Defining gender-inclusive politics


A few of my more recent posts have used the phrase ‘gender-inclusive’ to describe the type of policy and political approach I advocate here. It’s led to a few interesting exchanges, and I think a few misapprehensions, among the comments, so I thought it would be worth spelling out what I mean by the term. I should stress that this is very much an idea in development, and I very much hope readers will contribute thoughts to the conversation down below.

A few months ago I was putting the world to rights with my pal Duncan from Survivors Manchester, when there was a mention of gender-neutral approaches to sexual violence support services. “No,” Duncan interjected. “We don’t need a gender-neutral approach. We need a gender-inclusive approach.”

That proved to be something of a lightbulb moment for me. The more I thought about it, the more appropriately it described the types of policies I’d like to see in all sorts of areas, not just around intimate violence but every topic from educational underachievement to men’s mental health to prison reform.

So, what do I mean by gender-inclusive?

Since we live in a fiercely gendered society, many areas of public policy have a gendered dynamic or require an element of gender analysis. (That is not a feminist or partisan statement by the way – if you believe male suicide rates are a problem requiring action, then you are already on board with gender politics.)

As I see it, only three approaches to gender-based policy are possible.  These are: 1/ Gender-neutral policy. 2/ Gender-exclusive policy, and 3/ Gender-inclusive policy.  If anyone can think of a fourth, I will be all ears, but until then allow me to spell them out as I understand each.

Gender-neutral policy

This is a superficially attractive approach, but in many respects profoundly inappropriate. Gender-neutral policies treat everyone as ‘people’ without gender. The problem is we do not live as people without gender, we live in a society that expects us to behave and live according to gender scripts.

One of the more abhorrently ignorant liberal political trends of the past year or so has been the ‘All Lives Matter’ meme, that emerged rapidly in the wake of Black Lives Matter. It was a profoundly reactionary slogan, because the original BLM hashtag accurately situated the deaths of young African-American (mostly) men at the hands of police into the context of structural and institutional racism. ‘Black Lives Matter’ was a desperate cry of response to a society that appeared to insist that black lives don’t matter. Appropriating that slogan to insist that ALL lives matter instantly depoliticised those deaths, removed their political context, served to deny the very existence of a racial dynamic, and in the process helping to sustain that institutional and structural racism.

In many respects, calls for gender-neutral policies and services are the All Lives Matter of gender-politics. Gender-neutrality strips away the politics, the social processes, the structures of a gendered society. I don’t think it matters much what your politics are, whether you are feminist or masculinist, radical or liberal or post-Marxist social theorist, gender-neutrality blocks your analysis and input and freezes gender issues in aspic as if we lived in some post-gender utopia.

There is also a practical issue, in many areas of policy. To return to the example above, The people and organisations who are best placed to work with female survivors of sexual and intimate violence are those with proper understanding of female-specific gender issues. The same is true for men, and the same is true in a long list of gender-related policy issues, from educational underachievement to mental health to international development.

Gender-exclusive policy

The direct opposite of gender-inclusive policy is not gender-neutral, it is gender-exclusive policy. What is that? Well, if your social policy is designed with one and only one gender dynamic in mind, then you’re gender-exclusive. A pure Duluth Model approach to domestic violence, for example, is one example of an explicitly gender-exclusive policy.

Gender-exclusiveness, however, takes considerable mental gymnastics to sustain. A classic example is the categorisation of all sexual and intimate crimes as “violence against women and girls.” When Martin Daubney was on BBC Daily Politics last week talking (very effectively, I must add) about male DV victims, Tory minister Brandon Lewis pointed out that the £80m of funding just awarded to prevent violence against women could also be used to fund activities for male victims. I wish Martin or someone had pointed out that we really shouldn’t be funding male-specific services in this way, for two reasons. The first is that every penny of that £80m (and then some) is needed for women’s organisations, and service providers should not be dipping into it to help men here and there, which immediately has the effect of pitting male and female victims against each other in competition for resources.

The second reason is that it is not desirable, or constructive for male victims and survivors to be told that what they have experienced is “violence against women.”  Issues around demasculation and male pride amongst survivors are complex enough without the government telling them that they are being categorized as women and girls in the funding of their services.

It is this type of effort to squeeze diverse and multifarious gender dynamics (and I very much include issues such as violence in same-sex relationships or the exclusion of trans people from services in all of this) which leads advocates to desperate, counterfactual denialism over rates of violence or the numbers of male survivors, or the attitude that male survivors and their advocates are somehow a threat to women and their needs.

Gender-inclusive policy

If I may offer one example of how gender-based policy can differ, let’s look at education.

A gender-neutral approach assumes all children are identical (at least across gender lines) and would, for instance, preclude policy measures to encourage girls or boys into areas where they were underperforming or under-represented.

A gender-exclusive approach would educate girls and boys alike but then look for areas where girls are underperforming, notably STEM subjects, and make efforts to engage and inspire them, while entirely ignoring those areas where boys underperform. I would argue that in practise this is more or less what has been happening in the UK and many other countries in recent years.

A gender-inclusive policy would look for where girls are underperforming and seek to address those, while ALSO looking for areas where boys are underperforming (a long list) and devise strategies and policies to address those too. Everyone benefits.

Gender-inclusive politics is about recognising that girls and boys, women and men, have different gender-based experiences of society, different needs, different obstacles, different opportunities. It neither assumes nor requires any particular approach to gender politics (I would hope the principle could be accepted by feminists and non-feminists alike, for starters.) It is not really about demanding that everyone stays in their lane so much as asking for recognition that the lanes are there in the first place.

 

***

I believe there are three strong reasons for advocate gender-inclusive politics.

The first that it is an accurate reflection of society as it is. We do not live in a gender-neutral society and there are few elements to modern life that are genuinely gender exclusive. This is a political approach that reflects the real world.

The second is political and ethical: it is the right thing to do. You will look far and wide to find someone who would argue that a male rape survivor should not have access to services, and yet millions of men in this country live without a gender-appropriate service within a hundred miles of their home, purely because of their gender. That cannot be right.

The third reason is tactical and political. Debates around male-specific gender issues are often pitched as an argument between gender-exclusive and gender-neutral policies. For those who would actively obstruct and oppose providing help to men (whether for ideological or stingy fiscal reasons), that is a comparatively easy win. Arguing against gender-inclusive politics would be a much more tricky challenge. I’m not suggesting that advocates of gender-exclusive approaches will simply roll over, but I reckon this would at least help move the debate forward.

On that note, I will state again that this is very much a think-piece and I’ve put it here in the hope that readers will chew it up and spit it out and we’ll see how it looks when you are through.

Over to you.

 

Comments

  1. says

    I’m not sure how helpful this is in terms of stimulating debate, but everything you’ve said above makes perfect sense to me. Very clearly expressed, too. So, um… yes. I agree. :)

  2. dave73 says

    Well said. The approach of the past few decades has been gender exclusive, which can lead to the false notion that if one isn’t a feminist (even if one isn’t anti-feminist) then one must be anti-equality. That there could be other perspectives on gender equality besides feminism is incomprehensible to many, sometimes leading to the assumption that one must be an MRA. Your post provides a succinct way of reframing this false dichotomy.

  3. 123454321 says

    Brilliant. So now do we all agree that gender-inclusive is the way to go. I hope so. Because if someone doesn’t agree, we need to get to the bottom of why they don’t agree.

    By the way, gender-exclusive (which is the big problem we appear to have) could be split into two parts (this could be meaningful once scrutinised but potentially overcomplicates for the purpose of what you are doing here): a) gender-excluded based on purposeful decision, or b) gender-excluded based on lack of awareness/ignorance. A big difference.

    Getting to the bottom of this point will determine the strategy going forward.

  4. Carnation says

    @ 123454321

    “a) gender-excluded based on purposeful decision, or b) gender-excluded based on lack of awareness/ignorance. A big difference.”

    Why is this difference important to you? And what would you suggest doing to effectively promote gender inclusive services?

  5. 123454321 says

    “Why is this difference important to you?”

    Intelligence is important to everyone, not just me. Learning why people might purposefully or inadvertently dismiss a group adds to the intelligence and helps derive a better strategy. I have nothing more to add to that.

    “And what would you suggest doing to effectively promote gender inclusive services?”

    Raising awareness is the start. Awareness and debate helps improve the knowledge, facts, and thus intelligence surrounding the overall position. This levers the negotiation because, as I’ve said before, fairness doesn’t come for free, you have to earn it via negotiation.

    So awareness is the key. Which brings me back to point 1. We need to understand exactly why we’re seeing so much gender exclusion. Who makes the decisions and why. like i’ve said before, a slightly different edit attributed to a government campaign so as to NOT exclude a particular gender wouldn’t cost any more money.

  6. scoobertron says

    “It is not really about demanding that everyone stays in their lane so much as asking for recognition that the lanes are there in the first place.”

