Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists


by Guest    
10:24 am - January 27th 2011

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contribution by Laura Nelson

In a sweeping, scathing tirade, Tory MP Dominic Raab this week attacked the ‘obnoxious bigotry’ of feminists.

Feminists are individuals, and don’t all share the same views. But, in general, we aspire to the very opposite of bigotry. Feminists aspire to equality for men and women, which is just what Raab says he wants too.

And this is the interesting point. Raab wants equality. Feminists want equality.

The problem is that Raab is blaming feminists for the discrimination against men. He’s right that it exists, but he’s got the wrong culprit.

Contrary to what Raab claims, feminists, too, want equality in sharing childcare. Hence we welcome Clegg’s announcement to increase paternity leave – a small step in the right direction of shifting the culture so that men can spend more time with their children, and women can do more breadwinning, depending which way you look at it.

Contrary to what Raab claims, many feminists don’t buy into the pseudoscience that ’Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ theory of gender difference.

We believe that people are individuals and should be able to make choices in a context free from pressure to conform to defined gender roles.

And this is key: the context that choices are made. Raab complains that feminists deny that women’s choices could be responsible. Not true.

The massive gender pay gap is a good example. There are many contributing factors. Discrimination is but one, which is why pay audits would be a good idea.

Also, as Raab says, women make choices which mean they may earn less. But we must also be aware that if a woman grows up in a society which places certain expectations or judgements on her, she may make choices accordingly.

Raab fails to consider this, and this is his error, because men are also affected. Why is it that there is still a prejudice in society against stay-at-home fathers? Because it is widely assumed that this is the woman’s role. Many men may choose not to stay at home because this is frowned upon by their employers.

If Raab wants equality -which he says he does he must consider all inequalities and the reasons why they exist. Why are only 12 per cent of top FTSE jobs held by women?

Only 22 per cent of politicians female? Why is the majority of sexual violence perpetrated by men?

These inequalities are largely influenced by traditions and what’s expected and tolerated by society. Feminists work to understand and shift that culture.

Bashing of feminists will not achieve anything. It is not only bigoted in itself but it fuels the gender war (which Raab says he wants to eliminate) and is counterproductive in our common goal to achieve equality for all.


Laura Nelson writes the Delilah blog

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Reader comments


Sort out the text please, its escaping its container div

“Because it is widely assumed that this is the woman’s role.”

Noting that female mammals do most of the nurturing and rearing of the young is a comment about mammalian species, not a devastating critique of the patriarchal nature of late finance dominated capitalism.

@2

Aren’t we supposed to be better than the animals, though? Or is that how economists are viewing humanity these days, it would explain a lot…

;)

Noting that female mammals do most of the nurturing

… makes as much sense as noting that most mammals, of either sex, shit where they eat, have not yet discovered cooking, and as far as I’m aware have no access to the internet.

If you want to be a monkey, we’ll treat you like a monkey; but the nub of these so-called “naturalistic” arguments is that tehy usually make the assumption that women are monkey, while men are human (except when they fancy a shag, in which case they’re uncontrollable beasts), so I doubt that that’s the request you’re making here.

Thanks for this Laura. This is a brilliantly succinct and focused explanation of what’s wrong with Raab’s complete drivel. The key point being that he clearly has no idea what feminism is trying to achieve. Giles Coren’s piece in the Daily Fail today is even more infuriating. He references lots of mean things certain women do say about men but then goes on to undermine his entire argument by making sweeping generalisations that ALL women feel this way about men. He has written a sexist diatribe about how bad sexism is. Hmmmmm.

One thing that is so crucial to understanding all of this is knowing that gender inequality is not about the fact that sometimes men and women are horrible to each other. It is a concrete, objective state of social inequality in which women are currently worse off in all parts of the world. Some of the statistics you provide on economic influence, political representation and violence are testimony to this and it is that material inequality and the oppressive attitudes and practices that sustain it which mean there is a lot more at stake for women when sexism is allowed to pass unchallenged.

Yes, yes, YES. This is exactly it.

As I have said elsewhere, Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (c), but patriarchy hurts women *more*. Raab has identified some of the ways patriarchy/patriarchal views and expectations hurt men, then… gone and blamed feminists instead of the real culprit! It’s very infuriating.

“If you want to be a monkey, we’ll treat you like a monkey;”

I’d prefer ape actually: those bonobos sure do seem to have fun.

Although they technically cannot be feminists, I think it’s disingenuous to claim that many women who go by the name don’t routinely exhibit sexism towards men. I frequently hear things which I find offensive, and think are sexist, within feminist discourse.

