Give dads better rights says centre-left think tank

121018_bs_fatherandsonFathers need to be given greater parental leave rights if we are to tackle fundamental inequalities between men and women according to a new report on parenting by the centre-left think tank, IPPR.

The news comes as the Lib Dems prepare to reveal plans to increase men’s parental leave entitlement from two weeks to four weeks.

At the tail end of the 20th Century mothers and fathers had very little access to parental leave. This has changed dramatically in the past decade.

In 2006  New Labour introduced a parental leave system that was described by  Duncan Fisher, a former commissioner with the  Equal Opportunities Commission as  “one of the most unequal parenting leave entitlement regimes in the world”.

In 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised to reform this system saying the laws on parental leave marginalise dads and deny them the chance to play a hands-on role.

While the Coalition government has made reforms to the system it still  discriminates against fathers. According to Ben Moxham at the TUC “the incentives in place for fathers are so poor that even the government estimates that only 2 to 8 per cent of dads are likely to take this leave”.

The Lib Dems now say that: “We believe men and women have equal rights when it comes to working and raising children.”

This is a somewhat meaningless statement as mums and dads don’t have equal rights and the Lib Dems proposal to increase paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks falls way short of equality.

According to the IPPR, a progressive system “would not only provide the mother with a leave entitlement sufficient to protect her health and that of her baby, but would also support a similar paid entitlement for fathers. A third bloc of shared parental leave, also paid, could be split by parents in a way that works best for them and their family.”

The Icelandic system is held up as an example to aspire to, where from 2016 parents will be given five months of maternity leave, five months of paternity leave and two months of parental leave for parents to use as they see fit

“This is a far cry from the UK’s current parental leave provision: a year-long maternity leave (paid at a relatively low rate), two weeks of paid paternity leave, and a period of transferrable leave (up to six months, which can be transferred fromthe mother to the father),” says the IPPR.

“Allowing the mother to transfer leave to the father in this way reflects strong assumptions about maternal and paternal needs and responsibilities. It also means that fathers don’t have their own entitlement to paternity leave – they are dependent on the eligibility of their partner.”

Last week, the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said dads needs better paternity pay, saying:

“Unless the government raises statutory paternity pay, which is set too low, many dads simply won’t be able to afford time off work. In countries where paternity pay is higher, fathers play a greater role in their kids’ early lives.”

However, opposition to giving dads better rights is strong. According to Duncan Fisher:

“A business lobby, keen to ensure men do not bow to domestic responsibilities as women have to, and the maternal lobby, keen for mothers to remain in charge in the home, combined forces in an unholy alliance, and this Government, like its predecessors, was no match for the pincer movement from both sides.”

And yet parental leave is one area where the men’s and women’s lobbies could be working together as greater equality for dads at home means greater equality for women at work. As the IPPR puts it:

“Unless fathers are given greater rights to paid parental leave, more fundamental inequalities will persist.”

TO DEBATE TOPICS LIKE THESE JOIN US AT THE 3RD NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR MEN AND BOYS. BUY YOUR TICKET HERE NOW.

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Cast Your Vote: What Kind Of Men’s Movement Do We Need?

YesNoAnne-Marie Slaughter, the former Director of Policy Planning for U.S. State Department has said that the world needs a men’s movement—so we thought we’d run a poll to see what kind of men’s movement our readers think the world needs.

To put the statement in context, Slaughter sparked an international debate with an article called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” that sparked a global debate about how women can (or can’t) balance family and career. Now she’s shifting her focus slightly to talk about how women AND men struggle with work-life balance.

“I really think we need a men’s movement, and you’re starting to see it,” she said this week. “Guys are starting to speak up for themselves about masculinity, about care-giving. You know, women are hypocrites this way, because we would go crazy if men treated us in the workforce the way we typically treat them at home — if a guy in the workforce assumed he was more competent than you are, and told you what to do — but that’s the way most women treat men in the household.”

