Strange though it is, there are times in life when you come across people who don’t believe misogyny exists. This evening I decided, once and for all, to set the record straight. I armed myself with a netbook, black eyeliner and a suitably feminine-looking toddler (i.e. my youngest son). I thereafter proceeded to trawl all the websites I could think of – the Mail Online, the Guardian Comment is Free, Waitrose Online Grocery Shopping – searching for random anonymous comments which proved that SOME PEOPLE DON’T LIKE SOME WOMEN! Once I’d gathered all my comments, I proceeded to use the eyeliner (Benefit Bad Gal!) to write them in massive script all over my son-pretending-to-be-a-girl. Then I told him that his cuddly monkey didn’t love him any more, which made him go all cry-y and vulnerable-looking, at which point I took a photograph. This photograph proved, once and for all, that MISOGYNY EXISTS!
I would show you the picture but unfortunately I’m not allowed. The ASA has banned it. I should’ve known this would happen. After all, I’d nicked the idea from Fathers 4 Justice and their ad, featuring a miserable boy tot covered in words taken from Mumsnet forums, got banned too. You could say “that’s misandry for you”. You could say that, but I probably wouldn’t.
F4J piss me off no end and I’m not even a mother who’s battling to get child support / trying to keep a violent ex at bay / attempting to get Daddy to visit once in a while instead of dressing up as Batman. They just annoy me. They’re so fucking full of it, not just the self-pity but the aggression directed against women. “Say it with hate this mother’s day.” Christ. Let’s not think of the many ways in which one could interpret that.
I might as well add at this point that if you are a dad who isn’t been given an equal opportunity to raise your child, that’s a truly awful state of affairs. F4J are shit, but that’s even worse. It’s important that I add this, otherwise I’ll look like one of those mythical feminists who don’t believe men are ever discriminated against for being men. I don’t doubt for a minute that men are disadvantaged by gender prejudice. I just don’t believe the whole “it’s down to misandry” narrative.
As an example of how gender discrimination really can limit opportunities for men, I could mention my partner, who’s just finished training as a primary teacher. Over the past year, whenever I’ve said this to anyone, I’ve always got the same response: “oh, he’ll get snapped up! He’s at a real advantage being a man!” Because we hear so much about the need for male role models in primary schools, people naturally assume that men experience positive discrimination when applying for a teaching post. It’s as though all head teachers are meant to read Telegraph editorials and think “yes! That is exactly what I need to do, and to hell with all other candidates and everything I ever believed before!” But the thing is, for my partner and his fellow trainees, the reality has proven somewhat different.
My partner sent out over fifty applications before he even got an interview. Thankfully one interview was all he needed and he now has a full-time job. Other people on his course have not been so lucky and looking at it proportionally, the lack of luck is split equally between male and female trainees. But of those who have been offered jobs, there is another thing worthy of note. Regardless of their personal preferences or aptitudes, all of the female trainees have been offered posts teaching Key Stage 1, whereas all of the men, my partner included, have been offered roles teaching Key Stage 2. The women get the little ones, the men get the SATs preparation. So much for challenging stereotypes.
One man on my partner’s course did at least get as far as the interview stage for a Key Stage 1 post. I’m not sure why, though, since during the interview he was asked the following question:
Do you think young children who are used to being with their mummies will be able to relate to you?
When I first heard this, I felt sure such a question couldn’t be legal, but apparently it is, just as long as it is being asked of all other candidates. Yet if you are a man, you will know that this question means something different to when it is being asked of a woman. There is such a tangled mass of gender stereotypes in those few words – all children are cared for by their mummies, children primarily use gender as a means by which to identify with adults, men cannot appeal to young children in the same way that women do – that it’s hard to know where to begin. But one thing is for sure. It’s not a question of misandry, it’s a question of stereotyping within a broader division of domestic labour, and one which, oftentimes, disadvantages women as much as it disadvantages men (for instance the women who don’t want to be teaching four-year-olds; I’ve got a four-year-old and I sure as hell wouldn’t want thirty of them).
It’s not that I think all things are equal, discrimination-wise. I suspect much of the discrimination that disadvantages some men still arises from the fundamental belief that women’s thoughts and labour are worth less than the thoughts and labour of men. Women have been denied the vote, have struggled to get equal pay, still struggle to gain autonomy over their own bodies blah blah blah blah blah. I just cannot see men ever being perceived in quite the same light. If you relegate women to a particular position in life – one revolving around unpaid domestic labour and childcare – there may yet be times when you want in on it, too. Or you’ll want a job where being good at relating to children is seen as relevant and you’ll find the door slammed in your face (or it might be opened, briefly, only to be closed again with a totally idiotic question).
My partner’s fellow trainee gave as gender-neutral answer as he could (stressing experience with “parents” rather than “mummies”), but he didn’t get the job. I’d give him a job if I had a school, but unfortunately I don’t (mind you, these days perhaps even the likes of me could be given the chance to open one, providing it all looks profitable).
Well, anyhow, what I’m really wanting to say is feminism: it’s not just for women, it’s for men, too. It’s even for Fathers 4 Justice. We all need to join together to make things right. But first let’s wash the eyeliner off the toddlers.