Jim Pollard is wrong to say feminism has brought men more benefits than women. So far it's been a raw deal for bothby Laurie Penny / March 9, 2010 / Leave a comment
…to revise your gender identity
In his provocatively-titled Prospect article, Why Feminism Favours Men, Jim Pollard argues that feminism has left men on top: delivering better sex and doing away with the obligation to pick up the bill on dates, while women still get lower salaries and do the majority of the housework. The failure of the movement to deliver equal pay for women means men must have triumphed, he suggests—as if the economics of gender were no more than a giant set of scales. This not only misrepresents feminism’s aims, but does a sad disservice to men.
Feminism was never simply about rushing in and pinching a swag-bag of treasured male privileges. It was supposed to be a total rewrite of society’s rules, for both genders. This week marked the 100th International Women’s Day, and the theme chosen for the occasion was “progress.” Speakers at the Million Women Rise event in London on the 6th March reflected that although feminism has made astonishing gains, we still have far to go. And indeed we do. What’s less remarked upon, however, is how much a truly equal society would improve the lives of men, as well as women.
As Marx might have put it, the partial success of women’s liberation has left men alienated from the means both of “production and reproduction.” Pollard points out that men may still do better out of divorce proceedings—but surely the majority want more from family life than a slightly fatter wallet and the option to split the bill on dates? Activist cadres such as Fathers 4 Justice undermine Pollard’s assertion that British family law wholly benefits men. And unfortunately for men who really do want to take an active role in childrearing, plans to formalise and extend paternity leave were quietly postponed by the government in the wake of the 2008 crash. Men clearly don’t have it all.
If anything, Henry David Thoreau’s century-old aphorism rings true: many men still lead lives of “quiet desperation.” A 2009 report into men’s mental health by the charity Mind identified an epidemic of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems amongst men, with 37 per cent admitting to feeling low or anxious much of the time. The men who responded to the survey felt that they had no outlets for their distress, and were unlikely to seek help for their problems because of social stereotypes about…