Let's talk about men

Introducing our themed week on the NS blogs.

Lurking in the cellar of the internet are a group called the MRAs -  men's rights activists. They might be exemplified by the man who recently tried to sue the LSE in case which partly rested on the hardness of its chairs, but it would be a mistake to dismiss all of their concerns. Since Simone de Beauvoir, feminists have argued against regarding "man" as the default - but if we do this, how much space is there to talk about maleness as a distinct entity?

In the New Statesman in February, academic Jonathan Rutherford asked whether "the rise of identity politics and the loss of the 'family wage' [has] left too many men trapped in perpetual adolescence". Campaigners speak of the 'glass cellar'; the many low-paid insecure jobs which are disproportionately held by men. And in a new book, The Second Sexism, David Benatar notes that "the victims of murder and severe assault are disproportionately male. There have been lab experiments with both men and women where it has been shown that we have fewer inhibitions inflicting violence against men than women."

None of this is to say that feminism has failed, or has gone too far. But equality is not a zero-sum game: to admit that there are problems specific to men as a gender is not to deny that women suffer too. And talking about them can't be left to the MRAs.

So this week NewStatesman.com will host a series of posts exploring some of the questions facing modern men. We kick off with our newest regular bloggers, Rhiannon and Holly of The Vagenda, wondering whether being told you can't multitask is on a par with the challenges facing women. Later, we'll look at the surprising truth about the pay gap, and what it's like to be a man suffering from an illness more usually associated with women.

If you have any suggestions over what we should cover, leave a comment or find us on Twitter: @newstatesman

Day One: The mens' rights zeitgeist, by Rhiannon and Holly.

Day Two: No, I will not "grow a pair", says Steven Baxter.

Day Three: The Second Sexism: don't judge a book by its press, by Ally Fogg and The surprising truth about the pay gap by Alex Hern.

Day Four: On being a man with an eating disorder, by Joseph Stashko. 

Day Five: A shed of one's own, by James Ball; Why isn't male unemployment an issue? by Alex Hern; Negging - anatomy of a dating trend by Nicky Woolf. 

In the wilderness: is it time to take men's problems more seriously?

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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