    I think this is the key point. Awareness of possible issues arising out of the person’s gender should be built into the way support is provided, but it shouldn’t restrict support or force a person down a particular gendered pathway. So male victims shouldn’t be prevented from accessing particular kinds of support because that support is seen as ‘female’. I struggle to think of particular scenarios, but I could see someone arguing that gender-inclusivity means we need to address childcare concerns for female victims of DV and be blind to the fact that this will be an issue for some male victims as well.

    My other concern is whether this could be a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. It would be fantastic to have a wealth of gender-inclusive resources available for men and women. But while we don’t have even a basic level of support for male victims, I wonder whether arguing for basic gender-neutral support – i.e. a bed in a DV shelter for all victims regardless of gender, would be more effective in the short-term.

  7. Ally Fogg says

    Thanks for the comments everyone, glad it’s been so positive so far.

    12345… & Carnation [3,4,5]

    I’m not so sure there’s ever a clear demarcation between the two positions. People on all sides of all political debates tend to interpret evidence to fit their beliefs, rather than the other way around. So it is not really about either ignorance or wilful disengagement, it’s more blurry combinations of the two.

    scoobertron [6]

    My other concern is whether this could be a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. It would be fantastic to have a wealth of gender-inclusive resources available for men and women. But while we don’t have even a basic level of support for male victims, I wonder whether arguing for basic gender-neutral support – i.e. a bed in a DV shelter for all victims regardless of gender, would be more effective in the short-term.

    No, I utterly disagree. I think any argument that could even appear to involve (say) taking a refuge bed away from a woman to provide it for a man is absolutely doomed to failure. The only argument that is in any way winnable, in the short term too, is to argue for services for men on top of / alongside services for women.

  8. Carnation says

    @ 12345… & Ally Fogg

    As I have written in the past, I think a lot of what is assumed to be “gender ideologues” diminishing the lived experiences of men is actually nothing more or less than the typical backstabbing, protectionism and parochialism of the third sector in the UK.

    I agree with you to a point Ally, but think at the moment a “men’s sector” (covering DV, suicide and dare I say it “liberation” from gender norms) would have to find it’s feet in an exclusive manner prior to effectively finding its voice and place in an inclusive strategy/strategies.

    An example is AMIS.

  9. scoobertron says

    @Ally
    “No, I utterly disagree. I think any argument that could even appear to involve (say) taking a refuge bed away from a woman to provide it for a man is absolutely doomed to failure. The only argument that is in any way winnable, in the short term too, is to argue for services for men on top of / alongside services for women.”

    I’m not necessarily talking about taking provision away from women. The gender-neutral goal of a bed for every DV victim could be achieved by securing further funding for more shelters, for example. Or making existing provision open to victims of both genders. And even if we are arguing that the government should have a dedicated fund for male victims, I suspect it will be more convincing to argue that male victims currently lack the basic support that all victims should be able to access, such as a bed in a shelter, rather than arguing that male victims have gender-specific needs which aren’t accommodated by gender-neutral support.

    That said, I don’t know how funding gets allocated for these things, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the government have a single pot of money for DV victims, rather than having different pots of money for male, female (black, homosexual, transgender …?) victims. If this is true, then any funds directed towards male victims will inevitably be taking money away from female victims, since they currently get most of the pot. Again, it may be more practical to argue, on the assumption that the government is not going to set up a separate fund specifically for male (and other) victims, that the existing pot of money for DV victims should be used for the basic needs (e.g. a bed in in a shelter) of all victims before we start considering the more complex issues that may or may not be faced by a victim of a particular gender.

    If you are able to secure a pot of public funds specifically for male victims of DV, to be spent on support which is carefully tailored to their needs as specifically male victims, then more power to you. But given the uphill struggle we seem to be having in securing even basic support for male victims, I am somewhat sceptical that this pot of money will appear. And I still suspect that the immediate need of most male victims – a place to go to escape their abuser – is not a gender specific need, so the mechanism of gender-inclusivity will add little to the existing arguments that we should take this need seriously.

  10. 123454321 says

    “I’m not so sure there’s ever a clear demarcation between the two positions. People on all sides of all political debates tend to interpret evidence to fit their beliefs…”

    Yes, and ‘beliefs’ is a complex word/area. ‘Beliefs’ are often derived from preconceived perceptions as to where the outcome ‘benefit’ should lie. The word ‘belief’ is too soft as you only ‘believe’ something once you’ve scrutinised the information/evidence you have been presented with (from wherever and often shaky) and then you conjure up your ‘belief’ and spread the word to the rest of the world, thinking and hoping that everyone else will think and believe as you do.

    But the word ‘belief’ (and I think you’re right in some ways to use that word) is a fundamental hurdle in our entire conversation. Ultimately, we’re talking here about where people ‘believe’ the ‘benefit’ should lie. And then we’re into the story of privilege, protection, rights, entitlement etc….gets messy again.

    What I’m trying to say is that people have beliefs based (ostensibly) around where they think they want the benefit to materialise. So if we replace your word ‘belief’ with ‘benefit’ we get:

    “I’m not so sure there’s ever a clear demarcation between the two positions. People on all sides of all political debates tend to interpret evidence to fit their benefits…”

    And that, Ally, is entirely interpretable via scrutiny and could open up clear lines of demarcation.

    For example, if you read Mumsnet, the forum members often regurgitate shit-piffle when it comes to mens issues, but they can be forgiven because they are largely ignorant due to a complete lack of awareness, mostly. Whereas many politicians driving the gravy train know EXACTLY what they are doing. So there is a requirement to a) raise awareness and provide factual evidence to the first group and b) expose the second group as uninformed so-called professionals who should know better. Two clear demarcations.

    Awareness>debate>negotiation>result. Two clear areas to tackle for your gender-exclusive pot, I’m afraid.

  11. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally,
    This will be long.

    I think you are misrepresenting gender neutrality a little, and consequently biasing the comparison with gender inclusivity. At least yours is not the only way to see it. To me, the difference is not (necessarily) of the outcome, but of the starting point. Gender neutrality sets the goals in terms of how to treat people, whereas gender inclusive and exclusive approaches both start from the analysis and interests of each individual group. But just because you want to help people based on their individual needs rather than their group membership, that does not mean that you have to give one-size-fits-all treatments, or ignore relevant distinctions between different life situations. You could (and should) end up in a situation where people from each group got help in a way that matched their particular situation and in proportion to their particular needs. It is just that you reserve the right to look at the problem and decide what the relative needs are based on evidence.

    As an example, take the campaign there was a while ago that women should not be put in prison (nearly as much, at least). That is gender-exclusive. The gender-neutral approach would be to say that we are probably putting people in prison too much. You then start analysing which people maybe should not be put in prison (non-violent offenders, the mentally ill, people who can be better rehabilitated elsewhere, …), and which groups of prisoners have particular needs. You may well end up deciding that the prisoners that should get non-custodial sentences are mostly female, or even that women have particular problems that makes it less appropriate to put them in prison than to put in men. But you would have a reason for doing it that had nothing to do with gender.

    Or take the discussion I recently had with Lucythoughts, about the ‘wage gap’. We agreed that women disproportionately chose the state sector and caring professions, that caring professions were clearly lower paid than other jobs that demanded equivalent or fewer skills (like industrial machine operators), and that the lower pay probably had at least something to do with the fact that these were seen as “women’s jobs”. Is there a problem, then, and if so, what is the problem? A gender neutral approach would be to ask whether the caring professions were objectively underpaid and should have their pay boosted relative to industrial workers or skilled tradesmen. Or whether women were prevented by discrimination or other nefarious processes from choosing the most lucrative professions. Depending on the answers you could then address the relevant causes and do some things that would improve the life of female care workers. The gender exclusive apprach would seem to be ‘women deserve more money, because they are women’, which rather begs the question. And the gender incusive approach would seem to be ‘women deserve more, becasue they are women, and men deserve more because they are men’, which does not highly make sense.

    As you describe them, the big difference between gender neutral and gender inclusive seems to be that the former reserves the right to analyse the offerings from each interest group, to compare their needs and analyses, to look for consistent criteria, and to set priorities. The latter takes it as given that each group is right, and that each should have what it wants. Indeed, you explicitly refuse either to set priorities or to look at overall resources. This certainly avoids conflict – why would it not, whan you are saying to everybody that they can and should have everything they want? But I think you are buying peace among activists at the cost of giving up on achieving sensible policies.

    Letting everybody have what they want assumes that there are no conflicts. But there are. For a start you can only offer everybody much more money, if there is a plentiful supply of the stuff. That works up to a point when you are talking about small groups in a wealthy society. Society can give quite a bit of support to particular needy groups as long as they are small and the cost can be spread across a much larger group of (e.g.) able-bodied taxpayers. But (much as I am getting tired of George Osborne) I cannot believe that all the money we could possibly want is there for the taking. Some kind of prioritising is unavoidable. It also falls down when you are talking about changing social norms. Here the cost is not in money but in changed behaviour and restraints on each individual – and making society fit better to one or the other minority group will make it fit less well around the majority. As for the big things like gendered job distributions – well, if women are supposed to get a much higher proportion of the well-paid jobs, who is going to get less?

