AS I SEE IT
Every now and then I come across a headline that makes me choke on my muesli. Thanks to an altered news perspective on a visit to the UK the latest one was the suggestion that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should appoint a Minister for Men. One journalist went to far as to suggest that he might need a whole ministry to cope with men’s problems.
This must be a joke surely at a point where women are still struggling to achieve equality? Has having to share power, accept that ‘no means no’ and that women mean business, traumatised guys so much that they need a political pillar to support them?
On second thoughts maybe there should be a Minister for Men who could set up special counselling services for the likes of the DUP’s Geoffry Donaldson who is suffering from Assembly avoidance because he can’t cope with having a woman first Ministern Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill. Or how about a ministerial campaign to counter anti-male bias following the trial by media when comedian and sexual predator Russell Brand became the lead news story displacing humanitarian crisis in Libya and Morocco?
Seriously, maybe organisations like the UK’s Gender Parity and Tory MP Nick Fletcher who went on UK Women’s Hour recently (there isn’t a Men’s Hour – yet) to demand a Minister for Men – have a point. Maybe we should consider having one ourselves. We tend to look at the advantages that men have rather than the downside of being male. For instance, men still earn 11.3 % more than women and only a quarter of TDs are women but statistics speak to the way that all is not necessarily well for the male of the species.
Women live longer than men in Ireland – four years longer, given the average life expectancy. Male suicides outnumber female suicides by three to one and the suicide rate among young men in the 15 to 24 age bracket is the fourth highest in Europe. Surely an area where there should be a special focus on this terrible loss of life.
The Minister for Men campaign in the UK claims that men and boys experience many issues and disadvantages in the UK specific to their gender just as women and girls do. They cite suicide, homelessness, mental health, parental rights, access to education, unemployment, imprisonment, addiction and workplace safety among other areas where men are the majority, yet there is no specific strategy for these issues whereas there is increasing focus on women’s needs.
There are some areas that should merit serious investigation and remedial action. A vast majority of criminal acts are committed by men, 98% of sex offences, 87 % of homicides and 80% of serious crimes. An imaginative Minister could instigate measure to intervene early before the worst happens. Anti-social behaviour, violence and crime by young males stems from alienation, lack of facilities and opportunities – the kind of issues a Minister for Men could address.
As for sexual predators, how about an early warning model with a system of notification by women about problem men who could be referred for counselling or retraining before they offend? The way the judicial system works makes it unlikely that women will go to court to seek justice where rape or sexual violence and abuse are involved. For instance, until the painstaking investigation carried out by The Times there had been no complaint to police about Russel Brand’s behaviour over the years.
There are wider everyday concerns too. Why do girls outperform boys in 75% of higher Leaving Cert subjects? Is something handicapping young males? If there was focus on gender specific issues wouldn’t this merit attention?
Men really miss out when it comes to doing household chores with women doing 78% of the work compared to men. How did men get so disadvantaged here? What could a Minister for Men do to help them catch up?
We do have a Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth backed by relevant legislation but sometimes people fall through the cracks. On Tory MP Nick Fletcher said that men were being left behind and needed special representation. I think he should have said some men are also. So maybe a special task force to represent ‘the left behind’, whoever they are and take action in areas where it is urgently needed, from disaffected youth to sexual predators would be more appropriate.
We can’t have absolute equality or have it all but we could at least make Ireland a fairer safer place.