I am not one of those feminists who thinks it’s always wrong to talk about ways that men unjustly treated in our society. I think patriarchy causes injustice for many groups, including men, and that these are intertwined. For example, men have far less support (both social and institutional) for taking career breaks to do caregiving. This harms people of all genders, as well as anyone in need of care. Men who defy gender norms face sanctions– again a part of the general harms of strictly enforced gender norms. We should, as feminists, talk about these things and do something about them.
But it’s thoroughly unhelpful for a University’s Equality and Diversity Committee to put up a website blithely announcing that “In academic staff appointments, the data suggests that female candidates have a higher chance of being appointed than men.” There is, it is true, a rather controversial study which has been wrongly reported as establishing this. (Michael Brownstein discussed it here.) There are also masses of studies arguing the opposite. To toss this in as if it’s established, and in such a way as to suggest the people whose progress we should now worry about are men, is grossly irresponsible in the face of numbers showing that women are still massively underrepresented. (There is a note at the end saying that obviously women should be the main focus, but since it’s already been claimed that women now have an easier ride in academic appointments, this rings hollow and sounds pro forma.) One wonders if they will soon be withdrawing from Athena SWAN.
By all means, let’s talk about the ways that patriarchy harms everyone. That’s good stuff, and we need to over turn the stranglehold of gender roles on men in order to achieve gender justice. But statements like York’s are very counterproductive. One expects better from an Equality and Diversity Committee.
UPDATE: Here is the open letter signed by York staff and students.