But there are clearly two types of feminist. One who are fond of men and just want equality for both sexes in all walks of life. And the other, who are clearly misandrist and hypocritical. They are no better than misogynistic men, even if they are far less in numbers. Why is this so hard to admit?

Whether it is Suzanne Moore’s recent article in which she makes no apology for telling her daughter she is a feminist because “men do horrible, horrible things”, or Laurie Penny openly advertising for a female employee and saying any man would have to ‘prove’ they could do the job as well as a woman, there are people calling themselves feminists high up in the movement who are clearly sexist themselves, and these double standards should be called just as much as Raab’s.

I think we do live in a fundamentally patriarchal society where women get a rough deal, am fully in support of genuine feminists, and would call myself one if it didn’t often lead to being attacked. But I’m not going to be told that ‘feminists’ are never equally guilty of the things they (rightly) accuse men of because I have experienced it first hand.

The problem is that you are trying to speak for all feminists, and I don’t think you can.

a small step in the right direction of shifting the culture so that men can spend more time with their children, and women can do more breadwinning, depending which way you look at it.

And then

We believe that people are individuals and should be able to make choices in a context free from pressure to conform to defined gender roles.

I’m afraid the disclaimer comes to late.

I believe that people are individuals and should be able to make choices free from the effect of laws designed to micro-manage their behaviour.

“I believe that people are individuals and should be able to make choices free from the effect of laws designed to micro-manage their behaviour.”

What about making people free from cultural constraints and expectations that control their behaviour? Eg: to use an extreme example – that a women’s place is in the home, and she shouldn’t be allowed out unless accompanied by a Man.

@7 I’m afraid we’ve had a poll, and the result is that we’re going to treat you like a seahorse. Hope you’re good with children…

I believe that people are individuals and should be able to make choices free from the effect of laws designed to micro-manage their behaviour.

Well, offering more equal parental leave does recognise that people are individuals. They can choose for themselves. On the other hand, I’m not sure what Laura’s next steps would be…

@11.

Not a mammallian species

And not even my own sisters would leave me in charge of their children: not until they were old enough to go to the pub anyway.

Just another example of conservative men hating woman. They can’t stand them.

Pity they have don’t the guts to admit it. But tory mps are dinosaurs.

Even Theresa May is on the OP’s side: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12296269

“Well, offering more equal parental leave does recognise that people are individuals. They can choose for themselves. On the other hand, I’m not sure what Laura’s next steps would be…”

Not really. Treating people as individuals would mean allowing them to negotiate their own parental leave or choose employment that is particularly suitable to having children. To do otherwise, is to give a subsidy to parents at the expense of non-parents in the labour market.

Treating people as individuals would also mean not keeping interest rates artificially low, rendering it impossible to save at a reasonable rate in order to have some money set aside for the periods in which you want to bring up a child full time.

What Dave said … The RSS feed’s broken.

“choose employment that is particularly suitable to having children”

In the real world, As Worstall keeps telling us, this means low paid part time work and a career that will never see you reach the top.

“To do otherwise, is to give a subsidy to parents at the expense of non-parents in the labour market.”

Non parents already subsidise parents through the tax system via a whole series of spending decisions such as provision of education, hospitals, additional benefits etc. I hardly think moving towards equal parental leave constitutes anything major, other than meaning men have the same rights as women regarding taking care of their newborn kids. Indeed if parenthood is the sole reason for the gender pay gap, then this will mean non-parents end up earning more anyway.

In the real world, As Worstall keeps telling us, this means low paid part time work and a career that will never see you reach the top.

The problem with making choices is what?

Treating people as individuals would also mean not keeping interest rates artificially low, rendering it impossible to save at a reasonable rate in order to have some money set aside for the periods in which you want to bring up a child full time.

Er, only if you don’t consider children to be people, and therefore individuals. If you do, then treating them as such means also valuing their futur contribution to the economy and remunerating them for future earnings by prividing a safety net for the period during which they arenot economically independent.

But no country in the world has ever done that (the only ones who have have been Kibbutzim). We treat children as the property of their parents, and then turn around and in a catch-22 type scenario say (or rather the libertarian argument goes) that this property is 100% liability. then we sneak in gender determinims via the back door and claim that it’s only fair for women to carry this economic burden because that’s “natural” to them (vide “mammalian species” above).

The externalised value of women’s labour int eh global economy uns to tens of trillions every year. If you really want to make an economic argument that is sustainable, rather than one that just punishes people for having the tax payers and wage earners and innovators and entrepeneurs of the future, then you have to do all the maths, not just the numbers that fit nicely into a pithy kind of flase “realism” or “rationalism”.

