Since 1971, the 26th August has been designated women’s equality day. It’s a day when women, and some men, reflect on the sexism that is still faced by women around the world.
Perhaps in the West we have made progress towards female equality, some would say not enough. But for great swathes of humanity women continue to be oppressed by men in the most horrific ways. Women are denied an education. The right to vote. To manage their own affairs. To get justice. Even their right to life is brutally repressed in some cultures that ‘honour’ female murder. In countries that prize boys over girls, birth rates show that many female foetuses are electively aborted.
Why am I writing about women’s equality on a men’s well-being blog? Well I suppose the main reason is to set the record straight about a few things.
The first thing is I’m not a ‘male supremacist’. I am interested in men’s experience, but it doesn’t follow that I think men’s experience is somehow ‘better’ or more ‘valid’ than women’s experience. It is not my intention to be sexist when I talk about men and the issues they face.
Second, although I work with men, I always receive supervision from women. All therapists turn to a fellow professional to discuss and receive support for the work they do with clients. Supervision acts as a kind of quality control. It is really important to me that I get a women’s input into my work with men. This helps to counteract any sense of collusion in a ‘boys club’. It also brings a women’s perspective into the room when I work with a man. This is invaluable and many men have benefited from their input.
Third, although I think that men and women are equal, I think this is a political equality. What then becomes difficult to talk about is the real differences that exist in men and women’s psychology. For too long science has been scared off by the feminist critique into reporting gender differences in brains and behaviour. Political equality does not mean that men and women are the same. We are only at the beginning of understanding how and why this is the case.
Finally, I am motivated by the failure of feminism itself. Feminism lets women down by failing to offer a credible model of gender relations. Feminism all too often becomes simply an interest group. What we really need is a political ideology of gender relations that transcends the interest of any one group. My point is that we can’t do that until we really understand men in their own terms. It is this which forms my motivation to working with men.
So on this day which celebrates the ideal of women’s equality, I want to extend my support, and encourage other men to do the same. Why? Because it is in supporting the oppressed that we dignify our own humanity.