A short list of shits I could not give

Pretty much every day I’ll be sent a message of some sort inviting me to show my support for some gender-based campaign, cause or petition. Often they are concerns that I share, and I will help as I can. Other times I will give the issue some thought and consideration and conclude hmm, nope, sorry, but I really don’t give much of a shit.

For the sake of discussion, let me offer a short, and by no means exhaustive list of shits I really could not give:

  • Books and merchandise declaring: Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them
  • Nipples on Page 3 of the Sun
  • Adverts portraying men as being useless in the kitchen or changing nappies
  • Men’s Health advocating an unattainable body beautiful for men
  • Lads mags in newsagents
  • Sexist T-shirts
  • Miley Cyrus videos
  • ‘All Men Are Bastards’ knifeblocks
  • Pink ladypens
  • The sexual politics of Grand Theft Auto
  • Builders stripping off in Diet Coke ads

The list could go on and on. I should explain that I don’t actually like any of the things above. On the contrary, I find them at best tacky and dispiriting, at worst hateful and depressing. In all cases the world would probably be a slightly better place if they did not exist. However every single one of them is less of a problem in its own right than a symptom of a deeper malaise. We live in a world in which the entire human experience is co-opted, synthesised, commodified and sold back to us in a never-ending cycle of demand.

I do not see how we can call upon the publishers of Men’s Health to tone down the chiselled abs in their photo spreads without acknowledging the niche it fills in a culture of narcissism and self-obsession, a spectrum that stretches from sculpted torsos (and airbrushed Vogue stars) to obesity and eating disorders. For too many people, the glossy fantasy fills a void, and the problem is not with the fantasy, but with the void.
In all these cases, the products themselves are not the problem, they are the representations, the totems, the Aunt Sallys which poke up from a swamp of cultural alienation, misogyny, misandry and gender construction. Knocking them down might make us feel better momentarily, but do nothing to purify the waters.

An argument I have often with feminists (and others) is whether so-called sexualisation or pornification of our culture is getting worse all the time. I would challenge anyone old enough to remember the 1970s, when I was a child. The janitor in my primary school had a nude calendar on the wall of his little store-room, which we would see every time we were sent to collect a bucket and mop after some little poppet vomited in class. When I went with my dad to any ironmonger shop, tyre repair place or garage there would be nudes all over the walls. Light family entertainment involved Benny Hill running around trying to molest nubile young nurses at double speed. Most of it is almost unimaginable now.

What happened? It had little to do with bans, prosecutions or petitions. Things got better because our culture slowly, gradually changed as a whole. What had looked funny began to look tacky. Awareness of sexism as an issue slowly spread. We grew up a bit.

Personally, I’m not so bothered about the kinds of cartoonish or extreme examples of sexism in the list above. Most of the time they jump up and down shouting “Look at me! Look at me! I’m a piece of ridiculous sexist trash!” and so can be easily ignored and dismissed. I’m much more bothered about low level, insidious, ubiquitous conditioning of restrictive gender roles, our personal interactions and (above all) our interactions with children.

It seems to me that most of the complaints about gender representations wilfully avoid context and ignore all counter-evidence. Here is a typical example:

We all know the stereotypes—the femme fatale, the supermom, the sex kitten, the nasty corporate climber. Whatever the role, television, film and popular magazines are full of images of women and girls who are typically white, desperately thin, and made up to the hilt—even after slaying a gang of vampires or dressing down a Greek phalanx.

I recognise these stereotypes, of course, but I’m also aware that when the TV is on in my house, it rarely shows anything like that. It shows Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Eastenders, with their arrays of strong, fully-rounded female characters driving the plot. Or if I have (rare) control of the remote, flashy trash like CSI or 24, with their full complement of women detectives, spies, scientists, pathologists and computer geeks.

Cultural misandry, of the type highlighted by Nathanson and Young in their series of tedious whingeing books, concerns me even less. Most of the time, our TV and other media present us with an endless parade of white, middle-aged, middle-class men being in charge. They’re in charge of the stuff going on on the news, they’re in charge of the murder investigations on the detective series, they’re in charge of the grand villainous plans in the movies, they’re in charge of the ball on the football pitch. They are saving the day, they are rescuing the heroine, basically if shit needs doing, we assume a man will be doing it. Anyone who denies this is true needs to log out of Reddit for five minutes and open their fucking eyes.

So when writers of sitcoms or 30-second commercials want a cheap laugh, what do they do? They play with and subvert our expectations, our deeply ingrained assumptions that men (and especially middle-aged white men like me) are in charge and in control. A middle aged white man? One of those people who is meant to be running the whole world and he can’t even work a washing machine! Hahahaha. Geddit? Am I amused? No, not really. Am I offended? Get a grip.

I’ve even seen it suggested that these types of representations of men prove there is no such thing as patriarchy or male privilege. This is, frankly, the dumbest argument this side of a UKIP conference. The truth is the exact opposite – the demeaning representation of men in popular culture is a corollary and a direct consequence of our privilege. If you want a world where middle-aged men aren’t brought down a peg or two, help to create a world where middle-aged men don’t need to be brought down a peg or two.

Having said all that, I wholeheartedly approve of efforts to monitor and critique the media we consume. Some representations are actively harmful – I would include within that, for example, portrayals of sexual violence as glamorous, sexy, or enjoyable to the victim, or portrayals of domestic violence as legitimate reactions or expressions of frustration (and I include the stereotypical soap opera wife throwing cups at her husband or hitting him with a frying pan.) Some media representations actively undermine efforts to improve our society and they must be subject to criticism.

So in a way I am kind of glad that someone out there is berating Rupert Murdoch for continuing to flog his tabloid bogroll via Barbara from Basildon’s bare boobs. I am kind of glad that someone is pointing out that actually most men are quite capable of working a washing machine. Just don’t take it personally if I fail to share your outrage.

Comments

  1. thetalkingstove says

    What happened? It had little to do with bans, prosecutions or petitions. Things got better because our culture slowly, gradually changed as a whole. What had looked funny began to look tacky. Awareness of sexism as an issue slowly spread. We grew up a bit.

    Don’t issues and awareness spread, at least in part, because of activism such as petitions and campaigns? Sometimes people won’t grab on to an idea till it’s presented in a way that’s relevant to their day to day experiences or personal interests.

    But I certainly agree on the larger point that these things are symptomatic rather than root causes.

    And that ‘dopey sit-com dad’ is not misandry. The argument that the likes of Homer Simpson are anti-man is ridiculous. They’re the funny characters, the ones who actually DO interesting things and drive the show.
    No one’s favourite Simpsons character is Marge.

  2. carnation says

    Ally – an excellent, excellent piece.

    To add my own tuppence worth, there are a couple of things that I keep in mind when discussing virtually anything – there will be at least one study that could be read (or mis-read) as supporting almost any crackpot theory. And it’s the same for media critiques and stereotyping.

    There is something of an exception to this, and it’s gravitas surpasses considerably anything in the list. The Chav-bashing phenomena. It does affect females, but I’d argue mostly males. Harking back to another article, Shameless isn’t to blame – but the Daily Mail most definitely has a leading role.

    What you listed trivialises important issues.

  3. redpesto says

    Ally, you do realise that studies revealed that your list covers a ‘shocking’ 93% of ‘sexism rows’ in the media?

  4. redpesto says

    Whatever the role, television, film and popular magazines are full of images of women and girls who are typically white, desperately thin, and made up to the hilt—even after slaying a gang of vampires or dressing down a Greek phalanx.