  12. WineE.M. says

    Believe it or not, Ally, I think we’re in many ways on the same page on this. I’ve actually often said in the past that I would not mind all the Women and Work Committees and Enquiries etc. in Parliament – if similar schemes were extended to men and boys as well.

    The trouble we have is that the Gender Exclusive approach (i.e. towards women-only schemes) is so deeply entrenched that it might be rather naive to think a change would be achieved without a bit of a struggle or fight. After all, we know from experience that there are so many self-proclaimed feminists in the media world and in politics who expect – as given – that gender politics should be women-only, and (as with the pay-gap narrative) all about reductionist, positional competition between women and men.

    Further, you have only to look at Jeremy Corbyn’s Twitter page to see that even the left-wing of politics is treating having female-only gender exclusive politics as a badge of honour ,and an absolute mark of pride (cf. our discussion about the concept of women bearing “86% of the cuts” by defining child benefit as being “women’s money”.)

    And then when Jess Phillips and Phillip Davies had the disagreement about whether there should be a International Men’s Day debate, the only comment Corbyn thought fit to make about the affair was posting #ImWithJessPhillips, and drawing attention to the abuse that she got on an incredibly obscure forum that most people had never heard of and hardly anyone reads. Strangely, Twitter abuse was not Corbyn’s main focus of attention when Cooper and Creasy got angry comments over their support for bombing Syria, it was the actual issues that he suddenly cared about then.
    I would love to get into Jezza’s head, and to know what is driving his bigotry and hypocrisy, but since there’s next to zero chance he’ll ever be asked about this directly, I suppose we’ll never know.

  13. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally
    I’d like to add one more consideration:

    In your education example, I do not think that a gender-neutral approach would “preclude policy measures to encourage girls or boys into areas where they were underperforming or under-represented.“. But it should require you first to address questions like ‘what is happening’, ‘why is it happening’, ‘why is this a problem’? It is possible that the conclusion would be that gender differences in study choices are OK, and could be dealt with by gentle nudges, or left alone altogether. But it is not the only possible conclusion.

    On the other hand a gender-inclusive approach, as you describe it, could never reach that conclusion, since it would in practice be the feminists who decided on measures that advantaged women, and the ‘meninists’ (if any) who decided on measures that advantaged men. The only possible outcome would be to work for equal representation of both genders, and alternatives would not be even considered. Personally I am not convinced that it is an advantage to exclude certain options without examining them first.

  14. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger, thanks for the interesting posts.

    just because you want to help people based on their individual needs rather than their group membership, that does not mean that you have to give one-size-fits-all treatments, or ignore relevant distinctions between different life situations. You could (and should) end up in a situation where people from each group got help in a way that matched their particular situation and in proportion to their particular needs.

    No, I think what you are describing there is indeed a gender-inclusive approach. A process that results in people from different (gender) groups getting help that matches their particular (gender-based) situation in proportion to their particular needs is pretty much a good working definition of gender-inclusive. A gender-exclusive approach would not and does not allow for more than one gender to have particular needs, but a gender-neutral approach, by definition, excludes helping people according to their (collective) gender-group needs.

    The gender-neutral approach would be to say that we are probably putting people in prison too much. You then start analysing which people maybe should not be put in prison (non-violent offenders, the mentally ill, people who can be better rehabilitated elsewhere, …), and which groups of prisoners have particular needs.

    I think this is a good point and to an extent I would agree with you. I would suggest however that it is possible to put so many gender-relevant factors into play that you end up with a gender-inclusive policy anyway, and that is fine. (you could have a gender-neutral policy for pregnant prisoners, for example)

    But there are all sorts of gender-specific issues remaining for prison reform. Even something as simple as the fact that there are 20 times as many male as female prisoners creates issues – women are much more likely to be held in prison much further away from their families, for instance (purely because there are far fewer women’s prisons). That said, I still think there are enough highly pertinent gender issues at play in the whole field of crime and punishment that I’d argue it would be easier and preferable to have gender-inclusive approaches than gender-neutral ones.

    But as a more general point, yes, there will be some areas of policy or governance where it is actually better to be gender-neutral (the law, as written in statute, for instance). And if that is the case, then that is fine. I’m not saying everything should be gendered. I’m saying that where phenomena are gendered, policy should reflect that.

    As you describe them, the big difference between gender neutral and gender inclusive seems to be that the former reserves the right to analyse the offerings from each interest group, to compare their needs and analyses, to look for consistent criteria, and to set priorities. The latter takes it as given that each group is right, and that each should have what it wants.

    No, this fundamentally misunderstands what I am saying. It’s not about governing to give people what they want. It is about governing well, it is about asking ourselves how we frame our political thinking and how we could do so better.

    A gender neutral approach would be to ask whether the caring professions were objectively underpaid and should have their pay boosted relative to industrial workers or skilled tradesmen. Or whether women were prevented by discrimination or other nefarious processes from choosing the most lucrative professions. Depending on the answers you could then address the relevant causes and do some things that would improve the life of female care workers. The gender exclusive apprach would seem to be ‘women deserve more money, because they are women’, which rather begs the question. And the gender incusive approach would seem to be ‘women deserve more, becasue they are women, and men deserve more because they are men’, which does not highly make sense.

    No, again it makes no sense because you are entirely misunderstanding what I am saying.

    You’ve actually been demonstrating a gender-inclusive approach just by holding that debate. You’ve been saying “OK, so here’s women’s situation and how they’ve ended up there, and here’s men’s situation and how they’ve ended up there, now what if anything do we want to change?” A gender-inclusive approach to the pay gap would look at things like whether family circumstances or models of masculinity drive men to seek promotions and higher wages, why men work longer hours, why men do more dangerous and less desirable work etc etc etc. But a gender-inclusive approach would also provide space for men to come to a consensus that actually we prefer working long hours and earning more money. Or it might not.

    On the other hand a gender-inclusive approach, as you describe it, could never reach that conclusion, since it would in practice be the feminists who decided on measures that advantaged women, and the ‘meninists’ (if any) who decided on measures that advantaged men.

    And for the third time, no, you’re misunderstanding.

    I am not suggesting gender-inclusive politics should mean that women decide policy for women and men decide policy for men, that we have some sort of gender apartheid or that men and women should live according to different laws, different rules we make up ourselves or whatever.

    It is about how we, as a society, including men, women as individuals, politicians, civic leaders, media commentators & opinion formers, cultural creatives and all the other people that go to make up a society, how we all, together, create policy and deliver policy – social policy, educational policy etc etc etc. I’m suggesting that all of us, men and women at every level, should be able to look at educational results and say, you know what? It does seem that there is a problem inspiring girls to study maths, engineering, tech etc. Why is that? Can we do something about it? It is about all of us, men and women at all levels, looking at education and saying you know what? There’s a desperate shortage of teachers and for some reason not many boys seem to want to study to become teachers. Why is that? Can we do something about it?

    Now, when it comes to asking those two questions, I would suggest that the people best equipped to tell us why girls are underperforming might be women and girls, the best people to lead the effort to change that might be women and girls. When it comes to the boys, I’d suggest other men might be generally better equipped than women. Not always and not necessarily, but usually and probably.

    Make sense?

  15. Bugmaster says

    @Ally:
    I think that an effective gender-neutral approach — as opposed to the one you’ve presented — would strive to enable each person to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve, regardless of gender. The difference between that and your proposed gender-inclusive approach is subtle, but important.

    In your scenario, girls are under-performing at math, and we want to design a policy to deal with this situation.

    The gender-neutral approach would involve investigating whether there are any obstacles that are preventing girls from excelling at math; then, removing these obstacles, thus restoring gender neutrality.

    The gender-inclusive approach would also involve investigating whether there are any obstacles that are preventing girls from excelling at math and then removing these obstacles. In addition, it would involve a combination of punitive measures against schools where less than 50% of the math students are girls; as well as a series of mass media and educational campaigns aimed at convincing girls that their desires to study anything else besides math are wrong.

    Ultimately, the differences between the two approaches boil down to their long-term goals. The gender-neutral approach seeks to empower individuals; the gender-inclusive approach seeks to establish total gender parity. Sometimes, these goals come into conflict (though sometimes they do not).

  16. Ally Fogg says

    Bugmaster

    The gender-neutral approach seeks to empower individuals; the gender-inclusive approach seeks to establish total gender parity.

    No, I don’t think that works. That’s not how I see it at least. A gender-inclusive approach is not necessarily aiming for gender parity or any kind of equality, and meanwhile a gender-inclusive approach could easily be considered as a way of empowering individuals.

