03 September, 2010

Guest Post: How Gender Roles Hurt Men

This is a guest post written by my younger brother Adam. It was originally an oral presentation for a speech contest at his school. The writing, as you'll see, reflects that.

I want to point out that this is not a chance for you to tear him apart because "women have it worse". He understands that gender discrimination has it's roots in misogyny, he gets that. This is a chance for him, a man, to talk about the issues that affect him. Please respect that. This post will be heavily moderated accordingly.

Discrimination Against Men - How Gender Roles are Killing Society
The issue of discrimination against men is not something you hear in typical conversation. People don't see it as an issue, it's rarely brought up, and people are more likely to discuss even more controversial issues, such as abortion or rape. But I'm sure many of you here can agree that it does exist. Even if it's not all of you. Whether it's a serious problem, however, is what I will ask of you today. But first, let's look at only a few areas where it exists.
Who do you think is the perpetrator of violence? I'm sure all of you will say men. In fact, you'd be right in 86% of cases. I'm not trying to argue that women are as violent as men. But then ask yourself, who are the victims of violence? Women? Children? Most of the time, a man is the victim of violence. In Australia, there is more suicide, homicide, and abuse targeted at men than women. A clear example of discrimination here is the perception of violence against women. Imagine this scenario:
A man goes and beats a woman. Now this in almost everybody's mind is wrong. The man is a woman basher, so he's shunned from society without a candle to his name. Now imagine a woman beating up a man. What's society's response to the man now? Yet again, he's shunned. He's seen as weak and should be ashamed of being beaten by a girl. So in cases of violence, men can never win. Either it's "dude, you just got beat up by a girl!", or "dude, you just beat up a girl..."
Gender Roles
Why is this? Because of perceived gender roles. In cases of violence, men are always the perpetrators, never the victims. From a young age, we have been instilled with beliefs about males and females. Fighting with males is "boys just being boys", and is actually encouraged as a form of play. Men are supposed to be strong and handle all forms of abuse. So if they do get abused, they get told to toughen up, or be shamed if they can't do so. But fighting with girls is "woman bashing", no matter what the circumstances.
It is not true that a person cannot defend themselves simply because they are female. And it is not true that any man who won't fight is weak, and should be ashamed. Violence is no different if the victim is a man or a woman. Their strength should be considered, but their gender does not in any way determine their strength. And the impact of that violence is what should be considered most of all in any case of violence. Not the gender, not the social stigma surrounding it, but the impact the violence has on the victim and everyone else.
Probably the largest form of male discrimination occurs in childcare. Men find it difficult to pursue jobs involving children, as that's seen as "women's work". To do so would suggest some ulterior motive. For example, a man going for a position in a primary school is likely to be accused of paedophilia.
It is incredibly difficult for men to get time off to take care of their children, as there is a shocking lack of support for men who stay at home to look after the children. Furthermore, Centrelink is incredibly reluctant to provide any support and care for fathers who try to stay home while the mothers work.
Another issue is the victimisation of men in divorce courts. Mothers get primary or sole custody of children in 60% of cases. In only 15% of cases does primary or sole custody go to the fathers. By default, single mothers get sole custody in 100% of cases unless a court rules otherwise. Fathers are discouraged from even trying to get custody of children, because they rarely win. If he tries, he will have a 60% chance of being accused of child sexual abuse as a fear tactic by the mother. For those who succeed, 30% of the time it is learned that they aren't the biological father of one of the kids.
Even if he gets custody, he could still be accused of domestic violence or child abuse in the last 12 months, at which point he has to prove himself innocent to continue getting custody of the children. And even if he was proved innocent, but was found to have retaliated in self defence, he still can't get custody because it's still considered domestic violence against the mother. Honestly, how could you say there is no gender discrimination in divorce courts?
Gender Roles
Women in society are typically seen as carers. This is a dangerous stereotype. Misconceptions are common about this, such as woman are naturally better carers than men. This is false and leads to serious issues with discrimination. Fathers who stay at home develop the same bond with the child that women who stay at home do. In fact, fathers are capable of equally bonding with their children, even if they're not with them as often. No parent immediately knows how to care for their children. It is something provided through education, for both mothers and fathers.
There is also the controversial issue of "motherly instinct". This means that women are naturally better at child rearing because they gave birth to them. Yes, having a child for a nine month pregnancy does form a special bond with the child. However, that does not mean they're naturally better suited for the role of primary parent and caregiver. Finally, there's the myth that men can't do what women can do for kids. The only things a man can't do are give birth, and be a female role model. But there are others who can be a role model.
What can we do about it?
Gender discrimination comes from the same place, whether it's against males or females. It is not one-sided. I wouldn't even say they're two separate issues! Discrimination is just as wrong whether it's against a man as opposed to whether it's against a woman. It's not a matter of who the victim is, but why there is discrimination. That is, the gender roles placed on society. Stereotypical views of men and women are what cause this type of discrimination.
When people stray from these stereotypes, they go through a lot of trouble. Men go through this trouble because feminine traits are seen as negative qualities. So both men and women are harmed by this. And both men and women need to be involved in combating the issue of discrimination, as voices from both members need to be heard. We all need to work together to reduce the damaging gender stereotypes in society. 
Here's a riddle for you. What's the difference between a man and a woman? It depends on the individual. There is no stereotype about men or women that is true in 100% of cases. To deny a person equal rights based on their gender is discrimination. If more men have the capacity to be engineers, should all women be seen as incapable of becoming engineers? If more women are better at raising children, should all men be seen as incapable of child rearing?
And raising children with certain beliefs about men and women actually affects who they are. Yes, their brains are somewhat "pre-wired" depending on their gender and individual personality, but they are also incredibly suggestive. Treating children differently actually causes physical differences in the brain. If you tell a boy at an early age that all men are violent, and fighting amongst boys is condoned, then they will become violent individuals.
So fight to reduce discrimination against gender now, and raise your kids without the need for stereotypes in the future. Thank you.

1 comment:

Katzmeow87 said...

This is an excellent post. I completly agree that gender discrimination goes both ways. I'm in an industry where it happens as well. Props to adam for being so perceptive.