Just before Christmas I was interviewed by Chris Moss from The Telegraph‘s ‘Thinking Man’ page as background for his end-of-year review. The article was published on 28th December and you can read the whole thing here.
Chris generously described me in the piece as an ‘expert on gender and identity’, which is certainly a gross exaggeration. I’ve had my share of disagreements with other authors commissioned by Chris (notably Glen Poole and Dan Bell), but I have to admit he quoted me very faithfully in his article.
Here are a couple of extracts:
Each new generation sweeps away some of the prejudices of the previous one. That sexuality is now viewed as something malleable is perhaps due at least in part to the way young people present themselves and share information online. While it can be argued that social media flattens identity, replacing the clan or gang with a thousand vague “Friends”, it also exposes people to attitudes not prevalent in their immediate school and class group.
“Gender equality campaigns, such as HeforShe and White Ribbon, have gained additional traction via Facebook and Twitter,” says Dr Martin Robb, an expert on gender and identity and senior lecturer at the Open University.
“Emma Watson’s speech to the UN was a case in point. Social media can certainly do a great deal to change attitudes – but whether support for change goes beyond a hashtag, or changing the colour of your profile picture on Facebook, is of course debatable.
“On the negative side, Twitter debates on gender equality, as on other issues, occasionally descend into name-calling and people adopting simplistic positions – ‘feminist’ vs. ‘men’s rights’, for example – when the issues are far more complex and nuanced.”
But 2015 was, on the whole, a positive and even groundbreaking year. The success of the South Bank’s ‘Being A Man’ festival – praised by male and female attendees alike – reflected a good vibe and open minds in the myriad debates around gender.
“I think there is definitely a generational change,” says Dr Martin Robb.
“The big ‘positive’ for me in 2015 has to be the increasing involvement of men in campaigns for gender equality…. The international movement ‘MenEngage’ held a number of high profile events, some of them around the UN Commission on the Status of Women (Beijing +20) in New York.
“It’s been good to see politicians of all parties, business leaders and campaigners agreeing that gender equality won’t happen without the active participation and support of men.”
Incidentally, the title of Chris’ piece – ‘Was 2015 the year we eradicated gender?’ – is undoubtedly what the journalist John Rentoul would call a QTWAIN.