    The gender-neutral approach would involve investigating whether there are any obstacles that are preventing girls from excelling at math; then, removing these obstacles

    No, that is a gendered approach, not a gender-neutral one. A gender-neutral approach would be to say that boys and girls should all be given the same lessons, the same textbooks, the same exams, and if, after you’ve done that, you end up with far more boys than girls passing and progressing, than that is obviously AOK and just as things should be and it would be unfair to intervene further.

  17. 123454321 says

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I think the problems men and boys face are down to the exclusion issue rather than the inclusion issue. How many times have we all heard men and boys included in a conversation about, say, dv, or suicide, or homelessness, or MGM, then decidedly excluded as being exempt of consideration for whatever reason, usually accompanied by hostile vitriol. Gender-inclusive seems logical but it won’t get past the force of gender-exclusion, which operates so effectively throughout the veins of society, any time soon.

  18. Ally Fogg says

    [17]

    I think I agree with that, insofar as I think the debate that really matters is with gender-exclusive thinking.

    I’m genuinely curious to see who, if anyone, will be the first to say “Yes, I do believe in gender-exclusive services, and here is why…” .

    It would be an interesting, and I think very useful, exchange to have.

  19. StllGjenganger says

    @Ally

    Thanks. It looks like we favour mainly similar things, we just put them in different categories. As long as the definitions do not creep too much it does not matter if the things we agree about anyway are put in one or the other basket. So far so good.

    I do think there are a couple of points still to look at, on the margins. One is that, as Bugmaster points out, there is at least a difference of emphasis. On one side there is an emphasis on individual outcomes and removing individual obstacles – while recognising that problems and solutions may be different for specific groups or genders. On the other side there is an an emhpasis on group outcomes, group efforts, and group-specific analysis. That does determine what is considered a problem and what is considered a reasonable measure to address it.

    On another point, I notice that you are strongly insistent that there can be no argument that in any way considers looking at e.g. DV funding as a single pot and prioritising according to need – which might mean moving some money from women to men. Why is that? It would seem fairly obvious to allocate resources on some kind of priority list – if not to make a coalition and agree that each partners gets something in return for supporting the whole. That makes me worry a bit about the idea that women and girls should define policy on inclusion for women and girls, men should define policy for men, etc. It really looks like you are (also) protecting each group against outside criticism of their ideas, and resolving the potential conflicts by decreeing that they must all get what they want – with some unnamed third party paying the bill. That is certainly one interpretation of “ I don’t think it matters much what your politics are, whether you are feminist or masculinist, radical or liberal or post-Marxist social theorist, gender-neutrality blocks your analysis and input and freezes gender issues in aspic as if we lived in some post-gender utopia.“.

    Expanding a bit, it is probably true that women know best about the immediate needs of women, men of men, parents of autistic children of autistic children etc. It does not follow that the directly involved groups necessarily have the best, let alone the only, political analysis. Parents of autistic children may tell you that their childrens problems came from vaccination; Jews that criticism of the state of Israel is mainly caused by antisemitism; black Americans that the many African-American deaths are caused simply and solely by anti-black racism; failed female top directors that opposition to them was only a matter of misogyny; feminist campaigners that domestic violence is just another expression of patriarchy and that banning disrespectful pornography and prostitution in London is genuinely a step towards reducing the number of rapes in African war zones. Considering gender-specific aspects in a general policy debate is a good idea. Taking on other peoples biased analysis and priorities unchallenged is not, even if it does make for peace among progressives.

  20. Redpesto says

    Ally Fogg #17

    ” A gender-inclusive approach is not necessarily aiming for gender parity or any kind of equality”

    I like the use of gender-inclusive, but given that so many mainstream debates on gender are premised on parity of outcome, it may be that it will be a struggle for the term to gain wider traction.

  21. says

    Agree with most of your gender-inclusive argument, Ally. The only problem I have is that you use the terms ‘policy’ and ‘politics’ interchangeably. I’m not blaming you for this personally because this has indeed been a trend for a log time. However, we can have gender-related policies of course but for me the constant use of the term ‘politics’ over the past 40 years or so to describe the relations between various identity-groups has drowned out the traditional (and still vitally important) meaning of the term – matters of economy, state and the governance of a territory. In 2008 the credit-crunch erupted upon us and we found, to our chagrin, as we sunk into austerity, that we live in a culture that is economically, historically and politically illiterate – politicians, mass media commentators and the general population. Most people knew little about traditional political economy, and could neither see the credit-crunch coming nor summon up anything revealing to say about it when it came. When I talk to my students, most of them seem to think that politics means identity politics and nothing more. They are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about identity politics, which is a good thing in itself, but when Redcar steelworks closed and some of their fathers were made redundant, they started asking me about traditional political economy (particularly contemporary issues such as de-industrialisation, globalisation, financialisation, neoliberalism etc.) and expressing their concern it had never (or rarely and superficially) been discussed in any depth throughout their secondary education, first-year higher education and in the mass media. Economic events appear in the media all the time, of course, but they are isolated – there is no narrative to follow and no deep context in which these events can be understood. In a nutshell, most of them thought that politics was identity politics and nothing else. The economic and political illiteracy of some social scientists is breath-taking – the kids have an excuse, but they certainly don’t. The idea that identity relations are the most important form of politics needs to be discarded. Pretty soon, in this country in particular, if we don’t encourage the new generations to understand and become involved in real politics there won’t be much by way of decent jobs, opportunities, services etc. for identity groups to fight over. Even for the middle classes, who often seem to an unkind cynic like me to be the only ones to benefit from identity squabbling (sorry, identity politics….. I mean policies!)…..

  22. Marduk says

    I think gender inclusive services, yes.
    Gender inclusive politics, no.

    The problem here is to do with the intersection of rights, duties, provision and need. There is the space in which “the game” as such is played and we lose. Two reasons. First, reversal of argument (your needs themselves become contingent on the means of their being met, crazy but the institutional lens most commonly encountered). Second, arguments of especial vulnerability and consequent variability as a result (again what we tacitly have now).

    Ultimately this must all be gender neutral. How these rights are enacted, how duties are discharged and so on, different discussion. Should meet the needs of the individual, and if this is operationalised by gender, age, ethnicity, fine. The trad left UK position on (a) universality and (b) if the need exists it must be met as an inalienable right regardless – in theory – of cost or difficulty (eg., the education act) have a lot going for them.

    Another way of explaining the above is where the problem, as such, sits. I want it as far back in the process as possible as a problem owned by people with statutory responsibilities, not front loaded or in any kind of contestable space.

  23. jh says

    One small point – “One of the more abhorrently ignorant liberal political trends of the past year or so has been the ‘All Lives Matter’ meme, that emerged rapidly in the wake of Black Lives Matter. It was a profoundly reactionary slogan”

    The “all lives matter” was the conservative response to the BLM movement. They seemed to not realize that in the US, black lives DON’T matter as much as white lives. That’s why you will hear this retort come from US conservatives. The liberals understood that the “black lives matter” had an invisible “too” at the end.

    I like the gender-inclusive approach. The gender-exclusive is too limiting and denies the actual reality where people from either gender can be the victim or the aggressor. The gender neutral is what I consider the most akin to the “all lives matter” conservative response or the obnoxious “I don’t see color (skin)”. The neutral setting denies the fact that reality is different if you are female or black or gay or white or male or trans or any other thing. The very way people look at you, react to you, provide or deny opportunities (say getting a taxi, being carded, getting that interview) are dependent on far more than your “inner character”.

    One of the things that concerns me is that, in the US, there is so little psychological support for men and the culture can be so full of toxic masculinity that the man can’t even seek help without looking “feminine”. There are very few resources for men who are the victim of rape (say in prison) or domestic abuse or the unbearable strain of toxic masculinity that forces men to be “strong, stoic and manly” with no respite or opportunity to engage fully with all their emotions.

  24. Bugmaster says

    @Ally #16:

    A gender-neutral approach would be to say that boys and girls should all be given the same lessons, the same textbooks, the same exams, and if, after you’ve done that, you end up with far more boys than girls passing and progressing, than that is obviously AOK and just as things should be and it would be unfair to intervene further.

    I could be wrong, but this sounds as though you’re implying that boys and girls should be passing at the same rate. Therefore, you’re going to apply corrections until you reach 50/50 parity. If everyone is using the same lessons and the same textbooks, what is your next step, other than the course of action I posited in my description of the gender-inclusive approach ?

    One possible solution, of course, would be to give girls easier tests. However, this is likely to have serious ramifications down the line, because the criteria for passing in certain disciplines (though, admittedly, not others) are imposed by an external reality. If you are an engineer who is designing a bridge, or a programmer designing a security protocol, then being right actually matters. Metal alloys, electrons, and bytes don’t care about your gender or your feelings or whether your society has gender parity.

  25. Ally Fogg says

    StillGjenganger [19]

    On another point, I notice that you are strongly insistent that there can be no argument that in any way considers looking at e.g. DV funding as a single pot and prioritising according to need – which might mean moving some money from women to men. Why is that?

    A few reasons.