    You know that phrase ‘making the perfect the enemy of the good’? That’s exactly what that quote ends up doing. I’d have loved it if Buffy (character and series) had been a bit more diverse and inclusive (and that Kendra had a better accent…), but considering that there weren’t many characters like Buffy at the time, the fact that the series existed was one reason so many women (and men) loved it. In too many instances it feels more like the ‘froth’ of a ‘culture war’ than any substance.

  5. Thil says

    I would point out that the women in flashy cop shows are still usually younger and more attractive than the men

  6. Darren Ball says

    I agree with thetalkingstove vis-a-vis it’s only because of activism that we have moved on. It’s not that these things should be banned, but at least some of them should be booted into the classification “seriously uncool”.

    When I was younger, car manufacturers would market certain cars with half-naked ladies draped across their bonnets. This sort of advertising wasn’t banned, it just stopped working because men stopped wanting to be seen driving a car with this association. This maturity didn’t occur by accident, it happened because people complained about it.

    As for middle-aged men being incompetent around the house, this is certainly not misandrist, it is however extremely tired and unoriginal. It’s irritating as much for being crap and anything else. However, unusually I slightly disagree with Ally on this:

    “If you want a world where middle-aged men aren’t brought down a peg or two, help to create a world where middle-aged men don’t need to be brought down a peg or two.”

    I’m quite certain I already live in a world where the average middle-aged man doesn’t need bringing down any number of pegs – he’s already a much maligned group. The men Ally references earlier in his piece who are running absolutely everything are not exactly your average Joe on the Clapham Omnibus.

  7. thetalkingstove says

    @ Carnation

    What you listed trivialises important issues.

    Well, in some instances. I’m not so sure about something like Page 3. Just casually having naked women in a daily newspaper alongside everyday stuff like weather reports, horoscopes, etc seems absolutely representative of the way society casually idealises and consumes women’s bodies for entertainment.

    The message that sends to young people is, I think, in an entirely different ballpark to silly slogans on stationary (although I don’t think they’re great either) and is worth some conciousness raising.

  8. Ally Fogg says

    thetalkingstove [1] and Darren Bell [6]

    I appreciate that argument, and I realise that it is not easy to prove either way, but my hunch is that campaigning against superficial specifics has never been that effective.

    As an example, I have a horrible feeling that the high-profile campaign against Page 3 in recent years has made it less likely that Murdoch will drop it, not more. It has made it into a symbolic struggle. I can’t help thinking that if people just ignored it, it would fade away faster.

  9. carnation says

    @ Talkingstove

    I actually had something in about that being an exception – but took it out.

    It’s absolutely disgraceful, but ultimately, I think it probably serves a function by illustrating just now base the tabloid press actually is

    I also think Ally has a point: I can almost imagine the oily outrage of inadequetes exclaiming “they’ll take p3 from our cold, overused hands”

  10. Ally Fogg says

    Thil,

    I would point out that the women in flashy cop shows are still usually younger and more attractive than the men

    That’s true, to an extent, and undoubtedly tied up in what is seen as attractive / admirable in a man or a woman. A greying 50-year old man can still be held up as sexy & desirable in a way that a woman wouldn’t be.

    That said, the men in those programmes do tend to be rugged matinee idols with a few extra years on the clock. They don’t bear much more resemblance to men in the real world than the women do to women in the real world.

  11. Ally Fogg says

    Darren [6]

    I’m quite certain I already live in a world where the average middle-aged man doesn’t need bringing down any number of pegs – he’s already a much maligned group. The men Ally references earlier in his piece who are running absolutely everything are not exactly your average Joe on the Clapham Omnibus.

    Ah, now this is a really interesting and important point. The humour in mocking the middle-aged white man is not derived from a wish to be cruel to actual individuals. What I write should not be taken to mean that all middle-aged, middle-class, white men are rich and powerful, but that most of those who are rich and powerful are middle-aged, middle-class, white men. Not the same thing.

    The target is the representation, the stereotype (or perhaps archetype) of the middle-aged man, the one which is filling our screens, our media, our politics, our culture, not men in the real world.

  12. mildlymagnificent says

    The janitor in my primary school had a nude calendar on the wall of his little store-room, which we would see every time we were sent to collect a bucket and mop after some little poppet vomited in class. When I went with my dad to any ironmonger shop, tyre repair place or garage there would be nudes all over the walls.

    That sort of thing wasn’t restricted to the shopworn walls of people working with their hands. In my previous workplace, there were whole groups of lawyers and accountants with this sort of dreck displayed where everyone who entered the area could see. At that time, there weren’t all that many women with the requisite qualifications and training but plenty of people needed to use these areas, just not the general public. How did these men respond when informed that these displays were bad taste/ offensive to visitors/ unprofessional? In one memorable case, the response was to stick bandaids over the obvious parts of pictures of nude women.

    It took a while. Eventually it became simply unacceptable.

  13. Darren Ball says

    Alley @ 8,

    Regarding page 3, I used to think that campaigners against it were being a bit petty, however, I have been moved by their arguments. I’m now a fervent believer of their cause: that’s because they made arguments which I could engage with.

    I believe that the more men understand why this is belittling to women, the more unfashionable it will become.

  14. Darren Ball says

    Ally @ 11.

    If they limited their peg dropping to powerful white middle-aged men, then fine. But it does appear to be more scatter gun than that. With boys failing at school, traditional male roles at work and in society becoming obsolete, unequal parenting rights, the pay gap for full-time workers under 39 now zero, etc. isn’t it time to lay off the poor old regular dad?

  15. carnation says

    @ Darren Ball #13

    It’s also excruciatingly regressive to assume that men would be remotely interested in such a contrived depiction. Bluntly, it’s just crass and sexist.

  16. Darren Ball says

    @Carnation #15

    But some men find the images on P3 very agreeable to their tastes.

  17. carnation says

    @ Darren Ball

    Such men might well also find a simplistic political movement to their tastes online. Those with limited imaginations and reliance on stereotypes are well catered for.

  18. Darren Ball says

    @carnation #17

    I really don’t understand your point; they’re too obtuse for my straightforward brain.

    Best

  19. Danny Gibbs says

    Darren Ball:
    If they limited their peg dropping to powerful white middle-aged men, then fine. But it does appear to be more scatter gun than that. With boys failing at school, traditional male roles at work and in society becoming obsolete, unequal parenting rights, the pay gap for full-time workers under 39 now zero, etc. isn’t it time to lay off the poor old regular dad?
    But the “powerful white middle aged man” is the linchpin for most observations that something is harming men. I’ve been in discussions with folks at Good Men Project over the last few days and the topic of boys lagging behind in education came up again and as sure a clockwork someone chimes in, “But most high paying positions are held by men. That must mean boys are doing okay.”

    Its almost like there is a genuine desire to make the son suffer for the sins of the father. 20 years from now when today’s elementary boys are men and are poor and uneducated what good will it do to know that their dads were CEOs?

  20. gjenganger says

    @Ally
    Yours is a very healthy attitude – not to speak of being nicely gender-balanced. Personally I find the outrage contrived as well. But I wish that your relaxed attitude could generally be extended to the complaints about anti-woman sexism that are so plentiful. Men do not gain particularly much from applying the same hypersensitivity, the policing of words, jokes and opinions on political grounds, the systematic social engineering to mould thought by controlling speech, that has been so widely used by the feminist side. We would be better off getting rid of them.

