Archive for September, 2009

CNN

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I was contacted by CNN today, and offered to join them for a live interview on Saturday afternoon. However, when they realized I wasn’t based in the US, they retracted their offer. Still, I take it as an encouraging sign that they find my work to be of significant quality.

The article they wanted me to comment on was The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, that I first wrote for the blog and then reposted on Men’s News Daily.

Child Abuse Allegations In Divorce Cases

Monday, September 21st, 2009

As a person working for gender equality from a non-feminist perspective, I’ve heard several anecdotes and personal accounts from fathers, claiming that mothers are increasingly using allegations of child (sexual) abuse, as a way to shut out the father from the child’s life and getting sole legal and physical custody. As interesting as these claims might be, I’ve avoided writing about the subject for the most part, since I am adamant about having some kind of fact or research backing up such claims, before legitimizing them.

Recently I was pointed to a report from the Dutch Public Prosecutioner’s Office, where the Dutch National Expertise Group on Special Cases of Sexual Misconduct have investigated 42 allegations of child sexual abuse in divorce cases. The full report can be downloaded in Dutch, but for those of us who only understand English, a Google translation of the official Dutch summary will have to suffice for now. Here’s a key excerpt from the translated summary:

In 69% of the cases from the period 2003-2007 the Expertise Group concluded that there was insufficient evidence (contradictions, errors, impossibilities, serious weaknesses) and was advised to stop the investigation. In 9% of the cases were advised to stop the investigation, because the file contained insufficient information relevant to an assessment by the Expertise Group, while further research was meaningless because of crucial errors in the history of the case.

In 18% of the cases the file contained insufficient information for a relevant assessment by the Expertise Group, but further investigation was reasonable and were tracing recommendations. In 4% of the cases presented Expertise Group concluded that there were no failures in the history of the accusation and there were sufficient facts that supported the declaration, and was advised to proceed to prosecute the accused. In declarations of sexual abuse after divorce was 95% of the cases recommended stopping the study (86% severe shortcomings, 9% further investigation useless).

In other words, 7 out of 10 cases contained contradicitions, errors, impossibilities and/or serious weakness. Even though this is a small study, and though it doesn’t conclusively prove anything (more studies are needed, one study is never enough), it gives us a hint that some mothers likely abuse the system by using false allegations to get sole custody of their children.

None of this needs to be a problem in a modern democratic society, if the legal system works as it should, and only convicts people when there is proof beyond reasonable doubt. However, in Sweden–and in many other Western countries–courts have become politicized to some extent, and the widespread dissemination of feminist ideas have led to men being convicted more easily in cases where a woman accuses a man of rape, assault or child (sexual) abuse. As such, it is vital that we preserve the integrity of our legal systems, and defend the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.

The other side of the coin is of course that children need to be protected against abusers, because abusers do exist. In order to do this we need to distinguish between:

  1. Taking every report of child abuse seriously
  2. Automatically believing every report of child abuse

Every report needs to be investigated promptly, in order to keep the child safe, but whether the report is true or not cannot be decided beforehand, and the report on its own–without being investigated–shouldn’t be used to determine who gets custody of the child.

Where Are All the Men’s Organizations?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

This question is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Considering that half the population is male, it would make sense for any country to have lots of men’s organizations. Still, I don’t seem to be able to find them. Now, it’s not that we don’t have any men’s organizations of course, because we do, for example the following kinds:

  • Father’s rights organizations
  • Organizations where men practise commitment and accountability (à la Promise Keepers)
  • Ethnic organizations for men (Million Man March)

But these aren’t really the kind of men’s organizations I’m looking for. Where are the large, coherent organizations that stand up for men’s rights, and speak up about how the male gender role affects men negatively? Wikipedia has a list of women’s organizations, but the list of men’s organizations is conspicuously absent.

The absence of strong men’s organizations became painfully evident recently in Sweden when there was a prominent debate in the media about male circumcision (there is no Swedish tradition to circumcise men, but we have lots of Muslim immigrants and also a small Jewish community that practise circumcision). The only ones who spoke up against male circumcision were a few male surgeons who refused to perform the procedure, even though the Swedish government has ordered hospitals to offer this service to those who want it. A survey later showed that two thirds of surgeons were reluctant to circumcise healthy boys.

Anyhow, the main point is that no men’s organization spoke up because there are no men’s organizations in Sweden that could speak up. Where the men’s groups should have been, was only a compact vacuum.

This is a stark contrast to the numerous women’s organizations that exist in Sweden, feminist or otherwise. The end result is that male circumcision is still allowed in Sweden, even though female circumcision has been banned for almost three decades (Swedish people don’t practise that either, but some African immigrants do).

The more I work with men’s issues and issues of gender equality, the more I realize that no substantial progress will be made until men self-organize in larger units that can then speak out for men’s rights. Individual efforts are great, but in the long run organizations have more staying power than any one individual.

Do Women Really Work More?

Friday, September 11th, 2009

We often hear the claim that women do two jobs, one in the marketplace and one in the home, while men do only one. The conclusion is that women work more than men and men need to start doing a lot more housework. However, as with many feminist claims regarding gender equality, actual research does not back up this assertion.