    The first is theoretical. I do not buy into the rationale that there is a fixed pot of money to address something like domestic violence. That’s not how government finances work, it is not how the third sector or the charity sector works. There is no rational reason why funding for activities to support male victims or prevent abuse against men needs to come from funding earmarked to do the same for women, as opposed to, any other pot.

    The second is political / pragmatic. It is simply an unwinnable argument. One of the problems we have around male victims of DV is that the culture as a whole cares less about them than about female victims. Men are expected to be tougher etc, and consequently in a straight scrap for who is seen as more deserving or in need, women will come out top every time.

    The third is ethical. Particularly in current times, it is hardly the case that the women’s DV sector has money coming out of its ears that they are throwing around on champagne & truffles & could easily be cut back. The women’s sector is already at breaking point, they are already turning away women who are in immediate danger. It’s just ethically wrong to be paying for services ro be delivered to one desperate person in need by taking away from another desperate person in need, and in practice that is what you are doing.

  26. Ally Fogg says

    Steve & Marduk.

    Interesting points on policy vs politics. Shall mull over, thanks.

  27. Ally Fogg says

    Bugmaster [24]

    I could be wrong, but this sounds as though you’re implying that boys and girls should be passing at the same rate.

    Not exactly. I would expect there to be some significant differences between boys and girls in interests and perhaps to an extent in aptitude too (even if I’m more on the Cordelia FIne side when it comes to things like that)

    So it is not really about parity, but it is about using girls and boys as a reference point against each other. Where you obviously have one gender storming ahead of the other in specific areas or overall, it is a reasonable assumption that the system is somehow failing one of them.

  28. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally, Steve, Bugmaster
    Can I back your argument about policy and politics, Marduk?

    The rights and overall evaluation have to be gender neutral; once you start seeing ‘women in prison’ or ‘female DV victims’ as separate and different problems form the male counterparts, you are not going to end at a reasonable overall approach. Not even if you have separate but equal ‘women-only’ and ‘men-only’ efforts in play.

  29. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 25
    On the pragmatics I am mostly with you. Though I do wonder – if society cares less about male victims than about female ones, would it not be better to aim for gender-neutral provision, where a victim is a victim on neutral criteria? As long as the men are a separate effort it will be easier to dismiss it.

    On the theory and ethics, though? I quite agree that the right solution would be to increase total funding to the sector (as I said, although conservative I am getting tired of Osborne). But suppose for some reason, good or bad, objective or ideological, that additional funding will not come? In that situation you are advocating to continue funding women who need this service, also ahead of individual men who need it more. As a thought experiment, imagine a field hospital that suddenly gets an influx of enemy wounded that overwhelms capacity. The good solution is to increase hospital capacity. If you cannot deliver that, would you treat all wounded by medical criteria, or leave the enemy wounded on the ground while waiting for more doctors to arrive?

  30. Ally Fogg says

    But suppose for some reason, good or bad, objective or ideological, that additional funding will not come? In that situation you are advocating to continue funding women who need this service, also ahead of individual men who need it more.

    I say again, this is simply not how services are funded. Domestic violence is not one field hospital, so I am playing the Kobayashi Maru defence on that one.

  31. StillGjenganger says

    @JH
    Like you, I would back the ‘Black lives matter’ people, against their opponents. But let us examine exactly where the problem comes in. If this was a theoretical discussion,the conservatives would win hands down. Black lives matter because all lives matter. They do not have a separate and unique value different from white lives – or hispanic lives. The did not say that ‘too’ at the end.

    Taking the problem out of the context that the (black) activists put it in can not be a problem in itself. Just like even the paranoid sometimes have real enemies, even victims of discrimination sometimes suffer for reasons that are nobodys fault (or their own). Witness the Jews of Israel, and their reaction to cirticism of their policies.

    The problem with the ‘All lives matter’ proponents, I would say, is that they refuse to even consider any causes that go beyond individual actions (which looks a very American atttitude, to a European). And that they seem to find police killings as such normal and acceptable, and put the responsibility on the bystanders to avoid provoking one (much like it is up to farm visitors not to provoke the bull). But as I see it this is not a matter of race neutrality versus inclusiveness. It is a matter of closing your eyes to the facts. Black people are killed in disproportionate numbers, and racial attitudes and racial disadvantages are an important part of the reason. You can and should see that without accepting to defining people’s rights by race.

  32. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally. Surely, in the current political situation, that is how services are funded. All departments are under pressure to cut, and to spread their diminishing resources as best they can to cover their responsibilities. To cover additional expenditure, the services closest by will be most vulnerable to cutting. You can argue that this is not how things should be, of course. But then, the Brexiters can argue that they should not have to submit to partial rule from Brussels in order to enjoy the fruits of European economic cooperation. To some extent I agree with them, but they (and I) still have the responbsibility to face the facts and decide accordingly.

    I am not a Trekkie, but a quick look on Wikipedia suggests that the Kobayashi Maru test was exactly to show people with the ambition to command that they had to make a decision, even when all possible outcomes were bad. Now, this one you can get out of honorably if you stick to purely pragmatic grounds. But, respectfully, to my morality refusing to make a decision is a cop-out, justified only if you accept that you neither can nor want to take the responsibility for making actual decisions.

  33. Adiabat says

    Seems that the gender-inclusive approach reinforces gender norms and effectively forces them on anyone who wants help.

    Your approach may mean that anyone who is a particular gender but doesn’t have the “typical” needs of that gender will find it harder to get the help they need. It also doesn’t seem very “intersectional”: why not a race-inclusive approach, or religion-inclusive approach if you’re going to apply this method to the issue? (Why not be so intersectional (intersection-MAX) that we get back to the point where we treat people as individuals again and ditch the identity politics altogether?)

    It’s much better to have a gender neutral approach which focuses of providing a variety of services in proportion to the needs of all service users. People who need help are then assessed as individuals and provided the specific help that they need rather than pushed towards specific services just because of their gender (or find that the particular service they need isn’t available to them, but it is for others, because not “enough” people of their gender need it).

    It may be that women are allocated to a particular kind of support more than men and vice versa, but the point is that you’re treating people as people with specific needs, and not categories. I’d rather we focused on needs rather than identities.

    Ally Fogg (30): I thought with the equity duty that what Gjenganger describes is exactly how the services are funded. Service providers were definitely complaining that they had to provide services to men to keep their contracts with local councils. Others had to share contracts and funding with services for men that they partnered with.

  34. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger

    @Ally. Surely, in the current political situation, that is how services are funded. All departments are under pressure to cut, and to spread their diminishing resources as best they can to cover their responsibilities.

    That would be true if there was a Department for Domestic Violence which was given an annual budget by the Exchequer and all DV-related activities went through that.

    But that is not the case, that is not how it works. Some DV services are funded out of local authority pots, some of which but not all comes from the Home Office VAWG funding. Some comes from diversity & equality streams. Other DV services come out of health budgets, others out of housing budgets, others out of charitable foundations etc etc etc.

    Now, you can argue that asking for any funding for anything in the current economic climate is an ambitious hope & you’d probably be right, but that situation doesn’t change whichever approach one takes.

  35. Ally Fogg says

    Adiabat

    Your approach may mean that anyone who is a particular gender but doesn’t have the “typical” needs of that gender will find it harder to get the help they need.

    That will always be a problem, whatever approach one adopts. Services are designed around best estimates of needs, and there will alway be those who, for whatever reason do not match those. But that will be true of all services. A gender-neutral service (in any realm, but take DV as an example, as that seems to be the one that we’re mostly talking about) is not going to design a unique bespoke services package for every individual that comes through the door. What a gender-neutral service will do is offer a muddy compromise to everyone that doesn’t really fit anyone’s needs.

    It also doesn’t seem very “intersectional”: why not a race-inclusive approach, or religion-inclusive approach if you’re going to apply this method to the issue?

    Why not indeed? We are specifically talking about gender-based policy here, but I’m all in favour of specialist & dedicated services within that, so for example Asian women’s & men’s projects could and should be included within the packages.

    I thought with the equity duty that what Gjenganger describes is exactly how the services are funded. Service providers were definitely complaining that they had to provide services to men to keep their contracts with local councils. Others had to share contracts and funding with services for men that they partnered with.

    To a certain extent this is true. The PSED does take us small way towards a more gender-inclusive system of funding, but there are all sorts of problems with it, not least that it was kind of introduced by accident (I don’t think Harriet Harman really had male abuse victims in mind when she drafted it) and it is (obviously) predicated on principles of equality, which aren’t necessarily always the best fit.

    There are lots of other ways in which service delivery is already done in a vaguely gender-inclusive way but – as with the above – it tends to be a bit cobbled together and half-arsed, because nobody has nailed down the principles on which it is being done.