So is she right and if so what kind of men’s movement does the world need? We’ve come up with 10 suggestions based on some of the key factions of the global men’s movement that we’ve come across over the years and produced a poll at the end of this post so you can cast your vote and tell us what kind of men’s movement the world needs.

Of course the 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys is open to everyone so if you want to come along and take part this year then please buy your tickets online today.

WHAT TYPE OF MEN’S MOVEMENT DOES THE WORLD NEED?

1.    A Men’s Liberation Movement

A global men’s liberation movement would be pro-feminist and focussed on liberating men from rigid gender roles on the past and helping men to address unhealthy male behaviours and develop and promote healthy masculinity.

2.    A Men’s Human Rights Movement

A global men’s human rights movement would tackle feminism head on and address all the areas of life where men’s human rights are under attack, with a particular focus on tackling laws, policies and initiatives that favour women and girls and discriminate against men and boys in the process.

3.    A  Men’s Rites of Passage Movement

A Men’s Rites of Passage Movement would ensure that all men and boys had the opportunity to take part in rites of passage work with the support of other men and help every boy make a safe and healthy transition into manhood in the process.

4.    An Integral Men’s Movement

An Integral Global Men’s Movement would seek to unite everyone committed to improving the lives of men and boys no matter what perspective they came from and seek out areas of common interest and opportunities to work together for the greater good.

5.    A Men’s Social Justice Movement

A Men’s Social Justice Movement would focus on areas where men and boys experience inequality or problems with their health, education, family life, personal safety, social care needs etc and take action to find solutions to these issues.

6.    A Religious Men’s Movement

A Religious Men’s Movement would help to solve the problems that involve men and boys by actively working to bring more men to God—with a focus on one religion only (whatever that religion is).

7.    An Interfaith Men’s Movement

An Interfaith Men’s Movement would work across religious boundaries to help solve the problems that involve men and boys by actively working to bring more men to a life of faith, no matter what that faith is.

8.     A Fathers’ Rights Movement

A Fathers’ Rights Movement would seek to ensure that every child knows the love of their father by tackling the failings of the world’s legal systems which favour mothers particularly when parents are separated.

9.    A Shared Parenting Movement

A Shared Parenting Movement would work to unite mums and dads to help men and women equally share the responsibility of caring for their children, looking after the home and earning money through a rewarding career.

10. A Men Go Their Own Way Movement

A Men Go Their Own Way Movement would encourage and support men to “go their own way” and live their lives free from any problems associated with being in a long-term relationship with a women.

So what kind of men’s movement do you think the world needs? Cast your vote below now. You can vote for more than one option if you want to and please feel free to share this page with others so more people can cast a vote today. Thanks for taking part, getting involved and taking action today.

And now you’ve voted why not join the movement towards the 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys and buy your tickets today.

We don’t need women’s permission – we can just go ahead and talk

March13#7-crop1This focus on women’s misandry and matriarchy just keeps us focused on women when we need to be talking about our stuff, says Dr David Bloodwood, from “bloodwood: beyond trousers“.

Diane Abbott’s announcement of a “crisis in masculinity” certainly got the issue of men into mainstream media.  Many of the responses have been critical: Abbott is circumscribing the debate with a feminist frame; her view of men is negative and even perjorative; she shouldn’t be criticising men – a man criticising women like that would be canned; there’s no crisis – men are doing well; there’s no crisis among men – the problem is feminism; there’s no crisis except in Abbott’s mind; and Abbott hasn’t asked men what they want.

While I agree that Abbott’s desired future masculinity of “earning, providing and belonging” is questionable, her speech is the first time ever that a sitting politician from a major UK political party has bothered to make a serious statement about the situation of men overall, rather than single issues, and has argued that our society collectively must address men’s issues.

Certainly, there are gaps in her proposals, just as there are gaps in her understanding of men’s experience of gender.  But this is precisely because of her main point: men don’t talk about gender.  Because we don’t talk about it, most of us have limited language to describe our experiences.  And because men don’t talk about our experiences, women don’t understand men’s experience of gender either.