    But what are we to do? These campaigns have been quite successful. Once some hitherto innocent expression is ever more treated as controversial and potentially offensive, it becomes impossible to use it as a normal word (think ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘chairman’, …). There is no obvious way to get the toothpaste back in the tube. So should we join in enforcing a rule that anything potentially offensive of womanhood is a dire offense to be vilified by all and sundry, with the intended effect of forcing negative feelings about women out of public consciousness? While at the same time happily continuing to offend and demean men, which logically should have the opposite effect? I do not mind taking my share of the insults – or the lasses down the lab putting up calendars with strapping lads in firefighting gear and bare chests. But I really cannot see why women should get all this exaggerated protection against offense while it is open season on men.

  21. Sans-sanity says

    @Ally 11 “What I write should not be taken to mean that all middle-aged, middle-class, white men are rich and powerful, ”

    Wouldn’t a rich and powerful member of the middle class in fact by definition be a member of the upper class? The level of scorn reserved for the ‘privileged middle class’ has always confused me, when surely the true ‘enemy’ are those at the top and not the middle?

  22. redpesto says

    Danny Gibbs #19 – you’re assuming it’s the same group of boys/men in each instance. It’s no good telling boys from poorer backgrounds that they’ll do okay because the men and boys of the 1% are doing just fine. And that argument is going to look even more dodgy if it comes from a woman determined on being part of that 1% in the name of equality (especially if girls/women from poorer backgrounds aren’t doing well).

  23. Minnow says

    “I recognise these stereotypes, of course, but I’m also aware that when the TV is on in my house, it rarely shows anything like that. It shows Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Eastenders, with their arrays of strong, fully-rounded female characters driving the plot.”

    Same here. I think confirmation and selection biases cause all sorts of mayhem in these debates and many commentators do not realise what a specialised relationship to the media they have. Because many of them work in the media they consume enormous amounts of it in a way that most people don’t, which can give a very distorted picture. In a non-scientific experiment after a discussion about the ubiquity of sexualised images in our society, a friend and I (who had different views of the subject) walked from Piccadilly Circus to Farringdon Road counting every image of a man or a woman we could see who was not fully clothed or who was presented in what we could agree was a ‘sexual’ pose (the criteria was loose, a pout to the camera or sultry look counted). We saw a single image that would count, a lingerie advert for tights on a bus. I realise that this is probably exceptionally low, but I also think it is true that sexual images are less ubiquitous than those who spend a lot of time reading magazines realize.

  24. carnation says

    @ Danny Gibb

    “Its almost like there is a genuine desire to make the son suffer for the sins of the father. 20 years from now when today’s elementary boys are men and are poor and uneducated what good will it do to know that their dads were CEOs?”

    In a sense, you are correct, but not in the way you think you are. For generations, educational attainment in industrial areas was irrelevant – men went into the pits, men (and some women) went to the factories, yards or plants. The (mostly) men in these industries were unionised, some of these unions were uppity enough to land a few blows on the Tory party. Along came Thatcher, a class warrior who destroyed the industries and their unions in a most brutal fashion precisely because, it’s often argued, of what she perceived as the sins of their trade unions. The children of these victims of Thatcher’s class war are indeed paying for the sins of their fathers. Boys, it is clear, in more harsh ways than girls.

    Now why is that? There are numerous reasons, amongst them is categorically NOT a “genuine desire” by “feminists” (who have no influence of educational policy) to “to make the son suffer for the sins of the father.”

    Someone mentioned confirmation bias earlier – when one’s starting theoretical position is that feminism is a powerful monolith designed to attack males, then one will make farcical errors of judgement.

  25. 123454321 says

    A great article, Ally, it really made me think.

    I still, however, have a problem. Not with the individual items on your list, by the way, but more to do with the double standards relating to the frequency that men are the subject of abuse and ridicule, and the way that feminists only protect themselves despite preaching equal treatment for all.

    You would have to put yourselves in the shoes of a child and monitor their changing state of mind to understand the causal link between these double-standards and the general outcome of a child’s perception of the genders as they mature and reach adulthood. A constant bombardment of one-sided, subliminal attacks on one gender, whilst at the same time witnessing countless protective measures against the opposite gender, must surely affect and skew people’s general perception.

    I think men are scared. They’re scared to admit to being offended. It’s just not manly. The problem is that these double standards are getting out of hand and affecting our children’s perception at a very early stage in life. Children find it hard to form educated judgments for themselves and rely on society telling them how to behave, and in many ways, what to think, and what is acceptable.

    The odd double standard should never be a problem, but a continuous stream of biased nature from every angle is a powerful influence which can have very negative connotations.

    The result must surely split into two outcomes:

    1. Men and boys are up for all types of abuse so feel free to aim your negative energy in their direction. They will take all types of shit and they’re used to it and don’t complain so it’s ok.

    2. Women and girls should be protected and privileged in so much as you can’t offend them in any way whatsoever and they’ll bitterly complain anyway and get you in to trouble so best aim all your shit at men and boys.

    Anyone trawling the internet these days will see that there are huge amounts of men out there who are bored of all this shit. Like I said, I’ve got no problem with anything in isolation, but it’s the double-standard that offends me surrounding the frequency of abuse at what is obviously a strategically chosen easy target.

  26. Adiabat says

    Minnow (23):

    I think confirmation and selection biases cause all sorts of mayhem in these debates

    Pretty much. It reminds me of the ‘23 enigma’ which demonstrates that if a pattern is suggested (such as the “power of the number 23”, or “Patriarchy”) then people will start seeing it everywhere.

  27. carnation says

    @ 123454321

    You constantly make grande claims with no basis in reality, research or reason.

    “the way that feminists only protect themselves despite preaching equal treatment for all.”

    So feminists are only trying to protect themselves (“feminists”)? From whom or what are they protecting themselves? Any examples?

    “I think men are scared. They’re scared to admit to being offended. It’s just not manly. The problem is that these double standards are getting out of hand and affecting our children’s perception at a very early stage in life.”

    Have you familiarised yourself with feminist critiques of the media? Have you a solution to the problem that you can see? Have you any actual examples (not some screed from Reddit) of credible evidence that demonstrates a problem?

    The problem is *not* that children are bombared with examples of males being abused and ridiculed whilst females are “protected & privileged” it is that *you* bombard *yourself* with MRA blogs telling you that this is happening. You have exposed yourself to so much doom-laden pseudo-academic nonsense that you have convinced yourself that children are being brainwashed.

    “2. Women and girls should be protected and privileged in so much as you can’t offend them in any way whatsoever and they’ll bitterly complain anyway and get you in to trouble so best aim all your shit at men and boys.”

    This is what I man by “doom-laden pseudo-academic nonsense” – it doesn’t happen. It’s an invention, a creation that others have made that you choose to believe.

    “Anyone trawling the internet these days will see that there are huge amounts of men out there who are bored of all this shi*.”

    No, anyone trawling MRA blogs will find very, very small amounts of men (and some women) who believe this.

    One thing that Nine and a Half Weeks was one example.

    Let’s take a recent one. Boardwalk Empire – the men are ruthless, murdering, violent, money obsessed, conflicted anti-heroes. Well, negative stereotyping? Maybe. But then again, the money are docile, have a price, obsessive and only ever as accessories to men. Negative stereotyping? Maybe.

    But it’s fiction. People can and do understand that the media is focused on extremes, that it’s make believe.

