University of York marks International Men’s Day. Sigh.

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.

4 thoughts on “University of York marks International Men’s Day. Sigh.

  1. Thanks for the post. I’m disappointed that something factually dubious was highlighted when there are claims much better factually supported worthy of discussion.

    Out of curiousity, why do you talk of the injustice men face only in relation to the injustice someone else faces?

  2. I think women are the main victims of gender-based injustice, and that it’s important not to lose sight of that. Acknowledging it doesn’t prevent us from also acknowledging the way that gender-based injustice affects men.

  3. The website also says:

    In wider society, men are confronted by other challenges which are significant from an equality perspective. Boys underperform at school compared to girls. Men are 20 times more likely than women to go to prison; they are much more likely to be victims of violent crime, are more likely to commit suicide and have a lower life expectancy than women. Men are also less likely to access mental health services and other forms of support when they need them.

    Men currently have to wait longer than women before they receive a State pension and at certain stages in life, they are less well protected by equality legislation than women. These issues inevitably impact on men employed at the University and on the lives of our students.

  4. That unqualified statement does seem troubling given that women are still massively underrepresented in certain academic fields. I would just like to point out that however objectionable them stating that was has very little to do with the study you refer to regarding hypothetical searches, and the criticisms of it Michael Brownstein discussed on this blog. Those things are incidental to what actual real-world hiring patterns show independently of the aforementioned study, which is in fact that in some specific cases women are more likely to be offered certain jobs than men:

    This is also tentatively reflected in recent entry level philosophy hiring in data from Carolyn Dicey Jennings:

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