minister for Men or Ministry for Men are based on a simplistic “You’ve got it, we want it too” logic which may not provide the most appropriate policies or services for men. They are not informed by knowledge of or attention to the actual issues they claim to address, of suicide, occupational injuries, incarceration, or homelessness. They fail to address the actual causes of the problems men face. And they taint as anti-women backlash the real need to address these issues.