    The Simpsons won’t do for men what Jaws did for sharks. Get. Some. Perspective.

    And please, please, please – understand that msot MRA theory is lifted straight out of existing (usually extreme) feminist discourse. Media critique is a classic example.

  28. carnation says

    Oops – editing problem!”

    One thing that I have learned from MRA blogs is to balance feminist media critique, imagine it from the other perspective (as I have said before, feminist media critiques are better researched, far more realistic and less steeped in paranoia and sexism – though there is still a hint of paranoia)/

    Nine and a Half Weeks was one example.

    Let’s take a recent one. Boardwalk Empire – the men are ruthless, murdering, violent, money obsessed, conflicted anti-heroes. Well, negative stereotyping? Maybe. But then again, the money are docile, have a price, obsessive and only ever as accessories to men. Negative stereotyping? Maybe.

    But it’s fiction. People can and do understand that the media is focused on extremes, that it’s make believe.

    The Simpsons won’t do for men what Jaws did for sharks. Get. Some. Perspective.

    And please, please, please – understand that most MRA theory is lifted straight out of existing (usually extreme) feminist discourse. Media critique is a classic example.

  29. Darren Ball says

    @Danny Gibs #19

    I agree with you. It’s hard to imagine how much of a moron one needs to be to make this argument.

    The relative decline of boys’ education started abruptly in 1987/88 – the first two years that the GCSE was introduced, The situation deteriorated around 2000 ish when boys fell behind at A-level (I strongly suspect that the A-level was fiddled with too). All of this happened long after most CEO’s left school.

    This is a slow fuse, but it is burning.

  30. carnation says

    @ Danny Gibb
    @ Darren Ball

    “the topic of boys lagging behind in education came up again and as sure a clockwork someone chimes in, “But most high paying positions are held by men. That must mean boys are doing okay.””

    “I agree with you. It’s hard to imagine how much of a moron one needs to be to make this argument.”

    OK, it’s a stupid argument. But who of any importance is making the argument? And what influence do they have?

    You are both approaching this with an extremely parochial viewpoint. What you are talking about is irritating, sure, but it’s not remotely important.

    Educational attainment is not even so important besides youth unemployment. And this is sexist, but I’m going to say it anyway – it affects males worse. There is still a patriarchy in place that pressures males to earn (of course this affects females too, but less so, I believe).

    Social justice and massive regional investment is what’s needed. Even a raft of measures to even the results of boys & girls wouldn’t have much of an effect without a bit of “carrot” in the form of decently paid jobs at the end of it.

    It’s unpalatable to most political parties, but the only way I can really see out of this is state sponsored heavy industry. I’ve said this before, and I’m aware that it’s sexist, but the state could and should create factories that manufacture things useful to the state. Steel, rail, ships, whatever – promote and create heavy industry and watch employment tumble. And, if qualifications were needed to get these jobs, the pass rates would rise.

    The rest is just nonsenscial sub-academic posturing about irrelevant individual points of interest.

  31. carnation says

    @ Ally Fogg

    “An argument I have often with feminists (and others) is whether so-called sexualisation or pornification of our culture is getting worse all the time. I would challenge anyone old enough to remember the 1970s, when I was a child.”

    I agree with this to an extent, but isn’t the p*rnification issues more about how it affects inter-personal relationships and how one views the self?

    For example, I am old enough to remember when an absence of pubic hair would have been deeply shocking and not considered particularly attractive (and this was the early 90s). Likewise, it’s arguable that there is pressure on females to engage in practises that are, shall we say, more commonly associated with the gay communities (and of course on males to have “ticked that box”). I think it’s likely that p*rnification definitely did and does happen.

  32. 123454321 says

    “So feminists are only trying to protect themselves (“feminists”)? From whom or what are they protecting themselves? Any examples?”

    They try to ban lads’ mags and get them covered up and moved to top shelf whilst at the same time choosing to ignore the plethora of mags aimed at women which clearly operate at the same level in many cases. Feminists are more concerned about getting women to cover up a bit of flesh than, for example, concerning themselves with the potentially damaging influence that low-shelf wrestling mags might have on young boys in terms of promoting glorified violence. They’d rather concentrate their efforts on getting an advert banned for showing a woman eating chocolate than complaining about an advert that shows a woman hitting a man in the groin because he bought her a food blender!

    “The problem is *not* that children are bombared with examples of males being abused and ridiculed whilst females are “protected & privileged” it is that *you* bombard *yourself* with MRA blogs telling you that this is happening. You have exposed yourself to so much doom-laden pseudo-academic nonsense that you have convinced yourself that children are being brainwashed.”

    You’re in denial, Carnation, for whatever reason. I think you love things the way they are. Enjoy it while it lasts.

    “It’s an invention, a creation that others have made that you choose to believe.”

    Hey there, Carnation, I have insightful intuition that you couldn’t even dream of. To me, you are as transparent as fibreoptic cable. Your life is just fine as it is and that’s how you want it to say. I can’t say I blame you being all “I want, I want, I want… everything is ok for me, me, me….I don’t need to consider others….etc.”. I have to recognise that there are people out there who can’t force any type of causal link between cause and effects which aren’t more than a few nanometres detached. You will never accept any argument that doesn’t fit with your rigid, inflexible, restrictive, viewpoint.

    I’d love to see a complete spectrum of role reversal spanning right across the media and then see what you’d have to say about life. You know, things like: every advert promoting air fresheners shows Dad holding his nose while he looks disdainfully towards his wife and daughters as he sprays them with male cleanliness. Every single advert. Every single one. You see, it’s not the fact that there’s one advert (no problem with that); it’s the fact that it’s ALL fucking adverts. What do you think this says to a child who’s watching this day after day, year after year? do you think it affects their perception at all?

    You accuse me of being brainwashed. I think it is YOU who has been brainwashed by the sound of it.

  33. 123454321 says

    “the only way I can really see out of this is state sponsored heavy industry. I’ve said this before, and I’m aware that it’s sexist, but the state could and should create factories that manufacture things useful to the state. Steel, rail, ships, whatever – promote and create heavy industry”

    What, you mean the industries where women don’t want to work, but young men wanting to support their families are generally socially encouraged to participate in, despite requiring few qualifications, being dirty, long hours and where workplace injuries and fatalities are extremely high by industry standards?

    Perhaps if you were in charge, that would open up more opportunity for women to fill board-room spaces?

    Just sayin’ but I kinda get where you’re going….

  34. carnation says

    @ 123454321

    You absolutely missed the point – when I said ““So feminists are only trying to protect themselves (“feminists”)?”

    I was wondering if you’d pick up on the fact that you use feminists and women interchangably and completely and utterly conflate the two. This inability to distinguish between things characterises your writing.

    “Feminists are more concerned about getting women to cover up a bit of flesh than, for example, concerning themselves with the potentially damaging influence that low-shelf wrestling mags might have on young boys in terms of promoting glorified violence. ”

    And what are men’s advocates doing about this? And, actually, true to form, you’re wrong. Who started the conversation about gender roles and influence of children’s cultural artefacts?

    “You’re in denial, Carnation, for whatever reason. I think you love things the way they are.” – Deluded speculation on your part. “Enjoy it while it lasts.” – Deluded, vainglorious fantasies of forthcoming victory on your part.

    “Hey there, Carnation, I have insightful intuition that you couldn’t even dream of. To me, you are as transparent as fibreoptic cable.”