Nobody whines more than middle class, white conservative males.

@Tim Worstall #7: bonobos will not serve your example very well. They may have differentiation of parenting by sex, but other than tha very little of that famous “Darwionian” claptrap that people love to trot out to justify retrograde views: no “alpha” males, little or no violence, no rape, little mate competition, female choice, no harems, no food distribution by status – in short, no political or sexual hierarchies as we understand them.

If you want to be a bonobo, then to bring it back to the original scenario, you’re committing to a workplace that will allow women to breastfeed in the office and not penalise them with reduced access to sex or resources (read: salary, promotions, power) for becoming mothers. Which would be nice, but I don’t think that’s where you were going with this.

then you have to do all the maths,

Excellent, so let’s try doing just that.

I’ll start off.

The value to people who don’t want to have children of having children is low. Possibly even negative as the abortion and contraception figures show.

The value of children to people who do want to have children seems to be very high indeed. People will not only kill to protect their children, they pay enormous sums through the years to raise and educate them, they will even risk and at times give up their own lives to save them.

So, any attempt to do all the maths must include the point that those who have children have something that they hugely value. Which makes the argument that the rest of society must compensate them for this increase in their wealth through redistributory taxation slightly untenable.

“in short, no political or sexual hierarchies as we understand them. ”

No, sorry, not so.

Both alpha males and matriarchs (or alpha females if you prefer). And inheritance of male status from the mother.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo

“The problem with making choices is what?”

It isn’t a very desirable choice is it? Like having to choose between electric chair or lethal injection….you can’t really say it is choice.

How about trying to structure childcare provision, career progression and paths, and employment laws in a way that recognises some people wnat children, want to be able to look after them and bring them up, but also have asperations to have good careers and reach the top. After all, Men are able to do all 3.

Your wasting your time Marina. Tim Rand thinks getting children out of chimneys was a bad idea, because Adam Smith told him so. Ort some such clap trap.

Tim knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

@25

I gave up listening to Worstall’s blathering about “choice” when he defended child labour in the far east because it’s preferable to child prositution.

“Choice” is meaningless when the “choices” are so baleful.

16 -

A valid point. On the other hand (if you don’t mind me lumping you together with Tim)…

The problem with making choices is what?

Let’s leave the parents aside for a moment. Isn’t it a bit tough on the children?

Marina -

…that famous “Darwionian” claptrap that people love to trot out to justify retrograde views…

Eh?

“I gave up listening to Worstall’s blathering about “choice” when he defended child labour in the far east because it’s preferable to child prositution.”

The irony is that if we had a thread on child prostitution in the far east, he’d probably defend that as preferable to child labour – because of the theory of revealed preferences. The same reasons why he argued alcoholics choose to drink themselves into an early grave.

Actually, it strikes me that children have a raw deal under Tim and Nick’s model (if not all of our’s). Firstly they have life rather presumptuously thrust upon them; then they have to cope with distant, stressed or impecunious parents. It’s a hard knock life.

A glaring omission of the article is that it doesn’t specify how men are discriminated against. I notice people have offered suggestions in the comments, but the author hasn’t.

I don’t think you can throw that out there without clarifying it in any way. How are men discriminated against?

I’m not disagreeing, I’m just saying the OP should make that clear.

Ben – not if they had the wisdom to be born to parents who could afford a public school education.

Perhaps we can solve this by changing the incentive structure for sperm so they don’t fertilise the eggs of women too poor to afford them.

@ Planeshift

What about making people free from cultural constraints and expectations that control their behaviour? Eg: to use an extreme example – that a women’s place is in the home, and she shouldn’t be allowed out unless accompanied by a Man.

Aaahh

And what culture would that be, then?

Pagar,

Lots. Some parts of South Asia, the middle east, some Gypsy Traveller groups, various religious cults.

Bet you didn’t think I’d say that ;-)

@31

For one, paternity leave not being equal to maternity.

Thanks for all your comments. @Ellie Mae – men are discriminated against in the issue of childcare. Both Raab and I agree on that. It is still widely accepted that this is a woman’s role, and men who want to do it often face ridicule or hostility by society. Clegg’s step addresses this, but not fully. We will not have true equality until it is just as easy/acceptable/respected for a man or woman to take on the childcare role, and the same for the breadwinner role. Only then will our choices be truly free from pressure related to society’s images of the two genders in society.

37. Just Visiting

> Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (c), but patriarchy hurts women *more*.

This is true – I’ve read academic studies that show men also do worse (in terms of violence against them etc), in male dominated societies round the world.

Same sort of societies the ones that say women’s place is at home, and she’s not allowed out without a male relative…

PS: weirdly, feminists on LC seem unwilling, to start a thread putting their views of women under Islam.

