Taking on Jacob Lynagh’s reply to Clem Ford’s #QuestionsForMen article, Chelsea Corless argues that pitting men’s rights against women’s is counterproductive.
Recently, TBS posted an article, #QuestionsForMen – And now some for women, in which the author shared his feelings of victimisation and stigmatisation in response to the Twitter hashtag #QuestionsForMen, where feminists asked questions of men in an attempt to highlight everyday sexism.
The questions included:
- Would you be comfortable with only women weighing in on the debate about your reproductive organs? Or proposing policy/law re: them?
- In a job interview have you ever been asked how you will juggle work and home?
- How does your wife feel about your career?
- Have you ever had trouble breaking into your chosen field because it’s a “girls club?”
- How often do you need to lie and pretend you had a partner to try to stop someone hitting on you?
- Have you ever considered the advantages to be gained from signing your work using only your initials?
I’m sure these questions address issues that are all too familiar to women, and to the men in their lives with whom they share their experiences. Hopefully they made some people question whether their experiences of opportunity or discrimination at work or in private do actually differ because of their gender.
The author of the TBS article took a completely different approach. In posing such questions, he argued that feminists were pitting women’s rights against men’s rights and undermining the hardships faced by men. These feminists were directing their questions toward men “because of the assumption that most hardships for women are because of men.”
In actual fact he missed the point. Yes, these questions are about women’s experiences and yes, they are directed towards men, but they are not attacking men. It is not a fundamental denial of your rights and struggles when a person points out that in some areas of life they experience discrimination and you don’t. You are not a victim simply because someone is asking you to recognise that they experience disadvantage. These feminists were not asking men to give up their careers or deny their male identity on a CV, nor were they wishing that men would be harassed next time they went out. They were merely seeking recognition of the difficulties women face compared to men in certain aspects of their lives. It is not insulting or demeaning that they ask men to care about them. Nor does it preclude men from weighing in with their own legitimate concerns about gender equality.
Without even attempting to answer any of the #QuestionsForMen, the author proceeded to pit these questions against his list of #QuestionsForWomen. Some of these questions did address important issues faced by men, such as the lack of support offered to male victims of sexual violence (although he failed to acknowledge that this is an issue often considered important by feminists). In presenting his long list of questions as an answer to #QuestionsForMen, the author himself frames discrimination against men and women as two opposing concerns. Rights are not a zero-sum game, and pitting women’s rights against men’s rights is not just unhelpful, it is ridiculous. The fact that men may be more likely to die on the job doesn’t change anything about the fact that women are less likely to get hired or be promoted.
The author’s belief that rights are zero-sum and that giving women a fair go necessarily undermines men, inhibits his ability to think rationally about gender equality. This is particularly clear in his preoccupation with affirmative action, where he laments women’s-only scholarships and hiring quotas as directly undermining men’s rights. Not once does he acknowledge that these policies are designed to address well-researched, clearly-substantiated sexism in hiring practices. In fact, instead of addressing pertinent evidence in support of affirmative action, he references an article that also fails to address such evidence.
This, along with conflating the hiring choices of Mamamia with the female domination of journalism in general; citing the gender-neutral procedures of Queensland Police for addressing domestic violence as evidence that men are discriminated against in hostile disputes; and conflating the conviction rate of perpetrators of sexual violence against men in US prison systems with the conviction rate of all such perpetrators everywhere, the #QuestionsForWomen opinion piece is an example of opinion pieces gone wild.
Opposing views and differences of opinion are a fact of life, but we should not be entitled to express our opinions if we can’t back them up substantially. It is not acceptable to give your opinion if you have to support it with poor, inappropriate references. Frankly, it is downright insulting to be presented with such an opinion piece, masquerading as balanced and rational, and be asked to swallow it.
#QuestionsForMen highlighted some of the pervasive sexism experienced by women in their everyday lives. Sure, let’s have some discussions about where these issues come from (think: patriarchy, #notallmen) and why they affect both men and women alike. Let’s also have QuestionsForWomen, but let them be based in reality, address well-substantiated issues like those discussed by QuestionsForMen, and let them not pit men’s rights against women’s rights.
Instead, let our discussions about gender equality further our attempts to achieve equal rights for all people and a better life for everyone.