    Your second sentence here proves that the preceeding one is best described as “wishful thinking.”

    “I can’t say I blame you being all “I want, I want, I want… everything is ok for me, me, me….I don’t need to consider others….etc.””

    Projection much?

    “I have to recognise that there are people out there who can’t force any type of causal link between cause and effects which aren’t more than a few nanometres detached. You will never accept any argument that doesn’t fit with your rigid, inflexible, restrictive, viewpoint.”

    Projection much?

    “I’d love to see a complete spectrum of role reversal spanning right across the media and then see what you’d have to say about life.”

    I’m sure you would. It won’t ever happen though, will it? But, as usual, some people (including some feminists) have done more than furiously blogging about something and did it:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/caitlincowie/what-happens-when-you-replace-the-women-in-ads-with-men

    And a bit more here:

    http://www.genderads.com/

    “What do you think this says to a child who’s watching this day after day, year after year? do you think it affects their perception at all?”

    I’d wonder why a child was allowed to watch adverts day after day, year after year (ditto for Xbox).

  35. carnation says

    @ 123454321

    #33

    What’s your alternative? I think you actually agree with me, but just need to get an MRA rant in there, so I’ve put my ripostes in [] for you.

    What, you mean the industries where women don’t want to work [were traditionally excluded from], but young men wanting to support their families [or get some money for booze, holidays, bets, clothes, uni etc, just like young women in work] are generally socially encouraged to participate in, despite requiring few qualifications [erm, qualified tradespersons are highly skilled, qualified and sought after - as are their managers], being dirty, long hours [sounds exactly like the caring and hospitality professions too, doesn't it?]and where workplace injuries and fatalities are extremely high by industry standards [this doesn't make any sense - if you're hinting that mining was/is dangerous, yes it is - one of the reasons it was comparatively very well paid]?

    “Perhaps if you were in charge, that would open up more opportunity for women to fill board-room spaces?”

    If I was in charge of what? Sec of State for Re-nationalising manufacturing & industry? Women on boards wouldn’t be a priority; once I’d passed laws giving more powers to Unions, I would ensure that the old school sexism practised within them was phased out and would definitely legislate for better representation of women and minorities amongst shop-stewards.

  36. Darren Ball says

    @carnation #30

    Education is important, in and of itself. It is one of the greatest privileges we have. It means I can sit here having this argument with you, for a start.

    As for, who’s saying this and do they have any influence?

    I read a series of papers collated under the overall heading “Gender in Education” They were published by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. It was riddled with feminist dogma from the start, with statements like:

    “We both [two women] thought the focus on boys’ ‘underachievement’ was in danger of dominating the policy agenda. We both believed that teachers needed to be reminded and kept informed about wider equality issues, including the ongoing debate about girls’ and young women’s achievements in the context of school and the workplace…For me it was a wonderful collaboration between
    women that is part of the way feminists try to work.”

    Elsewhere one of the authors wrote something to the effect “does it matter that girls have an advantage in school when they suffer disadvantage in the workplace?”

    This at a time when we have 50% more female than male graduates.

    I took these papers to be highly indicative of influential feminists, at the heart of our education system, who have deliberately shat on a generation of boys’ education.

    Ally – sorry if we’re going off-thread?

  37. redpesto says

    Darren Ball #29:

    The relative decline of boys’ education started abruptly in 1987/88 – the first two years that the GCSE was introduced, The situation deteriorated around 2000 ish when boys fell behind at A-level (I strongly suspect that the A-level was fiddled with too). All of this happened long after most CEO’s left school.

    There’s a correlation/causation problem here. The repeated accusation is that it’s all the fault of ‘girly’ coursework, without any proper/evidenced explanation of why/how girls are better at coursework and boys are better at exams (beyond people claiming that’s the case).

    The ‘gender gap’ could be instead down to class (see Carnation’s argument about the decline of heavy industry), but as the boys are behind the girls it does not ‘fit’ a ‘narrative’ where it can be explained in terms of discrimination (one of the reasons that the research and media coverage appears to be patchy or driven by crude ‘battle of the sexes’ tropes).

  38. redpesto says

    Darren Ball #36 – I don’t know about influential, but it does look like a rather obvious attempt to change the subject rather than ‘shit’ on boys.

  39. redpesto says

    carnation:

    Women on boards wouldn’t be a priority

    I’m surprised ‘women in the boardroom’ isn’t on Ally’s ‘shits I could not give’ list.

  40. carnation says

    @ Darren Ball

    Education is indeed a privilege.

    You quote from what was a discussion paper from 2004 entited “GENDER in education 3 – 19: A fresh approach”

    You then said “This at a time when we have 50% more female than male graduates.”

    You were wrong, at the time there were 1.49% more female than male students, though this has changed:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-314026/The-university-sex-ratio-table.html

    Do you have a source for the claim that there are 50% more female than male graduates?

    Discussion documents like the one that you quoted from aren’t a “smoking gun”, they are documents that list discussions taking place. They don’t list policy decision made.

    Michael Gove is harming the most vulnerable boys (and girls) far more than any feminist ever could, simply because he is the one with influence.

    Again, it’s misdiagnosis. Problem: boys are underachieving. Diagnosis: Let’s unearch some tenuous “feminist” connection and blame that.

    It’s really, really not helpful.

  41. Darren Ball says

    @redpesto #37

    I’ve just dug out the actual figures:

    Between 1975 and 1986 the gender gap varied between 0 and 3 percentage points for those obtaining 5+ GCSE A* to C grades. The mean was about 2 percentage points in favour of girls.

    In 1988 this gap shot up to 6 percentage points, in 1988 it climbed to about 9 percentage points, in 1990 it was 11 percentage points. It has been around 10 percentage points ever since.

    The year that the GCSE was introduced was 1987.

    So if 50 percent of girls achieve 5+ GCSEs at A* to C, only about 40 percent of boys will. So 10 percentage points means 25% more girls than boys doing well at age 16.

    Nobody is absolutely certain why this has happened, but the empirical evidence is clear that the changes to either the curriculum or the testing has resulted in a massive disconnect for boys at school.

    Nobody really knows why there are more male MPs – there’s only theories, but that doesn’t stop us wanting to resolve the problem.

  42. carnation says

    @ Red Pesto

    Ally explained to Mike Buchanan, at some length, how much of sh!t he couldn’t give on “women in the boardroom” back in the good ol’ days when Mike liked me more :(

    @ Mike Buchanan

    If you’re reading, I’m guessing that you haven’t been this happy since Labour lost the election? UKIP have done well.

    @ Red Pesto/Darren Ball

    Why girls perform better at school is a simply huge discussion. Socialisation, the role of authority, role-models, teaching methods, maturity levels, peer pressure, interest and media all have some influence. I’ll tell you what doesn’t: feminism.

  43. says

    I love this blog.

    Whenever as a man I start to feel a bit MRAish, there are some wonderful contributors here that slap it right out of me*.

    Thanks Ally

    *excuse the language please, its where I’m from.

  44. 123454321 says

    “have done more than furiously blogging about something and did it:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/caitlincowie/what-happens-when-you-replace-the-women-in-ads-with-men

    You have chosen to link to a reversal of roles for sexualisation of females only. A sexy or beautiful female could be seen as a power that they have, possibly? It’s potentially a positive thing, maybe, to be seen as sexy, yes?

