Men and Gender Equality
Gender equality is still often considered a “women’s issue”. Furthermore, in the past, gender issues and gender equality policies have been contextualised mainly as a women’s issue.
Gender equality, however, is a responsibility of all individuals and it has increasingly been acknowledged that men and boys are also inextricably involved with gender issues and that they have an important role in efforts to achieve equality. Moreover, it is widely believed that progress towards gender equality will stimulate positive transformations in the lives of both women and men resulting in a better society.
In 2004, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) stated that “men must take joint responsibility with women for the promotion of gender equality” making “contributions to gender equality in their many capacities, including as individuals, members of families, social groups and communities, and in all spheres of society”.
Two years later the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on Men and gender equality, noting that “in order to improve the status of women and promote gender equality, more attention should be paid to how men are involved in the achievement of gender equality, as well as to the positive impact of gender equality for men and for the well-being of society as a whole”.
The European Commission’s Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015 also stresses that: “gender equality needs the active contribution, support and participation of men and policies should also address gender-related inequalities that affect boys/men such as literacy rates, early school-leaving and occupational health.”
The first EU study on the role and position of men in gender equality issues was released in December 2012 and is entitled: “The role of men in gender equality – European strategies & insights”. The study undertakes systematic and comparative research- in the fields of education, employment, reconciliation policies, violence and health- and presents conclusions and recommendations on each of the areas analysed, as well as some guiding principles on how to develop policies to improve the role of men in gender equality.
From its side, the European Institute for Gender Equality, EIGE works with the issue of men and gender equality by taking a dual approach: “Firstly, the appointed staff member coordinates EIGE’s activities around men and gender equality topic. Secondly, attempts are made to follow horizontal approach by integrating men’s perspective in EIGE’s research and consultation work when relevant”. In 2012 EIGE produced a report on the involvement of men in gender equality in the Institute working areas.
Men and Gender-Based Violence
Like Gender Equality, Gender-Based Violence is not an exclusive concern of women, but is inherently connected with both genders.
‘We need more men with the guts, with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence and challenge each other and stand with women and not against them’.-Jackson Katz
Violence against women reflects and reinforces gender stereotypes (see my postWhat is gender-based violence); it is therefore important to understand how traditional conceptions of masculinity and femininity can affect relationships between men and women, and even result in violent behaviours.
‘My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman’.- Tony Porter
On the occasion of November 25th, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged men to become part of the solution, by confronting negative stereotypes that perpetuate this kind of violence:
Men must teach each other that real men do not violate or oppress women – and that a woman’s place is not just in the home or the field, but in schools and offices and boardrooms.
Moreover, one of the main recommendations in the Commission’s above-mentioned study “is to promote non-violent masculinities by changing gender models and promote a concept of ‘caring masculinity’ in contrast to the traditional, hegemonic masculinity model which is strongly connected to violent behaviour”.
In the last decade, men have increasingly become subjects of studies and policies and, from their side, men and boys are redefining masculinity and working for the promotion of gender equality.