  36. Carnation says

    @ Gjganger

    “As an example, take the campaign there was a while ago that women should not be put in prison (nearly as much, at least). That is gender-exclusive. The gender-neutral approach would be to say that we are probably putting people in prison too much. You then start analysing which people maybe should not be put in prison (non-violent offenders, the mentally ill, people who can be better rehabilitated elsewhere, …), and which groups of prisoners have particular needs. You may well end up deciding that the prisoners that should get non-custodial sentences are mostly female, or even that women have particular problems that makes it less appropriate to put them in prison than to put in men. But you would have a reason for doing it that had nothing to do with gender.”

    If we can take this part of your statement “The gender-neutral approach would be to say that we are probably putting people in prison too much.” isn’t the issue that that is a *liberal* position, and as such mired in party/ideological politics, rather than a gender issue?

    Arguably, in terms of praxis, it would make sense for gender-exclusive activists to support the call for “far fewer women in prison” as a precursor to “far fewer men in prison”, wouldn’t it?

    As ever, the absence and/or failure of an effective lobbying/advocacy body for men’s issues means that sadly this debate is academic.

  37. Carnation says

    @ Ally Fogg

    Bit of a thought experiment, if you will.

    I’m a 22 year old male sociology graduate. I want to make a difference for men and believe that society, as it is currently structured, results in the marginalisation of men. I’m happy to volunteer, but would much prefer to make it a career. I am happy to work with any group and do not find that feminism will disrupt the work I want to do.

    What would you suggest I do with my time, aspirations and knowledge?

  38. StillGjenganger says

    @Carnation 36

    I do not understand you. Why is it, or should it be, a gender issue that people are put in prison at great expense and to the detriment of both their lives and society as a whole? Which reminds me of Ken Clarke, who tried to make some changes in the right direction, but was sunk when the progressive left made common cause with the lock-them-up right over some ill-judged remarks, instead of backing what could have been a useful reform.

    As for fighting to get women out of prison 1) since it is defined as a woman-only problem with woman-only arguments, you cannot expect that much carry-over. 2) If the strategy of a pro-men group is to spend all their energy on campaigning for issues that only help women (liek getting women out of prison) I think it is unlikely that it will ever grow to become an ‘ effective lobbying/advocacy body’.

  39. Carnation says

    @ Gjenganger

    “Which reminds me of Ken Clarke, who tried to make some changes in the right direction, but was sunk when the progressive left made common cause with the lock-them-up right over some ill-judged remarks, instead of backing what could have been a useful reform.”

    I’d like to see this – got a link?

    “I do not understand you. Why is it, or should it be, a gender issue that people are put in prison at great expense and to the detriment of both their lives and society as a whole?”

    I didn’t say it was – I said that highlighting that issue identifies a person as a liberal, which makes it harder to enact legislation/pressure. A gender pressure group arguably could have more success.

    Let’s say that, for example, the Fawcett Society did that, presented a paper showing the social return on investment in rehabilitation orders and restitution rather than prison for women, there is then a framework for men’s advocates to work from.

    The only political (I use the term loosely) party that claims to represent men is J4MB, a blatantly illiberal and right-wing entity which, I am guessing, totally opposes the concept of fewer women going to prison.

  40. Bugmaster says

    @Ally #27:
    It sounds like your plan of action would involve identifying any obstacles that are preventing girls from excelling, then eliminating these obstacles, with the understanding that you may never reach gender parity. This sounds pretty similar to the gender-neutral approach I suggested (so it’s possible we agree), except perhaps for one thing: how do you know when to stop ? You say:

    So it is not really about parity, but it is about using girls and boys as a reference point against each other. Where you obviously have one gender storming ahead of the other in specific areas or overall, it is a reasonable assumption that the system is somehow failing one of them.

    But how is “storming ahead” different from “lack of gender parity” ? Is it just a matter of ratios ? That is, instead of declaring success when you reach 50/50 representation, you will be content with declaring success at 75/25, or some other number ?

    To put it another way, how do you know whether your corrections are working ? How can you tell which policy is more effective at achieving your goal ?

  41. Lucy. says

    “A gender-exclusive approach would educate girls and boys alike but then look for areas where girls are underperforming, notably STEM subjects, and make efforts to engage and inspire them, while entirely ignoring those areas where boys underperform. I would argue that in practise this is more or less what has been happening in the UK and many other countries in recent years.”

    Ah the familiar cry of the first masculinist of the year. Spring must have arrived.

    Total bollocks.

    “poor, white, British girls are the lowest performing major ethnic group.”
    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/education-committee/news/white-working-class-report/

    There are a plethora of educational initiatives from foundation years to university to encourage boys’ achievement.
    My friend works on a project for central government doing precisely this.

  42. Lucy. says

    Strikes me that rich white boys got the best educational results in the world and came top in everything when all their competition was banned from attenting the same institutions: poor white boys and girls were socially engineered to provide physical labour and domestic servitude. Rich white girls were assumed to be spiritually and intellectually inferior, were barely educated, couldn’t attend university, couldn’t gain qualifications,couldn’t be members of professional institutes, weren’t allowed to publish or speak in public, to list a mere tip of an iceberg of legal and social educational disadvantages. Millions of black and brown boys were colonised and fared little better than women or worse in some cases.

    Maybe white boys aren’t under achieving at all. Perhaps this is their peak attainment level. Maybe their ability or lack of it has merely been brought into sharp relief by the comparison with everyone else joining the game (which lets not forget is still massively slanted in their favour). What educational disadvantages do they have exactly over and above girls or immigrants or boys in the developing world who are leaving them trailing? And tell me you have more than course work vs exams, because that’s so weak. Maybe they just need some of the hunger to do well that comes with people deferring to your judgement and favouring you for firsts, employment, promotion and recognition.

  43. Lucy. says

    “When Martin Daubney was on BBC Daily Politics last week talking (very effectively, I must add)”

    Unlikely

  44. Ally Fogg says

    Lucy

    “poor, white, British girls are the lowest performing major ethnic group.”

    You have misunderstood that sentence. The original is here

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmeduc/142/142.pdf

    It says:

    “Free school meals data supports this view. Although white FSM-eligible boys are the lowest performing group overall in terms of the proportion achieving the key stage 4 benchmark,
    white FSM girls are the lowest-achieving group of girls.”

    In other words, the line you quote means “poor, white, British girls are the lowest performing major ethnic group amongst girls.

    The latest statistics show that girls on free school meals (all ethnicities) are 52% more likely to go to university than boys on free school meals. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/our-education-system-must-stop-ignoring-its-bias-against-boys/

    There are a plethora of educational initiatives from foundation years to university to encourage boys’ achievement. My friend works on a project for central government doing precisely this.

    You should have no problem linking to a source or reference. And then perhaps you can explain why last year, in freedom of information response, the Dept of Education said:

    “The Department does not fund any initiatives that just focus on addressing boys’ underachievement”.

  45. Ally Fogg says

    Bugmaster (41)

    But how is “storming ahead” different from “lack of gender parity” ? Is it just a matter of ratios ? That is, instead of declaring success when you reach 50/50 representation, you will be content with declaring success at 75/25, or some other number ?

    I kind of think politics is *always* a work in progress, there is rarely a point where you can “declare success” on something like education policy. It’s more a case of identifying priorities and working on those until it becomes apparent that something else is now a bigger priority.

  46. says

    Ally, I think it’s important to break out exactly what you mean by gender-inclusiveness vs how it’s generally used by others. I would break down the concept of gender-inclusiveness into a number of different dimensions:

    1) Gender class inclusion/exclusion; whether explicit or implicit, this first level is about complete exclusion; e.g. voting prior to women’s suffrage, Duluth model, etc.

    2) Gender issues inclusion/exclusion; whether issues mostly limited to each gender are considered as part of policy; e.g. flexible working hours to get women into the workforce, the issues boys face in a feminised education system.

    3) Gender politics inclusion/exclusion; whether a particular political view point is granted elevated power and position; e.g. government ministers or diversity officers, speech codes that focus on enforcing political viewpoints.

    Most people would support gender inclusiveness in the first sense, although there would certainly be some notable holdouts.

    I think your understanding of gender inclusiveness is focused on the second one. I would generally support this form of inclusiveness, but that while considering gender issues is a good thing, the benefits in the gender dimension always need to be weighed against the other factors. (e.g. I’ve seen some people claim that reducing the significance of mathematics in STEM subjects would help increase the representation of women in those classes, but I would see that as a rather disastrous policy that would cause far more harm than good).

    Unfortunately I think that the dominate use of the term “gender inclusive” is referring to the third sense. That is people who use it are pursuing the advancement of their (often gender exclusive in your sense) identity politics through the creation of formal titles and rules. While I like the concept you put forward in your post, the term “gender inclusive” is already tied down with too much toxic political baggage to be of practical use.

    Gender-inclusive politics is about recognising that girls and boys, women and men, have different gender-based experiences of society, different needs, different obstacles, different opportunities.

    Looking at this sentence, it seems your point is less about simple inclusion, and is more about active support. It’s about ensuring that society supports people’s ability to live gendered lives without those gendered choices resulting an unfair burden; people shouldn’t have to become some form of genderless humans in order to be fully supported by the rest of society. Perhaps “gender supportive” policies would be a better term to help distinguish those ideas?