    Now try role reversal for smelly, dirty men eating with their mouths full. Oh, sorry, forgot, KFC did that one and the advert got pulled. Perhaps try one where the man gets smacked in the balls or even put in a dog kennel for misbehaving.

  45. redpesto says

    Da\rren Ball #41:

    Between 1975 and 1986 the gender gap varied between 0 and 3 percentage points for those obtaining 5+ GCSE A* to C grades.

    Except (a) the GCSE didn’t exist in 1975; (b) the use of ‘norm referencing’ rather than criterion-referencing meant the percentage of passes at each grade was fixed; (c). you still need the empirical evidence that it was the changes to the assessment patterns that caused the shift (the anecdotal version says that girls are more diligent when doing their coursework – but that could be down to the very same socialisation that encourages girls to be ‘people pleasers’ in the first place).

  46. 123454321 says

    “Oh dear… You don’t get it.”

    er…yes I do…it’s you I don’t get.

  47. Darren Ball says

    @40 Carnation

    I have been a bit sloppy with the 50% figure – thanks for pulling me up on it.

    However, the figures I gave at #41 should have been enough cause for concern, even if it hadn’t at that stage filtered through to university.

    As for the here and now, I can’t find my original source; the best I could find was this from 2011-12: http://www.theguardian.com/education/datablog/2013/jan/29/how-many-men-and-women-are-studying-at-my-university

    If you download the spreadsheet you will be able to calculate that 58 percent of degrees were awarded to women and 42 percent to men. so that’s 38% more female graduates in 2011-12. Although I can’t find my original source at the moment, would you bet against that 58/42 having slipped to 60/40 since 2011-12.

    I appreciate though that’s not a full answer. I will take another look later.

  48. redpesto says

    carnation:

    Why girls perform better at school is a simply huge discussion. Socialisation, the role of authority, role-models, teaching methods, maturity levels, peer pressure, interest and media all have some influence. I’ll tell you what doesn’t: feminism.

    Funnily enough, that was the point I was making – that boys’ underachievement doesn’t fit a feminist analysis in terms of discrimination. If you want to read that as an attempt to ‘blame’ feminism rather than suggest that the gender gap might be a bit more complex (for any and all the reasons you describe), that’s your decision.

  49. Darren Ball says

    redpesto #46

    Obviously the GCSE didn’t exist in 1975. I should have said “GCSE or equivalent” (as the original data says) but I thought it was obvious in the context.

    The jump from 2% to 10% being exactly coincident with the GCSE replacing the O-level cannot reasonably be explained in any other way.

  50. Darren Ball says

    Carnation ~42

    “Why girls perform better at school is a simply huge discussion. Socialisation, the role of authority, role-models, teaching methods, maturity levels, peer pressure, interest and media all have some influence. I’ll tell you what doesn’t: feminism.”

    The attainment gap we have today started with the introduction of the GCSE. The jump is too abrupt to be caused by socialisation, role-models, etc. How did those things change so abruptly over two years? And what have you to say about the quotes I gave you – do you think they’re not feminist ideology at work in our education system?

  51. carnation says

    @ Darren Ball

    “And what have you to say about the quotes I gave you – do you think they’re not feminist ideology at work in our education system?”

    No, I most definitely do NOT think that’s feminist ideology at work in our education system. For me to think that, there would need to be actual evidence of “feminist ideology” influencing teaching policy and praxis.

    Quote a discussion paper, from a decade ago, proves nothing, except the paucity of evidence for your assertions.

    “The attainment gap we have today started with the introduction of the GCSE. The jump is too abrupt to be caused by socialisation, role-models, etc. How did those things change so abruptly over two years?”

    I’m not convinced by your theorising – I think it’s deeply, deeply flawed. That said, it seems neither of us are educational experts. All I do know is that there is no feminist conspiracy in schools to consistently fail boys.

  52. SteveF says

    The same achievement gender gap in education is occurring in the US as well. It’s not the fault of a certain test/type of testing. There are a number of factors that Carnation mentioned that are likely involved to one degree or another.

    Some claim the gap doesn’t matter as much because men have more ways of generating a living wage without a college degree than women, but many of those jobs are disappearing in the US (and I assume they are already mostly long gone in the UK).

    If there can be a criticism of feminism in this regard, it would only apply to the fringe and only to the extent that fringe attempts to make it socially/politically unacceptable to be an activist for men’s interests.

  53. Shatterface says

    Whatever the role, television, film and popular magazines are full of images of women and girls who are typically white, desperately thin, and made up to the hilt—even after slaying a gang of vampires or dressing down a Greek phalanx.

    The point of Buffy was that she wasn’t supposed to look smart or tough – that she looked like some brainless fashion victim. Which is precisely what she was at the start of the movie.

    The whole series played with our expectations.

    If she’d looked like some muscular brainiac who never troubled herself with soap, let alone hair product, the show wouldn’t have been subverting expectations, it would simply have been fulfilling them..

    You’d think actually calling the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer might have clued critics in to the fact it was setting up expectations and then turning them on their head.

  54. gjenganger says

    @Carnation, SteveF et al.

    If there can be a criticism of feminism in this regard, it would only apply to the fringe and only to the extent that fringe attempts to make it socially/politically unacceptable to be an activist for men’s interests.

    There is a fair amount of feminist-paranoia around, OK. But I really think you are missing the obvious. If you are old enough, you remember that once upon a time girls were systematically underachieving in maths and sciences, many professions were heavily male, etc. This was seen as a great a problem, and many things were proposed to deal with it – by mainstream feminism. Special efforts, role models, making maths seem friendly and attractive to girls, putting gender balance as an important objective for organisations,with targets and initiatives, etc. And one of the biggest efforts was in changing language and image. Stop using male pronouns, male job titles, change the way people talk in the expectation that this would change behaviour. All these things were done, and society has duly changed.

    And now, we see:
    - Boys are systematically underachieving in education – and the feminist side cannot see why there is anything worth worrying about.
    - Men can be sterotyped as idiots all through the media – and the people who insisted that language shapes thought and social roles, now say that this makes no difference.
    - Gender roles and behaviour has changed through society, pretty much in the way that feminists sought and fought for – and people like Carnation tell that feminism and the social currents it promoted have nothing to do with anything.

    Not very consistent, is it?

  55. carnation says

    @ Gjganger

    In essence, what you are saying is that feminists identified a problem, took some steps to address that problem, were successful and now you’re aggrieved that they haven’t identified the problem that you (and others) are identifying and addressing that.

    Let’s assume you’re correct (I don’t think you are, feminism’s role in educational attainment is insignificant), then we are back to the tired old argument of how the mythical all powerful feminists aren’t ditching their mission statements to address the concerns of others, somewhat ironically, the concerns of those who are often disturbingly opposed to feminists.

    Ally has elsewhere made the excellent point that many services are provider led. There are many excellent projects aimed directly at young males and supporting them into employment (and some for young females).

    “- Men can be sterotyped as idiots all through the media – and the people who insisted that language shapes thought and social roles, now say that this makes no difference.”

    To back this up you’d need to source quotes from individuals who published or vocally supported feminist critiques of the media, then you’d have to actually prove, beyond jumping on a blog bandwagon, that this problem a/ exists and b/ is as widespread as you claim.

    What I find very telling is that MRAs don’t take issue with leading male characters being portrayed as, for example, murderous drug manufacturing geniuses or bootlegging corrupt politicians, but portray a man as a harmless, loveable buffoon and that affects the MRA psyche. Now, I’m not Freud, but I think that speaks volumes. I wonder if I could get funding to research that…

    ” Gender roles and behaviour has changed through society, pretty much in the way that feminists sought and fought for – and people like Carnation tell that feminism and the social currents it promoted have nothing to do with anything.”

