Glen Poole, the author of the Telegraph article I was responding to in my last post, has written a long riposte to my post over at Inside Man. I’ve left a comment below his piece, replying to his reply (this could get complicated!). This is what I wrote:
Glen, I appreciate the time and effort you’ve taken to respond to my blog post. I’m not going to reply to your long response in detail: I think there are others who have greater knowledge and expertise of the field, and longer experience of the gender equality field, who could do a better job of tackling some of your detailed points. I just want to say a few things. Firstly, I acknowledge the integrity of your personal experience of working in this field, and the contribution you’ve made to a better understanding of men’s experience. However, I’m still not sure I see the point of calling yourself a ‘non feminist’. For me, feminism – or in the case of men, pro-feminism – is simply about (1) recognising that gender inequality exists and (2) wanting (and working) for it to diminish and disappear. On that definition, I think we’re both ‘pro feminist’. To be sure, as I acknowledged in my own post, there are some intolerant and exclusive feminists – the same is true of any social movement – and maybe I’ve been fortunate in not coming across too many of them. The only difference I can see in the way you describe your views is that on my first point – ‘recognising that gender equality exists’ – I’d go on to say ‘and the main victims of this inequality are women and girls’. Whereas I think you’d want to emphasise the issues that men face. That emphasis, I think, is where we’d differ. Yes, I think there are particular issues for men – but (a) these are not at all comparable to the long, historical and widespread oppression that women have faced and (b) many of the problems faced by men are themselves a spin-off from the gender stereotyping that disproportionately affects women. So women’s liberation would also be men’s. Finally, I think your claim that non feminists are somehow being ‘excluded’ from gender equality campaigns by feminists and pro feminists is another straw man. I certainly didn’t argue for anything like that in my blog post. Again, my experience may be unusual, but I’ve never experienced any ‘entry tests’ for involvement in gender equality campaigns – I’ve no idea, for example, if the male business leaders and voluntary org representatives sitting around the table with me at the ‘Men as change agents’ working group the other week would call themselves ‘feminists’. Probably not. But nobody asked when they signed up, and nobody cares. What matters is their proven commitment to improving opportunities for women and girls in education and employment. And yes, that means providing greater opportunities for boys and men to be fully involved in childcare, family life and non traditional professions (incidentally, most of my academic and professional work has been with boys, and about improving things for young men). That’s what I mean by forgetting about labels and striking poses and getting stuck into the much-needed work of fighting for gender equality.