...free to think freely


6th September 2023

No, we don’t need a men’s minister

I happened to catch the first few minutes of Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour this morning. Normally I would switch it off as soon as it comes on, since I’m neither part of its target audience nor someone who approves of sectional programming. I’d hate and would turn off a Men’s Hour in exactly the same way.

However, today the first item was around whether there should be a men’s minister. Apparently, there is an MP calling for one. The justification for such a post is the loss of self-confidence among men and boys in a society which so emphasises and criticises a “patriarchy” that men are forced to regard themselves as an unworthy oppressive group. The statistic produced as evidence is that the male suicide rate is about three times that among women.

It might well be that men feel unwelcome in popular social discourse and suffer low self-esteem as a result. However, I fail to see how creating even greater concentration on sexual differentiation would help. Would that not just increase the sense of alienation between men and women and exacerbate the problem?

Seeing other people as different rather than similar only distances people from each other, making it harder for people to feel included in the overall whole. That is why I am so opposed to Identity Politics. All human beings are in this world together. All face the same essential problems. Where a group faces specific problems these are likely to be, though not always, a result of being seen to be different and treated differently as a result. Unfair treatment begins with seeing difference and attaching too much importance to it.

That is not to say systemic discrimination cannot exist. Visiting a public toilet recently I reflected that I could still remember the days when the cubicles would each have a coin-operated lock, and the coin concerned was still an old penny. Decimalisation put an end to that except in toilets which are just single cubicles, where the coin is now more likely to be a 20p or even a £1. Men, of course, only needed a cubicle if their need was more than the usual when out and about, whereas women always needed a cubicle. That, of course, was the origin of the euphemism from Victorian times on of women referring to using a public toilet as “spending a penny”. We could interpret that as systemic sexual discrimination, as women were charged much more often than men. Those particular days have gone.

However, it is rare for life to be quite so targeted, and when it is, we can either choose to address the specific problem, which is likely to create anomalies as there will be other similar examples which don’t quite fit, making the whole exercise piecemeal and inherently unfair, or we can look for the underlying general problem and address that, generating a fairer overall approach not subject to whims and specific differences. The effect of the former is to identify and divide, and the latter to unite and find lasting holistic solutions. Diverse Diversity is all about the latter.

Hence, while there is undoubtedly a problem of violence against women, and statistics might show women are more likely to be the victims of male aggression, that does not stand alone. There is also female aggression toward men. My situation means I have never experienced the former, but I have, on a few occasions experienced the latter, so I know it exists. Therefore, rather than treating men as the problem, it would be better to address the attitudes all people can have and recognise we all need to learn to respect and show kindness to each other, irrespective of who we or they are.

So I doubt anything would be solved by creating a men’s minister. I think the effect of that would just be to increase competition between men and women for public resources, rather than working toward the harmony which might actually build a better world. Rather than a specific men’s minister, maybe we should just increase the remit of the women’s minister to seek fair treatment for all.