    Wrong again, the only change in society that I said feminism had nothing to do with is boys underachieving in school. I said that for the simple and self-evident reason that it’s true.

    Feminists don’t create of significantly influence educational policy. Nor do they create advertisements or sitcoms.

    And we are back to where we are when debating with anti-feminists: there is no credible evidence to support the hypothesis put forward, there isn’t even a call for research to be carried out, and there is no question of any activism to support marginalised males – there’s just unsubstantiated bitterness directed at a nonexistent all-powerful threat.

    I’m not one to accuse others of entitlement, and when it comes to MRAs, I’ve often said that it isn’t a sense of entitlement that drives their angry theorising, it’s angry inadequacy but I’m not so sure about that now.

    To expect such far out theories to be taken seriously without any evidence smacks of entitlement. Please note I don’t include all of the commenters here.

    Finally, the politesse of this conversation has been a pleasant surprise.

  56. 123454321 says

    “What I find very telling is that MRAs don’t take issue with leading male characters being portrayed as, for example, murderous drug manufacturing geniuses or bootlegging corrupt politicians,”

    Entirely wrong once again. Many men are becoming fed up of being cast in an evil light time after time as murderous rapists etc.

    Carnation, the more I read your posts the more I realise how disappointed you will be when the current climate of male-bashing finally recedes and leaves you shipwrecked along with the rest of the dying breed of feminists.

    “Feminists don’t create of significantly influence educational policy”

    What! Feminism has pretty much influenced everything, including education. Some of it has been good and I commend the areas where sexism against females has been tackled and eradicated. It’s the pendulum problem I have an issue with. It needs to come back down and kick some people up the arses to realign their egotistical, selfish social irresponsibility back with reality.

  57. carnation says

    @ 123454321

    Debating with you is akin to deconstructing two strands of fantasies: one strand depicts the mythical, all powerful, multifaceted enemy (feminism), the other strand is the approaching epoch of justice when their misrule is brought to an end and people will acknowledge that MRAs were right all along.

    Some statements by you that confirm my theories about you:

    The all powerful feminist enemy fantasy:

    “What! Feminism has pretty much influenced everything, including education. Some of it has been good and I commend the areas where sexism against females has been tackled and eradicated. It’s the pendulum problem I have an issue with. It needs to come back down and kick some people up the arses to realign their egotistical, selfish social irresponsibility back with reality.”

    Revenge/redemption fantasy:

    “Carnation, the more I read your posts the more I realise how disappointed you will be when the current climate of male-bashing finally recedes and leaves you shipwrecked along with the rest of the dying breed of feminists.”

    It’s difficult to debate with someone whose entire theoretical stance is based on self serving fantasy. You’re not alone, MRA “leaders” posit themselves as victims of an imaginary oppressor (feminism) whilst simultaneously identifying themselves as the brave liberators of this oppression. It’s whats known as a “drama triangle”, and you’ve fallen for it hook, line and sinker. It’s kinda sad.

    This particular discussion with you is concluded, you have no substance to offer.

  58. gjenganger says

    @Carnation 57

    Finally, the politesse of this conversation has been a pleasant surprise.

    Thanks, we do try. I will say that it takes some work though. And your habit of answering in dismissive asides (“wrong again”), and simply taking for granted that you are right (“…for the obvious reason that it is true”) does not actually make it easier.

    In essence, what you are saying is that feminists identified a problem, took some steps to address that problem, were successful and now you’re aggrieved that they haven’t identified the problem that you (and others) are identifying and addressing that.

    Let’s assume you’re correct (I don’t think you are, feminism’s role in educational attainment is insignificant), then we are back to the tired old argument of how the mythical all powerful feminists aren’t ditching their mission statements to address the concerns of others, somewhat ironically, the concerns of those who are often disturbingly opposed to feminists.

    Ally has elsewhere made the excellent point that many services are provider led. There are many excellent projects aimed directly at young males and supporting them into employment (and some for young females).

    That might have made sense – if we were talking about individual projects or small groups. Activists who help homeless men in Glasgow do not need to consider the interests of those who campaign against genital mutilation in Bradford, since the two tasks neither compete not conflict. Nor need the blind worry about allowing space for the interests of the seeing – the seeing have the numbers to get all they need and more. But women are not a minority, they are half the population (as are men) and either group is powerful enough to condition society in their image – if things go their way. There can be only one norm for what can be said on public media, only one set of gender roles, only one education system, only one set of rules for selecting job candidates. Educational resources are limited, so is public sympathy and column inches, so is the number of good jobs. A sufficiently powerful group (like women, or men for that matter) must face up to the fact that optimising the system for their own needs can impose a lot of costs on other groups. Of course you can choose to disregard it, and adopt some kind of Social Darwinism. “I fight for my people, we intend to win, and shit on the losers!” That has not been the traditional ideology of the women’s movement. But unless you want to end there, you cannot continue to claim that anybody who is not a woman is no concern of yours.

    “- Men can be stereotyped as idiots all through the media – and the people who insisted that language shapes thought and social roles, now say that this makes no difference.”
    To back this up you’d need to source quotes from individuals who published or vocally supported feminist critiques of the media, then you’d have to actually prove, beyond jumping on a blog bandwagon, that this problem a/ exists and b/ is as widespread as you claim.

    Not really, no. It seems obvious to me that the women’s movement past and present is up in arms against anything from unpleasant stereotypes to objectifying descriptions to demeaning insults – against women – and that very similar attitudes against men are pretty much ignored by the movement. It makes no difference to my argument whether insults against men are either a significant problem or worse for men than for women. One way or the other the women’s movement generally shows no desire to grant to others the rights and protections they claim for themselves.

    If you do not see the things that I see maybe we do not live in the same world, but in that case quotes and statistics will not help either. I think we must let the people who read us judge which world they find easier to recognise.

  59. Darren Ball says

    @Carnation 53

    I shared with you a book (not a discussion piece) dated 2003 on the subject of gender in education”, which is 15 years into a the relative decline of boys’ education that persists today.

    One would have thought that the huge abrupt and sustained relative decline of boys’ education attainment would have been the main concern for a book considering education in the context of gender. I have already quoted some of the surprising paragraphs from the Acknowledgements chapter in which it was very clear that this would not be the case:

    “We both thought the focus on boys’ ‘underachievement’ was in danger of dominating the policy agenda. We both believed that teachers needed to be reminded and kept informed about wider equality issues, including the ongoing debate about girls’ and young women’s achievements in the context of school and the workplace. … For me it was a wonderful collaboration between women that is part of the way feminists try to work.”

    Here is clear evidence that they had approached this from a feminist perspective and that the issue of boys’ relative educational decline was not top priority, but rather they were going to focus very much on areas were girls are disadvantaged (despite their overall advantage), and women’s lack of progress in the workplace.

    The book focuses mostly on issues affecting girls (do they spend as much time with Lego,computers etc, do they make the “right” subject choices, and so on), and mention of the glass ceiling for women in the workplace which might justify giving girls some advantage at school. On the subject of the gender attainment gap experienced by boys, the introduction has little more than this to say:

    “Boys’ underachievement is debatable, as several chapters in this book discuss”

    Although we now know, what should have been obvious then, that boys’ underachievement has led to a massive skew in favour of women graduating university (as before, at least 38% more female graduates than male – and probably higher).

