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.