Let’s Hear It For the Boy | Sarah Stook

2018 has seen the push for equal rights reach a forefront in society. Everywhere you look, politicians, businesses and newspapers proclaim to be the person/thing for equal rights, dedicated to fighting inequality and implementing steps in order to making the world a fairer place. When a new news item appears on social media, the Tweeters and Facebookers of the world are eager to put in their two cents about how it affects them, whether it’s race, gender, sexuality or anything else. Yet, there seems to be a focus on one gender: women. Whether it’s the gender pay gap, access to birth control or lack of women in top positions, the push for equality to focus on the ladies.

So that about men?

It’s safe to say history has historically discriminated against women and across the world, genuine discrimination against women is a HUGE issue. Those people pushing for female equality are in no way wrong to fight for it, especially in countries where women do not have an equal voice to men in many areas of society. The term, however, is gender equality but many see only female equality. There will be readers scoffing at the thought of men’s rights, such as when Shipley MP Philip Davies brought it up in Parliament, saying that men do not need any more help. Words such as the patriarchy will be thrown around as the latest buzzword, a mocking laughter coming in as they see when people suggest that men do need some help.

They do, however.

Not every man can take advantage of the patriarchy. In many ways, men are worse off than women in some areas. Again, the scoffing continues but the figures don’t lie. From prison sentencing to custody rights of their children, men are disadvantaged in ways women are in other areas. Unfortunately for men, their gender puts them at a disadvantage because so many feminists and other supporters of equality do not see their problems as equally as women’s, and they are often seen as less worthy of having a voice. Through their status as an apparently privileged group, men are not given the same thought. It is not to say that men are deserving of more protection- women and other minority groups must not be given special privileges either- but the inequality they suffer is equally noteworthy. Unfortunately for those who truly believe in equality, these ideas of privilege are so subjective that to one, a straight white man is extremely privileged whilst to another, he is no better off than others. It is these ideas that one must break down in order to further true equality.

Now, let’s look at areas where we need to focus on the men for once:

  1. Educational barriers– Of all students, white working class males are the least likely to go to university out of any social, economic and gender group. Though the term working class is a rather subjective one, one can assume there are several factors- eligibility for bursaries, free school means, lower parental income and less dispensary income for example. An IFS study in 2012 showed that out of every socio-economic group, only 12 in 100 of the least well off fifth of white Britons attended university. Factors will of course vary, but there are some at least definitive factor. One of these factors is the fact that many ethnic minority families have more of a focus on education than their white counterparts, especially in Indian and other Asian families. That is not, of course, to say that whites do not care about their children and their counterpart- that is disingenuous, but one only has to compare Western education to non-Western education. Another is that there is less of a focus on the education of boys in both education and in schools. When results day rolls around, girls and ethnic minority boys inevitably end up in newspapers as the ones who do the best. There is generally no intellectual difference between all groups; all of these equally have the chance to achieve high quality grades. Now, for those who say ‘white men have enough advantage in the world’- you’re not totally right. When you look at the past Prime Ministers, nearly all of those who have gone to university attended Oxford or Cambridge. Whilst some worked their way up from state schools, many attended grammar or private. Those in private education- boy or girl- generally have better educational opportunities, so your Etonians will have more chances than the kid from your local comprehensive. University does not always mean total success in life, that is true, but it definitely has advantages when one discusses job prospects and networking. When going back to normal education, a lower set of GCSES and lack of A Levels, especially the core maths and English, set the students back. Without a core C in maths, English and science, it is very hard to get on any course, whether academic or vocational. Many in our parents’ generation left school without GCSEs and A Levels and did just fine, but after Tony Blair’s 50% rule regarding universities and the school leaving age being 18, these results are more important.
  2. Suicide Rates– Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the United Kingdom. In fact, there is only one country in the world- Afghanistan- where more women than men kill themselves. It remains a huge problem, clearly, and one which is being focused on more, though not as much as it needs to be. Mental health is still not understood and there is a wide stigma around it, with many who have not suffered it being dismissive and telling people to ‘just feel better.’ Society still has a boys shouldn’t cry idea, where a sign of mental upset in men is often mocked, where a culture of silence smothers our men like a fog. For both physical and mental conditions, women are a lot likelier to seek help from a medical professional, which is why there are so many campaigns telling men to get checked for everything from anxiety to testicular cancer. When people do not seek help and continue to bottle up, they are more likely to allow their symptoms to control their life and end their life. This seems to be likelier for men- every day; we see stories of apparently bright, happy men suddenly killing themselves to the shock of their grieving families. It is also not helped by the romanticism of mental illness. Tumblr blogs and media, such as the popular but controversial 13 Reasons Why, create a beautiful deception around mental health, throwing around anxiety and depression as buzzwords and acting like killing one’s self is tragic, beautiful and will punish the world for what they did to you. Thankfully, suicide rates are decreasing but they still remain the biggest killer of men and that needs to be rectified.
  3. Criminal Sentencing and Victims- Yes, men do commit more crime than women do, statistics and studies have shown that they generally make more than half of all criminals arrested/charged for most crimes, but women are not always innocent little doves. A 2011 study by the US Department of Justice suggested that white women had the lowest conviction rate of any group. Yes, they statistically commit less crime but of course, sentencing should be equal in harshness for all- it doesn’t matter who they are (a constant criticism of the War on Drugs for example is that young black males are targeted whereas whites are not for the same crimes). There are definitely some cases of leniency- such as the case of Brock Turner in the infamous Stanford Rape Case- there are discrepancies. A 2015 Ministry of Justice report looked at a variety of offenses and discovered that for each of them, men were more likely to be imprisoned than women, with BAMEs more likely to be imprisoned than whites. For some, it was fairly minor- men are 35% more likely to go to prison for shoplifting and non-motor thefts, but for others it was much higher. For violence against the person, men were a whopping 267% more likely to be imprisoned and for drug offenses, it was an even bigger 362%. One example of unfair sentencing comes in the form of Lavinia Woodward. A well off Oxford student who planned to be a doctor, Woodward had non-fatally stabbed boyfriend Thomas Fairclough in a haze of cocaine and alcohol. Now, imagine if we flipped this- a man abused his partner and stabbed her- there could be outcry and a hopefully strong sentence. Yet, Woodward was free with an 18 month suspended sentence as the judge worried that she was ‘too bright’ and was fighting her drug addiction, and that prison would ruin her surgeon dreams. Every day, one sees women committing violent assault that would have got a man in prison. Away from sentencing, and men are more likely to be victims of crimes. Whilst certain offenses, especially sexual and abuse ones, are more likely to occur against women, men make up the bulk of homicide victims at roughly 78.7%. In 193 of 202 countries, they made up the bulk of homicide victims. Men are also more likely to be victims of aggravated assault, robbery and uttered threats amongst others.
  4. Custody- In child custody battles, women are much more likely to have full custody than their former male partners. This idea was made famous in the Oscar winning film Kramer v Kramer, where Meryl Streep’s character is awarded custody over the loving father played by Dustin Hoffman. There is an idea in society that the mother is the primary caregiver and is therefore the right person to have custody of the children. Yes, children are often primarily in the care of the mother, especially in the developing world, but that does not mean that women are always the better parent. A child deserves the love of both parents but when divorce or separation occurs, hopefully the best parent for the job will get it. In the United States, women are awarded sole custody in 80% of cases. That is not to say that every father deserves custody- domestic abuse, nature of work, geography etc are all important in deciding- but the figure is very much in favour of women. The idea that women should be the primary caregivers and mothers foremost is not only damaging to women, but to men. For most of us, we love our parents equally and know that they will be equally wonderful. In the United Kingdom, Fathers4Justice is an advocacy group often in the media, though it is often criticised.

Though non-specific, other criteria make up men’s rights. Men who are raped and abused, especially by women, are often mocked by society and are much less likely to come forward due to societal stigma and worry. An example of this is in prisons, where the rape of females is rightfully seen as disgusting especially when committed by guards, but male rape is not treated with the same disgust. Men make up 99% of combat deaths and 93% of workplace deaths for example.

If we want to reach equality, we must recognise both genders. For women, we must recognise that we are the majority of victims in forced marriage, domestic abuse, rape and genital mutilation but for men, we must also recognise how suicide, custody, crime and educational opportunities against them. True equality may be somewhat of a pipe dream, but it is something that we need to try. To do this, we must recognise both men and women in their suffering, not just favouring a latter. This is not a case of we have fathers, brothers etc- this is a case of caring about equality.

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