    From Chapter Two we learn that prior to the introduction of the GCSE girls performed very slightly better than boys (about 2%). Efforts were then taken to improve educational outcomes for girls. They did so in 1987/88 with the introduction of the GCSE and other changes to the curriculum. The change was so abrupt that there is no other credible explanation. The situation has remained ever since. 15 years into this, The Association of Teachers and Lecturers publish a book on gender in education in which they focus mostly on girls education and are keen to ensure that the huge relative failure of boys is not the dominant issue; this justified in part, at least by the gender pay gap and and glass ceiling.

    I know it’s only one book, but that’s why in my first post on the subject I only claimed that this was “highly indicative” of feminists ideology at work, rather than absolute proof. This was very cautious of me: if it had contained a few racist comments and I said this book is highly indicative of racism ideology in the education system at the time, I’m sure you would have not demanded to see more and later examples.

  60. 123454321 says

    Gjenganger, totally agree and well said, especially with this:

    “One way or the other the women’s movement generally shows no desire to grant to others the rights and protections they claim for themselves.”

    Who wants to guess what Carnation’s response will be? Something like: “well if men are so worried about their current social state of affairs then why don’t they do something about it rather than simply complaining on the internet!”.

    Hmmm, how did the voting turn out. A bit of a protest vote going on out there, eh, Carnation? Could we ever get to the bottom of all the reasons as to why people are fed up out there? Do you think there could be hidden, taboo variables?

    Carnation, you are sounding more and more like you’re shit-scared of change. You never had it so good, you’ve reached an all-time high….. but where there’s an up…..as they say…

  61. carnation says

    Given recent events, and Ally’s latest post, I thought about whether I should respond. But I will give some concluding remarks, then my participation in this discussion is concluded.

    @ Gjganger

    Your POV seems to be that the women’s movement should do more for males. Which in and of itself is an interesting point, but one that is purely academic – it would require a section of the various strands that composes the women’s movement a/ identifying and agreeing with what you are saying, b/ re-constituting or constituting existing provision c/ dramatically changing their ethos, mission statement and praxis.

    Women’s Aid, for example, have offered male only DV provision, so it might happen. But it seems somewhat incredible that anti-feminist would complain that feminists don’t do enough to help males.

    Look forward to debating with you in future.

    @ Darren Ball

    Your continuing insistence that the discussion paper you quoted is significant confirms that you are not familiar with how policy, lobbying, consultation and government works. Quite frankly, it’s impossible to have a sensible discussion with someone who is so convinced of something that is so obviously untrue.

    “I know it’s only one book, but that’s why in my first post on the subject I only claimed that this was “highly indicative” of feminists ideology at work, rather than absolute proof. This was very cautious of me: if it had contained a few racist comments and I said this book is highly indicative of racism ideology in the education system at the time, I’m sure you would have not demanded to see more and later examples.”

    This is a strawman. And, actually, because I understand polity and policy, I would have understood that some academics having a discussion has zero impact on reality. It can, of course, have some influence, but you will be absolutely unable to find the links (beyond the simplistic “some feminists said X, boys are doing worse, therefore it is feminist ideology at play).

    Neo-conservatism (and Neo-liberalism) are examples of academic ideology being adopted by politicians , with extremely wide-ranging effects. What you are attempting to prove simply doesn’t exist.

    @ 123454321

    You have given a sterling example of the type of optimistic delusion so typical of your politics. That you think the recent elections had anything to do with feminism demonstrates very clearly how intensely self-servingly delusional you are.

    “Who wants to guess what Carnation’s response will be? Something like: “well if men are so worried about their current social state of affairs then why don’t they do something about it rather than simply complaining on the internet!”.”

    Close – if self declared “men’s rights advocates” are so concerned … then why don’t they do something about it instead of inventing enemies?

    it’s a valid question.

  62. Darren Ball says

    SteveF #54

    Could it be true that there are feminists within the US education system too?

    A very common view amongst feminists is that we’re “blank slates” and that observed differences between boys’ and girls’ are learnt. If you believe this, then “feminising” the education system will not disadvantage boys, it will just mean that to succeed, boys will need to adopt behaviour that’s traditionally been more feminine, and they see this as unquestionably good.

    I have no trouble believing that such thinking in education policy in western countries has been influenced by a common belief system along these lines, and if they’re wrong, then we could see all these countries making the same mistakes.

    Carnation’s list of other factors were: “Socialisation, the role of authority, role-models, teaching methods, maturity levels, peer pressure, interest and media”.

    Did any of these change abruptly in 1987/88? No. From Chaprter 2 of the book I referenced above:

    “Until 1987/88 the overall trend in the gender gap was small and relatively static. Then there was a sudden jump in the size of the gap over a two year period until the gap stabilised again at a considerably higher level from 1988/89 onwards. A number of changes occurred at the same time as this sharp rise. CSE and GCE were merged into GCSE; annual rises in qualification attainment began; there was a move from norm-referencing to criterion-referencing; there was an increase in coursework and changes in the nature of recording and publishing results. All of these changes provide a rich source of explanations for the sudden increase in the gender gap. It is peculiarly naïve to assume, as the DfES and some researchers in this field appear to, that the assessment system is gender neutral and that any differential is related to genuine discrepancies in achievement or performance. The dramatic shift from 1987/89 and relative stasis in the gender gap both before and after this period suggest that many potential explanations are untenable. In particular, this pattern of change over time is unlikely to be the result of a cultural change in society, or the direct outcome of new styles of teaching. Whatever is deemed to have produced the change, it must be almost instant in impact, and one-off in nature. Such a conclusion has serious implications for the conduct of future work, and for the validity of previous work in this area. Any useful causal explanation should focus on attainment at all levels, not just at the lowest. In effect, this differential attainment cannot be attributed to the ‘usual explanatory suspects’, for example, a cultural change in society, new methods of teaching, seating arrangements in schools, mixed-sex classes, boys’ laddishness, or poor attendance at school.”

    The cause and effect are obvious!

  63. Darren Ball says

    @Carnation 63

    The feminists movement has long positioned itself as a force for gender equality, and in more recent years has focused on equality of outcome, rather than equality of opportunity. Boys and young men are having significantly worse outcomes than women across a broad range of areas, including education, mental health, physical health, addiction, suicide, homelessness and incarceration (I appreciate that some of these have common causes).

    I have never seen any feminist group or organisation campaigning to bring equality to these problems: on the contrary, they usually take an area where men/boys are undoubtedly disadvantaged, but find a sub-set of that where women/girls are disadvantaged and then make that a cause celebre. For instance: don’t focus on boys failing at school, focus on girls not choosing maths.

    If feminism won’t fight for men’s and boys’ issues as part of a campaign for gender equality of outcomes, then who will? Men grouping together to focus on these issues are very often accused of being misogynist. Not only does feminism refuse to fight for these issues, they won’t let men fight for them either: that’s a twist of the knife.

    Coming back to the particular point of boys failing at school and what evidence there is that there’s a feminist agenda at work. I would start with: we know what caused the problem so we know how to solve the problem. 26 years later we haven’t bothered, despite the proportion of male graduates in rapid decline. Based upon outcomes, we have evidence of huge ambivalence of the relative failure of boys and young men in the education sector. This outcome is completely consistent with the attitudes displayed in the book I referenced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>