In the process of advocating men’s issues, it becomes inevitable that I will wind up in a debate with those who feel advocating for men’s causes is a waste of time and resources because men are living in a state of blissful privilege. Instead, these people feel that valuable time and resources would be much better spent helping women’s issues, because according to them, it is obvious men are not the ones who have any real issues, rather it is women who are facing numerous personal and societal crises.
These same people are very creative and vociferous in minimizing the fact that males are failing in greater numbers than before in school, being incarcerated at record levels, likely to be victims of violence 4 to 1 over females, likely to commit suicide at rates 4 to 1 over females, and likely to be falsely accused of murder, rape, and domestic violence at a prodigious rate versus females.
This is called male “privilege and bliss”, and because of this biased and limited thinking, many men’s issues are ignored or placed into the low political/societal priority agenda.
But the tide is slowly changing. More people are starting to realize that recognizing men’s issues will have a positive effect on men, boys, women, girls, families, and society. As a matter of fact, some are saying that women’s issues could gain strength and greater respect, if they were to embrace men’s issues instead of denying and marginalizing them.
For example, the World Bank, a prestigious humanitarian organization which provides research, data, financial, and technological education to developing countries around the world had this to say about gender and men’s issues in a 2006 report:
What About Men And Gender? World Bank Publication Calls For “Menstreaming” Development
Accomplishing the goal of gender equality will be difficult, if not impossible, without considering men in the gender and development debate and focusing on the relations between men and women, according to a new book, The Other Half of Gender, released today by the World Bank.
While gains have been made over the decades, initiatives by government and development agencies that focused exclusively on women have in some cases inadvertently increased women’s work burden and violence against them, the book reveals and recommends applying a more inclusive perspective that also considers men’s gender issues.
The authors believe that while there is a long way to go making a more inclusive gender perspective a reality, the first step must be to move beyond the conventional gender paradigm that focuses exclusively on women and is based on the oppositional and two-dimensional “women as victim, men as a problem” attitude that has pervaded the gender and development debate over the decades.
“We believe that the time has come to better understand men from a gender perspective, for the benefit of men, women, future generations, and the society as a whole,” said Steen Jorgensen, Director World Bank Director for Social Development.
Empowering women has been placed at the center of the gender issue since 1970s when feminist advocates and academics brought attention to the special needs and potential of women in development. However, over the last decade, there has been a growing, but still timid, interest in understanding the male side of gender in development, that is, how gender norms and constructs in society negatively affect men themselves as well as the development processes.
“Despite this new understanding of gender, development practice on gender remained firmly focused on women— and to this day, when we talk about gender, we automatically mean women,” said Ian Bannon, Manager of the Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Unit at the World Bank. “There has also been a concern that drawing attention to male issues will draw scarce resources away from programs focused on women. But this misses the point. Men and gender is not about transferring benefits or attention from women to men.”
Rather women’s well-being can generally not improve without including men because it concerns relationships between men and women, and these relations are subject of constant negotiations. Addressing gender issues, including those that disadvantage women, thus requires understanding gender as a social system that affects both men and women and their inter-relations, according to the book.
And now a female psychologist from Australia is advocating a greater respect and awareness for the development of men’s causes and concerns based on some of the same logic as the researchers from the World Bank.
Dr. Elizabeth Celi recently appeared on an Australian talk show to voice her concerns about how men and masculinity issues are devoid of the same value and respect given to women and femininity issues in modern society.
Thank you to Dr. Celi and the those at the World Bank. I hope we can sustain this more modern and compassionate way of thinking concerning our approach as a civilized society when discussing the problems and issues facing men, fathers, and boys today.