Grey zone: male attitudes to gender justice

June 11, 2024

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Aidan Monks examines the growing belief that gender equality has gone far enough

As I’m writing this, I find a report by Ipsos showing 47% of British people think things have gone ‘far enough’ with gender equality. All the chatter about women not being equal to men is little more than that: silly, unfounded talk. I’ve known men and boys who have said things like this, usually with a shrug, always with a smile. They think rhetoric about gender inequality lacks intellectual grounding or basis in reality.

These views on gender equality are rising rapidly, with a 20% increase since 2019, when we were behind the United States. Now, we have a 0.7% lead against our estranged allies who are, lest I remind you, facing a second term with a man, Mr Trump who once said, “Grab ‘em by the pussy…”.

He’s also described women as “bitches” and “dogs” and refutes the idea that women’s rights are at risk or lesser than men’s. Given the comments Trump has made, we can assume he would rather inequality did exist because he profits from it; socially, financially, sexually. Gender imbalance is in his favour. By rejecting the existence of gender inequality he can keep the ‘upper hand’.

I discovered a report by human resources body CIPD, revealing the average UK pay for full-time female employees was 7.7% lower than for men. Across the US millions of women no longer have a legal right to abortion, and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that a third of women have experienced physical or sexual abuse by their partners who are predominantly male.

These facts are widely publicised, so world leaders like Mr Trump, if he does not know them, should. The same can be said of increasing rates of violence against women in the UK, especially with the rise of incel extremism. The government knows what is going on, but its response has been disappointing at best. These facts show us that gender equality has not gone far enough in the UK or any Western nation, and yet nearly half of Britons think it has.

Not all men are incels or hold outwardly violent opinions towards women, but the connection between the rise of incel extremism and the post-MeToo backlash against women’s rights is beyond doubt. Resistance to equality belongs to a recent cultural pattern which I identify as emerging from self-preservation. Just as for Mr Trump, the desire to conserve the status quo of traditional gender relations has social value for the vast majority of men. Equality in all forms feels like injustice to those in power, and an aversion to this demand arises from self-preserving resistance.

Masculine self-preservation is fragile, reactionary and a symptom of wider cultural upheavals

If you were to dive into the cesspool of gender-based violence, sexual insecurity and repression that are modern-day ‘manosphere‘ forums, you would come face to face with a mentality that emphasises marginalisation. Feeling left out, forgotten, abandoned or attacked by a nonexistent matriarchal order has brainwashed us into thinking patriarchy exists. These claims show vulnerability. They account for the popularity of Andrew Tate who, like any grifter, says what his vulnerable, volatile clientele wish to hear; to feel better about things like losing jobs, being dumped or cheated on, feeling weak or unprivileged. How can I be ‘privileged’ when I feel this way? All of these things pose existential risks, which incels ‘explain’ and ‘overcome’ by blaming the opposite sex and everyone else in between.

Men see women represented in senior political positions, running companies, leading organisations and doing the same tasks, so they think that gender equality has gone ‘far enough’. But these roles are superficial criteria for equality.

Inequality goes deeper than representation. It goes to the core of social and sexual relations between all people in our community. It’s present in everyday interactions, in our language, and behaviour. It cannot be dismissed based on the success of an elite minority of women doing well in the workplace.

Nearly 50% of Britons think gender equality has gone ‘far enough’ in spheres like politics and business, taking these as the be-all and end-all of women’s emancipation, and dodge addressing inequality in different fields and spaces.

The preservation of traditional gender models is popular among online extremists and is permeating amongst ordinary people. Addressing these forms of gender inequality poses greater risks to the social position of men and demands accountability. Masculine self-preservation is fragile, reactionary, and a symptom of wider cultural upheavals. Until we debunk the ‘leading’ minds behind this silently rising case of fragile extremism, its prevalence will continue to tighten around the men who succumb.

Gender equality and women’s rights are fundamental human rights. Here’s how men can be allies:

  • Speak up against sexism and discrimination: challenge and call out sexist behaviour and language in everyday interactions
  • Support and promote women’s voices: advocate for women in professional settings, ensuring their ideas and contributions are recognised and valued
  • Share domestic responsibilities: actively participate in household chores and childcare, promoting an equal division of labour at home

Check out more ways to support gender empowerment here.

Aidan currently studies at the University of St Andrews studying English and Philosophy. He is an avid reader, writer, and film-watcher. His favourite film is Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman, best book is Nadja by André Breton, and, as well as anything by Daft Punk, he loves Lou Reed’s album Street Hassle.

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