“No, Ben Bradley: we don’t need a minister for men”, opines Sarah Ditum in The Spectator, reacting to Mr Bradley’s speech in the House of Commons on International Men’s Day.
I fully support Sarah Ditum’s right to make her views known. I support Isabel Hardman’s perfect right to publish her objectionable piece too. Indeed, I welcome both because it is useful to know who the bigots are.
However, I do not have to pay to read such views – I can read much the same in The Guardian for free, not that I would. Consequently, I am cancelling my subscription to The Spectator.
There is an extremely good, and equally simple, reason why International Men’s Day – and the now annual debate in the HoC – are required. The reason is Ms Ditum amd Ms Hardman themselves, and the millions of similarly prejudiced individuals who endlessly repeat the same ignorant and compassionless stuff.
Yes, I know that The Spectator wants to present a broad church of opinion, but the Ditum article oversteps the bounds of what is acceptable. It is yellow journalism. And Hardman’s article hit a nerve with me because she referred to Diane Abbott’s “campaign” in which Abbott referred to a “crisis of masculinity”, consisting – in her opinion – of a generation of young men who are, apparently, Viagra chomping, Jack Daniels quaffing, porn addicts. I have reason to recall it because it was the final straw that turned me into a men’s issues blogger in 2013. “Both of us believe that women have historically been oppressed by a patriarchal society and that this oppression has in no way ended today”, wrote Hardman. Yes, I know you belive that – but I don’t, you see. I believe there are some women who are incapable of any empathy for men and that this blindness leads to a distorted, unbalanced view of reality. After all these years I should be inured to it. But I’m not. It makes me despair.
But Ditum’s article is also incompetent journalism because its central tenet includes an error so basic that the Spectator should withdraw the article and never employ Ms Ditum again. I’ll come to that.
Ben Bradley’s crime was this statement,
“Why have a minister for women and not for men? Why single out one characteristic for special mention? Can we ensure that equality means just that, rather than positive discrimination at the expense of certain groups? Male as equally protected as female.”
Ms Ditum takes great exception to this impudence, apparently unaware that Mr Bradley’s claim that “males are equally protected as females” is the correct interpretation of the Equality Act 2010, though, of course, it is not the Correct interpretation in Ms Ditum’s circles.
She then tries to make hay out of the fact that the only other person in screen shot when Mr Bradley committed his sacrilege was another man. Err…excuse me, but in what way does the conspicuous absence of female MPs (30% of the House) during the International Men’s Day debate reflect badly on men exactly? It is an absolute disgrace that there were only three women present, though it does usefully display female MPs touching commitment to equality.
One woman was apparently there to make an interjection and left the debate before it was half-way through. Another was the relevant Minister (who was obliged to be present). And finally, the third woman was the opposition Shadow Spokesperson (who was also obliged to be present). She was the only Labour MP present. Likewise there was just one SNP MP present – they who, as an avowedly feminist Party, put up such a strong representation on International Women’s Day. Apart from these, all the other speakers were male and Conservative.
Let me pass over that Ms Ditum spends most of a paragraph criticising Ben Bradley’s clothes – a thing which, if the sexes were reversed, would be certain death to a male MPs political career – such is the world of double-standards we now inhabit.
Let me also pass over that Ms Ditum claims that, in Ben Bradley’s imagination, “the political system that exists is one where women are privileged while men are ignored”. He said no such thing, nor did any of the other speakers.
However, I will say it. As the author of a near-700 page book on male disadvantages, I do assert that women in Western countries are privileged compared to men. It is inconceivable that society would tolerate women and girls suffering the litany of disadvantages which are the norm for men and boys.
However…to get to the burden of my post: Ms Ditum’s staggeringly ignorant howler, of direct relevance to the very title of her article, was in response to Ben Bradley’s question, “Why do we have a Minister for Women and not a Minister for Men?”
“Well, and this really is the funny bit… we don’t! There’s a Minister for Women and Equalities, who has responsibility for addressing all forms of discrimination. At the moment that’s done by Liz Truss as a sideline to the trade brief, which I’m sure leaves her lots of time to spare because it’s not like there’s anything going on at the moment with huge, consuming implications for trade. So the interests of women are represented by part of one department that doesn’t even merit a whole minister.”
Err…wrong. Totally, utterly, embarrassingly, wrong.
There is an under-Secretary of State whose title is Minister for Women: the current post holder is Baroness Berridge of The Vale of Catmose. It’s true that Liz Truss has the twin portfolio of trade and also the title Minister for Women and Equalities. But in the latter role she is assisted by two under-Secretaries, the Minister for Women and the Minister for Equalities, the latter being Kemi Badenoch who spoke in the debate.
Perhaps Ms Ditum has not yet mastered Google. If she had she could soon have discovered the remit of the Government Equalities Office, within which all three Ministers reside. Whilst it includes a catch-all reference to “reducing discrimination and disadvantage for all”, the specific instances all relate to women or LGBT. The opening sentence on their web site is,
“The Government Equalities Office leads work on policy relating to women, sexual orientation and transgender equality.”
Hence, the remit of the Government Equalities Offices is misaligned with respect to the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, because the protected characteristic is actually “sex”, not “female”. The Government Equalities Office could be argued to be in violation of the Equality Duty (and I do so argue) .
The Government Equalities Office web site lists their Priorities thus,
- Helping women to fulfil their potential in the workplace and helping businesses get the full economic benefit of women’s skills;
- Eliminating the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) by introducing regulations requiring larger employers to publish their gender pay data, and working with other government departments to address the causes of the GPG;
- Improving female career progression, increasing the number of women on government boards, and in the FTSE 350;
- Addressing the discrimination and inequalities that LGB&T people face;
- Eliminating homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying in schools;
- Promoting the rights of British citizens abroad and using our influence to promote international equality;
- Supporting cross-government strategies, such as; increasing female participation in the labour market, and preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG).
In conclusion: Sarah Ditum is factual wrong: there is a Minister for Women. Furthermore, whilst at least one of the three relevant Ministers in the Government Equalities Office (all women, of course) has a remit which notionally includes general equality issues, within which men’s issues would fall by default, it is clear from the above priorities that men and boys are not a priority – and hence that Ben Bradley’s call for a Minister for Men is clearly fully justified – indeed long overdue and now urgent.