  47. WineEM says

    Mind you, I do have a slight query about this, thinking it through – which may or may not be necessary – who knows. I suppose it’s about the potential of making ‘the perfect the enemy of the good’, or the realpolitik of how change might actually come about.

    (Try and bear with me, here, as I suspect this explanation is likely to get a bit tedious and unnecessarily long-winded, but I’ll try my best to put it as best I can.)

    Anyways: one way of describing what has been outlined above is what someone would like to implement, ideally, were they to be in a position of real power, and able to set policy from on high. However, we all know that people who are sympathetic to gender equality affecting men tend to be very far from the levers of power.
    
So, realistically, how might the whole situation change? Well, when I’ve been pondering these themes, one idea has occurred to me.
    
The situation we’re in right now, so it seems to me, is one of ‘learned disempowerment,’ i.e. there are many men out there (and women who are concerned about men’s welfare) who would like to see men be treated more fairly and with greater equanimity, culturally and by the institutions that rule over them – yet every day the message is rammed home, by politicians, by powerful figures in the media, that the female-only gender exclusive model is the only possible game in town. (And, if you look at the television celebrities who spread such ideas and their Twitter feeds, you soon find that they surround themselves with an entourage of very like-minded people, who bolster their own prejudices. So rational arguments are not likely to get through to them that easily, if ever at all. )

    This, I think, over time, instills a certain kind of apathy: that nothing is ever likely to change, and it would be a fairly hopeless effort even to try.
    
But then what would be the opposite of this? Well in crowdfunding (where the confidence and belief of the crowd is said to be 90% of the game), I understand there’s a tactic, whereby you start off with an incredibly modest goal, which will almost inevitably be hit if there is any public enthusiasm for your idea whatsoever. Once that target is hit, then you take confidence you have gained from that campaign, and use that momentum for another crowdfunding goal with a slightly more ambitious target. If public enthusiasm is still there, this process is repeated until some really big projects can be accomplished (those of the kind where there’s a lot of public sympathy, but hitherto not much confidence that things might alter).

    
In other words, you have in this the opposite of the ‘learned disempowerment’ process: that the crowd collectively builds confidence in a cause and sees empirically that, together, they can make a difference to a certain kind of social outcome, having gained that greater confidence through prior successes.

    
Now, in the field of ‘mens’ equality,’ it occurs to me that any such approach would likely be directed towards causes which have (as their direct immediate target at any rate) male-only outcomes. So if some activists or man-friendly organisation were to try and do this kind of thing, the chances are it would be presented as ‘men-centred only,’ rather than gender inclusive.

    So perhaps this is just a question of semantics, but I suppose I’m drawing attention to how things might be approached and presented if you have absolute power to implement your policies of choice, versus how activists might approach the task as ordinary members of the public, in the context of online democracy, and how realistically they might actually go about forcing through change, in terms of finance for men’s causes and on a political level too.

    It might turn out, in fact, that the practical level turns out to be more important, and abstract theorising about how things should be defined is rather secondary or incidental.

  48. WineEM says

    @21 (Steve Hall): Oh yeah, sorry, just wanted to pick up on this too. Now, I will be the first to admit that my intellectual powers (when taken as a whole) are really fairly modest and meagre, to say the least. However, I would suggest there might be a danger which is perhaps inverse to the one that you describe. I mean, ok, let’s be honest, in the grand scheme of public discourse and debate, debate around gender politics tends, rightly or wrongly, to occupy a very lowly position indeed. I suppose, because one is discussing matters of gender and sex, this is because it perhaps carries somehow some sort of sexual connotations (maybe because of the baggage from evolutionary psychology, which involved sex selection and sexual competition creating very different social and sexual needs amongst women and men).

    Hence, gender politics debate may be regarded as somehow ‘dirty’ and a type of ‘lowest common denominator’ thinking which is unworthy of consideration by civilised people.

    So this, then, is perhaps the danger I’m alluding to: that because of these associations it actually gets overlooked, even when – as Ally has hinted it – it may have a very serious and relevant bearing to the matters in hand. I mean, sure, people can look at things like macro-economics and wealth, but then there is this thing of sometimes knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. And so when it comes to concepts that Ally has alluded to here, like psychological feelings of emasculation in the context of a quickly changing society, these may not necessarily be answered in purely economic terms. Indeed, the whole process of trying to find roles which chime strongly and naturally with positive aspects of masculine identity might only be solvable, sometimes, by examining the problem through the prism of gender (no matter how ‘dirty’ and frowned upon by serious academics that conceptual lens might be). Just a suggestion anyway.

  49. Marduk says

    #21
    I guess this is slightly OT, but I think you are completely correct about this. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are basically open-minded on the Brexit question and what everyone says is that they’ve yet to hear “in” or “out” actually discuss anything important or relevant to the question at hand. Which is quite remarkable when you think about it. It was the same story when the war in Syria was discussed, I watched the debate and apparently most MPs, whether left or right, pro or anti, know next nothing about the Middle East (and that was the ones who felt confident enough to get on their feet and opine, I can only imagine the bafflement amongst the ones who kept quiet and cast a vote).

  50. Marduk says

    Ally, I don’t think we have any huge disagreements and I agree that this is an interesting and worthwhile topic to pursue beyond this blog entry actually.

    This article, for me, is a good and I think uncontroversial example of the principle of universality:
    http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2016/apr/04/child-sexual-exploitation-stereotypes-rotherham

    Although there may be grist to your mill in there as well…
    “It was suggested that despite the gender-inclusive term ‘child sexual exploitation’, professionals and the public tend to associate CSE with girls only. One agency that works with offenders noted that a paper going to their board on their approach to CSE did not explicitly refer to boys, although the majority of those they worked with were boys. One respondent said: ‘When you’re talking about this around the staff table, are you all genuinely thinking about the full diversity, or are you thinking: “Girls. Oh yes, and boys”, because if you’re thinking: “Oh yes, and boys”, [that] has gotto stop.’

    I can’t help but feel the extent to which this piece was hidden away in the digital back-pages of the Guardian basically supports the argument that they are making which is a bit sad. There is plenty of buzzfeed type articles about twitter non-stories more prominently placed, that agencies admit that a vast number of vulnerable children “aren’t on their radar” wouldn’t exactly take much journalistic acumen to turn into a story.

  51. WineE.M. says

    Oh yes, further to 48., here’s another reason why we shouldn’t look for progress to be implemented from on high:
    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/04/equality-issues
    £500,000 a year! Nothing more symbolic of the way our governing elites use the whole concept of ‘equality’ to take the piss out of the rest of us on a grande scale.

    Oh yes, also, I do think it’s interesting the way the commentariat finds it much easier to address the issue of race than of gender.
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/04/the-problem-for-poor-white-kids-is-that-a-part-of-their-culture-has-been-destroyed

    I mean, we can’t address problems of masculinity in contemporary society directly, that really would be a one-way street to anarchy – the ultimate recipe for cats and dogs living together!

  52. Adiabat says

    Ally Fogg (35):

    That will always be a problem, whatever approach one adopts. Services are designed around best estimates of needs, and there will alway be those who, for whatever reason do not match those.

    Yes, but if we have to turn people away I’d rather it was because their needs are genuinely rare and so there’s no services to meet it at all, or due to something that’s tragic but at least impersonal like a lack of funding, than because the person with the need is the “wrong” gender to access the service, which will happen in a gender-inclusive approach.

    I want an individual’s gender to have no impact on access to needed services.

    P.S One way around this may be to commission services based on gender but open the provision of those services to all. For example: commission initiatives such as school visits to labs that are designed to encourage girls into STEM but open the actual participation to girls and boys. Then any boys who don’t fit the typical gender-mould, and may not have gone into STEM, can access it and may be inspired to pursue a STEM career as well. Then you’re targeting an issue that affects one gender more than the other, but also aren’t excluding those who would also benefit from it just because of characteristics they can’t control, such as their gender.

    A gender-neutral service (in any realm, but take DV as an example, as that seems to be the one that we’re mostly talking about) is not going to design a unique bespoke services package for every individual that comes through the door.

    I disagree with you here as I think this already happens. Right now (for women anyway) various services are available to DV victims such as financial advice, legal advice, counselling, accommodation and so on but which are actually accessed varies on a case by case basis. The only issue is that services aren’t available to everyone, due to gender discrimination, at anywhere near a proportional rate.

    What a gender-neutral service will do is offer a muddy compromise to everyone that doesn’t really fit anyone’s needs.

    And a gender-inclusive service will only offer something for the most gender-conforming people who need their help. If your case is not “typical” for your gender then you’re screwed, even if that service is widely offered to people of the other gender.

    We are specifically talking about gender-based policy here, but I’m all in favour of specialist & dedicated services within that, so for example Asian women’s & men’s projects could and should be included within the packages.