An international study by three economists, Michael Burda of Humboldt University in Berlin, Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas, and Philippe Weil of the Free University of Brussels; demonstrate that in the Western world, men and women work the same number of hours every day.

An article in Slate summarizes the findings in this way:

Throughout the world, men spend more time on market work, while women spend more time on homework. In the United States and other rich countries, men average 5.2 hours of market work a day and 2.7 hours of homework each day, while women average 3.4 hours of market work and 4.5 hours of homework per day. Adding these up, men work an average of 7.9 hours per day, while women work an average of—drum roll, please—7.9 hours per day.

Personally this comes as no great suprise to me, since the national statistics in Sweden (no translation, sorry) consistently show that men and women work the same number of hours every week.

The authors of the study have also investigated the widespread myth that women work much more than men:

In a survey by the authors of this study, 54 percent of economists and 62 percent of economics students thought that women work more than men, as did more than 70 percent of sociologists. And while the gender equal-work phenomenon has been noted before, “it has been swamped by claims in widely circulated sociological studies … that women’s total work significantly exceeds men’s,” as the authors put it.

My interpretation is that feminism has been so successful at getting its message across (women work more), that no one has really bothered to check the facts.

Unfortunately, the list of feminist myths is growing long:

  1. Women work more than men
  2. Intimate partner violence means men beating up women
  3. Women earn less than men when performing exactly the same job
  4. Women don’t lie about being raped
  5. Girls are shortchanged in schools
  6. The main reason for women not reaching the top of society is the “glass ceiling”
  7. And the biggest one of them all: the female gender role is much worse than the male gender role

Six Levels of Feminist Critics

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Feminism has been a hugely influential political movement in the last few decades. In Western countries such as the US and Sweden, government policy and mainstream media have accepted the basic tenets of radical feminism without much resistance. However, during the past few years, an increasing number of people have started questioning the unconditional embrace of feminism, and whether feminism is the best way to address gender issues in society.

During the past decade we’ve seen an increasing number of books, articles and blogs that clearly demonstrate that feminism operates from a set of rigid assumptions, and that men’s voices are sorely needed in the discussion around gender roles. It’s easy to believe that most of these critical voices are coming from a similar place; however, I do not believe this to be the case at all. People who take issue with some or most of the feminist assumptions, do so from very different belief structures.

In fact, I started playing around with different ways that you can be critical of feminism, and came up with Six Different Levels of Feminist Critics:

  1. At this level you have no criticism towards feminism and believe that feminism is spot-on. You are a feminist yourself and possibly self-identify with a particular branch of the movement.
  2. Some mild criticism starts appearing. You find it important that masculinity studies within the feminist framework are carried out, since you believe that patriarchy hurts men too. Many liberal men and cultural creatives can be found in this category.
  3. Radical feminism (i.e. the belief that men structurally oppress women) is criticized without hesitation, but classical feminism is embraced and deemed to be the solution to gender issues. You believe that women were unfairly disadvantaged in the past, but that the only correction needed is civil and legal equality around the world. You may or many not have anything against a men’s movement. This is the level where we find Christina Hoff-Sommers, who’s written Who Stole Feminism and The War Against Boys – two very important books for the men’s movement.
  4. Both gender roles are viewed as being more or less equally limited and harmful to the individual. Men and women face very different gender roles, but neither one can be said to be much worse than the other. Consequently, you believe that feminism only views half of the problems that a discourse on gender needs to address, and a masculist discourse is needed to balance things out. This is the stance (according to my interpretation) of author Warren Farrell, who is perhaps the best known and most important writer in the men’s movement.
  5. This level is identical to number 4 above, with the addition that you criticize the common feminist position of believing that all gender differences are socially constructed. It’s not that people at level 4 ignore innate sex differences, but at level 5 you consider them to be crucial in any balanced discussion on how gender shows up in culture and society.
  6. At this final stage, you believe that the male gender role is worse than the female gender role, and that things could only be set right by by having a dominant masculist movement, similar to the way we now have a feminist movement dominating the discourse.

Where would you place yourself in this list?

Personally, I belong on level 5, but I believe that anyone from level 3 to 5 can work together to bring more sanity to the whole discussion on gender equality. The first two levels propagate the onesidedness of feminism, which is becoming increasingly unsustainable as men are starting to wake up and demand a gender discourse that looks at the situation of both sexes.

The final level–level 6–is the pitfall of the masculist or men’s movement. The moment you enter this realm you are in danger of sliding down into the same anger and lack of fact-checking that radical feminists around the world regularly resort to. If men’s rights activists, masculists and feminist critics are to have any success in working towards true equality and a society that respects both sexes fully, then level 6 cannot be allowed to have any sort of real influence.

That said, I’m well aware that growing up with feminism, the way I did myself, can create a lot of unresolved anger. So there is a real need for places to vent, where men can say things without needing to come across as grounded and balanced. Men’s groups can be the perfect container for this kind of venting, as can blogs that are dedicated to that purpose–if you don’t have access to a men’s group. However, any person critical of feminism cannot lose sight of the fact that it is only by taking the moral high ground, that the emerging voices of men and the emerging voice of reason can be successful in implementing a new paradigm that replaces the feminist worldview with one that authentically cares about both sexes.


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