Why are LC feminist ignoring the real situation of their sisters overseas (and some in the UK, who live in such sub-cultures here).

Some feminists here (like Ellie May) have even said they would be willing to comment on this…. but nothing so far…

@37 Just Visiting

I 100% agree. The feminist abandonment of Islamic women is shocking. It seems as bound as they are through sex, they are separated by race and religion.

I’ve written about it here:

http://www.thejournapist.com/2010/07/feminist-abandonment-of-islamic-women.html

39. Chaise Guevara

Good article. Raab sounds as if he may actually mean well, but phrases like “Feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots” (from his article) are counterproductive and painfully hypocritical.

What Raab’s talking about is your offence-seeking, man-hating straw feminist: they do exist, and seem to be quite common on the internet, probably because they’re fairly noisy, but they almost certainly represent a very small fraction of people who would call themselves “feminist”. Judging a large group by its stupidest members is an extremely efficient form of bigotry.

And yes, even if ALL feminists were like that, they’d be guilty for their own stupid comments, but not for the underlying prejudices of society, which, as Tim says, are probably more biological than anything.

If any men dispute that the patriarchy is the primary cause of sexism toward them, I suggest they perform the following experiment:
Wear a dress or other obvious “female” attire for a day while going about your normal daily business. Not drag, just be who you are, but wearing “women’s” clothing. I doubt it will come as a pleasant experience, at least not if you expect any sort of mutual respect off of strangers anyway. If the point isn’t hammered home by then, try then spending a day wearing similar “male” clothing such as kilts or robes and see if there’s a significant difference from the first outing in how you are treated by others.

41. Chaise Guevara

@ 40

Robes? With the obvious exception of wizards, who wears robes? (And wizards only wear them because armour causes a -50% penalty to mana.)

@41 Think along the lines of religious attire. Although given their proclivities I’m almost certain that ‘wizard’ is a valid description. Well, spellbegger anyway…

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 42 Cylux

I hadn’t thought of religious clothing. I guess robes are actually more common that kilts (do trousers cause a -50% penalty to piety?)

You’re right: it is somewhat suspicious that it’s generally seen as a good thing for women that it’s now socially acceptable for them to wear traditionally male clothing, but if a man wears a dress it’s either taken as a joke or seen as freakish.

44. jenimartian

Spot on piece, although I less generously suspect that his claim to be in favour of equality is disingenuous. But I could be wrong. At best he is horribly misguided in his ideas about feminists, at worst, well…

My take on how the Guardian dealt with this story:

http://graunwatch.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/feminist-bigots/


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists http://bit.ly/hdYDZc

  2. Liberal Conspiracy

    Tory MP Domnic Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists http://bit.ly/hdYDZc (text fixed!)

  3. Lee Chalmers

    RT @libcon: Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists http://bit.ly/hdYDZc @rhrodger

  4. BPW Australia

    RT @leechalmers: RT @libcon: Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists http://bit.ly/hdYDZc @rhrodger

  5. Delilah MJ

    Me writing for today's Liberal Conspiracy: Tory MP Raab is right abt discriminatn against men; wrong to blame feminists http://t.co/8Nv3wtQ

  6. sunny hundal

    Tory MP Dominic Raab is right abt discrimination against men; wrong to blame feminists http://t.co/8Nv3wtQ says @delilah_mj

  7. Hannah M

    Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/hty7THI via @libcon

  8. Lolly Mauro

    RT @boudledidge: Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/hty7THI v …

  9. Andy Buckley

    RT @sunny_hundal: Tory MP Dominic Raab is right abt discrimination against men; wrong to blame feminists http://t.co/8Nv3wtQ says @delil …

  10. Dorothea Stuart

    Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/kEmG0UR via @libcon

  11. Alex Burrett

    Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame #feminists #LiberalConspiracy http://t.co/Lwdslym

  12. Nell Epona Bridges

    RT @sunny_hundal: Tory MP Dominic Raab is right abt discrimination against men; wrong to blame feminists http://t.co/8Nv3wtQ says @delil …

  13. Rachel Hubbard

    Raab is right about discrimination against men, but wrong to blame feminists | Liberal Conspiracy http://goo.gl/9giR0

  14. Simon Hewitt

    No fan of LC, but @Delilah_mj on the "feminist bigotry' affair is well worth a read: http://tinyurl.com/5wufuma

  15. Ira

    RT @sunny_hundal: Tory MP Dominic Raab is right abt discrimination against men; wrong to blame feminists http://t.co/8Nv3wtQ says @delil …





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