    Gay people probably need a gay-inclusive approach as well. Maybe class-inclusive as well? (Does class have an effect on DV needs?) Does marital status, because I imagine they’ll need specific legal advice? So marital-status-inclusive as well then. We might as well go intersection-MAX if we’re going to do this.

    …Though I can’t help but think that it’s simpler to simply commission services, based proportionally on the needs of all service users, and aim to meet those needs as and when they are needed. Not try to design ‘packages’ based on identity.

  53. WineEM says

    Shittety-fuck. Just noticed something about Corbyn’s new Twitter account picture:

    https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn

    Everyone in the picture is a woman.

    Has he done some calculation that only women are ever going to vote for him – or that only they can be considered true human beings? Jesus Bleeding Christ!!

  54. WineEM says

    @55. Well, naturally, the fact that he made clear his female ‘gender exclusive’ politics during the leadership contest, with his multi-chaptered ‘women-only’ gender manifesto should not hide the fact that he’s out to ‘get women’! :) (Especially the poor beleaguered Yvette Coopers and Jess Phillipses of this world).

    But being bigoted is one thing, it’s the way he will never explain the rationale behind the bigotry, so that we can at least understand what is generating it.

    Time after time during his leadership rallies he kept on saying the words :”I want equality, because I want everyone to be treated the same”. Yet he clearly has no intention whatsoever of doing this. It’s about as consistent as Cameron condemning tax evasion as being immoral and unfair, and yet insisting that Daddy’s business is a top-notch super respectable concern. It makes no sense at all.

  55. WineEM says

    Oh yes, as a footnote, I just wondered whether it might be worth making reference to this discussion here, a debate between Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke from 2013:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Hb3oe7-PJ8

    At 9:28, Pinker talks about what he regards as the serious practical implications of studying
    and understanding sex differences. To quote directly from his PowerPoint presentation:

    “If we want to change the world, we must first understand it”.

    I.e., gender differences have such a powerful and profound effect on the world, it is simply not possible to devise good social policy without bearing this in mind. Hence why, as Ally has stated here (one of those rare moments of agreement between us), completely neglecting the male side of the equation is surely so incredibly damaging to everyone in the long run.

  56. 123454321 says

    “completely neglecting the male side of the equation is surely so incredibly damaging to everyone in the long run.”

    ….hence my point #17. Exclusion is the first and foremost issue that needs addressing before we can make further progress. “Understanding” why people persistently exclude men and boys is definitely the key. I think it comes down to the fact that men are programmed to protect women and girls at their own expense, and women and girls are programmed to accept the position. This coupled with the fact that there is a political and media-driven, money-laden gravy train running around the entire political/media arena perimeter compounds the problem men and boys face. Pretty dismal if you ask me, and there’s no question it’s men AND women to blame. But you’re right, the whole situation is damaging to everyone and it never surprises me that so many young men create havoc in a society where they feel totally disenfranchised.

    It all starts with respect. Men and boys get little respect in today’s society compared with women and girls and it appears to start at birth when part of their genitals are hacked off for no good medical reason.

  57. WineEM says

    @58 Thanks, 123454321, some really good points there I think.

    (Actually, before I go on, re: 56, think I meant avoidance not evasion – don’t think anything like that has been demonstrated).

    But yes, various people have made efforts, I’m sure, to explain and understand gynocentrism as a social and political force, and yet really, I don’t think we have a grasp of its true nature or all the factors behind it at all. Trouble, is we usually have recourse to reason when we try to decipher these phenomena, and yet gynocentrism (in infesting all the recesses of public life, from right to left), is more, you suspect, a demonic rather than a rational force.

  58. WineEM says

    Speaking of this demonic force, psst, Ally – do ya remember this?

    https://twitter.com/AllyFogg/status/667339774122975232

    I’ll just quote her from the commons chamber today:

    “Does the Prime Minister share my concern that the leader of the opposition seems to forget, or possibly would be unaware, that aspiration, that determination and the prospect of eventual financial reward are ingredients of the strong economy that we have, which lead to jobs and incomes for many. And does my right honourable friend agree that we should condemn these politics of envy, and will he stick to the politics of opportunity and aspiration?”

    So it doesn’t take much for a Tory MP to win your heart does it, Ally? All she has to do is be moderately pretty, and then slap down Philip Davies when he gets too uppity in talking about men’s rights. #TooFukkinFunny :)

  59. 123454321 says

    Ok, here is the perfect example of where gender-inclusive policy would help (prison sentencing), but NOT before male exclusion issues are dealt with via a laborious, frustrating, step by step approach to breaking down widespread misconceptions – in this case the myths and manipulative misrepresentation of facts and outright lies exposed here by Philip Davies.

    This is why the exclusion issue must come first. You’re not going to get anywhere until you destroy the first barrier.

  60. 123454321 says

    And another example of where the 80M Government funding is being channeled to: The Women’s Equality Party latest video aimed at the London election, which not only completely excludes men and boys from the equation but woefully designs their opening sequence to purposefully make men look like shits, as usual. I invite you to scrutinise the comments below the video.

  61. WineEM says

    @64. Flippin’ heck, Mr Palendrome, I do hope people complain to the relevant watchdog about that advert.
    Only the W.E.P. could produce something so prejudicial and discriminatory in the name of ‘equality’.

    But returning to the subject of the debate, there’s another dimension to this, of course, which is hinted
    at in this discussion here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jACOyOo9Yrs

    Namely, that society is not standing still, and under the influence of modern technology, is in fact changing very rapidly. (A House of Lords debate the other day accepted a general consensus that 60% of the jobs which will exist in a few decades won’t currently exist right now).

    Now, what we do know about this is that no matter what these changes might be, there’s a constant vigilance by politicians and the media toward any developments which might possibly disfavour women (we see this, most obviously, with all the Women and Work Commissions and Committees, apart from anything else).

    Now, whenever I’ve heard Richard Dawkins on the radio (or on tv documentaries) talking about evolution, he’s always been keen to correct a common misconception. How, people ask, is evolution able to create such impressive (and in many ways effective and efficient designs), when it is meant to be based on random mutations? Of course, one answer to this is that it’s not an entirely random process: an organism’s genome will be able to preserve those genes which offer better survival value for their given environment, whilst having the opportunity to benefit from those genes which might offer good survival value in the future.

    It seems to me that women, as a group, are in a similar position here, as they can hold on to those areas in which they already have an advantage (these are not perceived by politicians and media pundits as any kind of ‘threat’), whereas if the future does change technologically to put women in an even better position relative to men, this is something that will go unremarked on too.

    Men, meanwhile, are in the absolute converse situation: any area of life in which they enjoy a social or professional advantage is normally seen as a barrier to progress and equality, one which generally needs to be ‘corrected.’ The percentage of them in desirable occupations must always be limited to 50% maximum, if possible, otherwise schemes and measures must be put in place to put this right.

    At the same time, the chances are if there are rapid shifts which cause their socio-economic standing to decline, these will probably be ignored as well. (The worst of both worlds.)

    One example which comes immediately to mind is an item they did a year or so back on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour (Feminist Hour), when they had an item which was introduced on their website as follows:
    Maths (and further maths), they said, was the one area where girls were not getting better grades at A-level. So what can be done (by society) to change this?

    It did not seem to occur to them how it would necessarily create a better society if there were no subjects that boys could hope to do better in (as a group) at all, or if there were any adverse consequences which might arise from this.

    It’s not that I ever enjoy teasing you at all, Ally, but I do worry sometimes that you might occasionally be a bit like the Neville Chamberlain of gender politics: hoping to appease an implacable and immoral power (in feminism), which actually has no intention to compromise on its ambitions at all. It seems to me that many feminists (like Yvette Cooper and Jess Phillips), will try to get away with acting badly and in a discriminatory fashion for as long as they can, unless somebody somewhere will stand up to them and call them out on it.

  62. StillGjenganger says

    @WineEM 64

    I would not get quite that apocaplytic about it, but I share that worry. Be interesting to see what Ally has to say.

  63. Lucythoughts says

    @ Ally #45
    “The Department does not fund any initiatives that just focus on addressing boys’ underachievement”.

    I’m catching up on this thread and so weeks late with this. I visited a local primary school a couple of years ago (looking for my daughter) and the head told me about a program they ran in some local woodland on forest skill and teambuilding which was targeted at boys who had problems with negative behaviour and lack of engagement with school. He sort of said it as “this is something we do with these boys… and some girls too!” I don’t say it was centrally funded, I imagine the school funded it themselves, but it was nice to hear about it and I think it demonstrates that within schools there are people trying to implement gender inclusive approaches, but couching them with just enough gender neutral spin as to prevent children with more opposite-gender type needs being excluded from the programs.

    Any chance of a thread on education by the way? I think there are some interesting issues to discuss here. Personally, I’m very worried about childhood mental health problems related to school and I think this is an area that is crying out for some gender inclusive thinking, on top of the general provision of gender neutral services.

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