Athene Donald on York Men’s Day

The ever-wise Athene Donald begins her rumination by pointing out the sad situation we find ourselves in:

So now one part of the university is annoyed that anyone ever considered celebrating the day and, by virtue of what was written in the original statement, apparently trivialising the problems women face; another part are equally annoyed that the day is no longer being celebrated claiming that this implies the university doesn’t consider men’s rights are important. This is turning into a hopelessly polarised debate which won’t do anyone any good and certainly won’t make gender equality any nearer. It is all really rather tragic.

It’s worth noting that I think one thing which would have helped is a better explanation from York of their actions. They deleted their statement and dropped their plans without giving reasons other than that people were “upset”.  And in describing the original plans, they mentioned only a desire to attend to issues of men’s mental health.  This left the impression that feminists were opposed to caring about men’s mental health.  (And many unprintable comments we’ve received have certainly taken it this way.)

Donald also has a very interesting discussion of the stats on which York based its claim that women now find it easier than men to gain academic appointments.  These turn out to be based on their own internal numbers. Donald discusses many ways that these numbers need much further analysis to be useful.  But I’d also note that there was nothing in the original statement to indicate that this particular claim was a York-specific one, so it was very misleading to place it alongside the rest of the claims, which were about society as a whole.

I’ll close by noting that I share Donald’s hope that we can move beyond the current situation to one in which men and women can make common cause to tackle the problems we all face– feminists can, should, and do care about male mental health.  The pressure on men not to admit to such problems is a result of the very gender roles that feminists are devoted to fighting.  We should be working together in these fights.


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