Sure, there are a very small number of men to whom men’s issues are central to their life and their work (I am one such).  But between us we have not yet been able to frame men’s gender issues so as to engage millions of men in conversation about them.  Instead, as Jack O’Sullivan says, “smart men play safe and stay out of it.”

O’Sullivan says feminism reinforces matriarchy and shuts down men when they speak about gender.  To remedy this he calls for “democratic personal, private and domestic spaces where men feel comfortable to speak… [which] might generate a more open, less condemning public space”.  Such spaces already exist, and have done for 40 years in the form of men’s groups.  The first men’s group in the UK was held in 1971 in Brighton, which plays host to the  3rd UK Conference for Men and Boys in September.

It is crucial that men do have comfortable spaces where we can explore things which are difficult to speak about, and to explore together what our shared experience of gender is.  But despite the well-known existence of men’s groups, very few men have engaged with them.  And so far, men’s groups have not had a noticeable impact on the quality or atmosphere of gender debate.

Nor are they likely to, precisely because they are not public.  In order to engage in public debate about gender we simply need to claim the space to do so on the basis that we are gendered and therefore we have a right to participate.  Like O’Sullivan, I have had my share of personal attacks when I have stood up and spoken.  This is part and parcel of public debate.  Witness the response to Abbott, which is overwhelmingly critical.  But criticism need not put us off, as it hasn’t put off feminists.

Feminists pioneered the fight to get gender onto the table as a major category of social and political organisation.  Because feminists were gender pioneers they have a head start in terms of thinking gender and examining gender in their own lives.  And it is understandable that feminists easily fall into the “pioneer fallacy” that women’s views of gender are all there is to gender. This history can look like matriarchy, and to a limited extent that’s true.

But men don’t need to attack matriarchy to engage publicly about gender issues.  We can accept the benefits of this history: because gender is now being examined, we can now examine how we ourselves are gendered.  We can acknowledge women’s extensive knowledge about gender from their point of view.  We can accept the human failing of women falling into the “pioneer fallacy”.  And we can stand firm on the basis that gender is never going to be understood by women or by men until men’s perspective on gender is incorporated into the foundations of gender theory.  From this point of view men bring a vital and much-needed viewpoint to the gender debate.

Abbott says many things which need to be said.  And her view clearly is that things can be better for men, and that society collectively has a responsibility to ensure this happens.  I will say again: no national politician has ever made such a statement.  The content of her vision is certainly thin, but she deserves credit for the step she has taken.  The vast majority of men do not talk about gender.  For those men who feel we are already talking about this stuff – we need to build on the space Abbott has created in the public arena.

Sure, by all means tackle misandry and work towards dismantling matriarchy.  But such a focus is mostly on what women are saying and doing – which easily recycles the view that gender is about women, and means women continue to set the agenda. So it perpetuates the view that men can’t talk about gender until women let us.

We do not need women’s permission – we can simply go ahead and talk.  Above all, the small number of men for whom gender IS a major issue need to keep experimenting with how to give language to men’s side of gender so that all of us men can get talking about it.

Get talking at the 3rd UK Conference for Men and Boys.   See the Program here.   Get your  Tickets here.

Dr David Bloodwood is a member of the Conference Team. His clothing label, “bloodwood: beyond trousers“, offers new clothes for new forms of men’s participation in social life.

Labour Party starts thinking men again

Think Tanks, Labour Party, Conservative Party, Diane Abbot, Jon Cruddas, IPPR, Demos,  masculinity crisis, fathers, thinking men, sector gathering,There are signs that the Labour Party is starting to think about the way the left approaches men and boys’ issues, with two senior MPs giving speeches on fatherhood and masculinity this week.

The way different political groups approach men’s issues will be  a topic of conversation at the 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys and in particular during the Day Two: Thinking Men event and the Day Three Sector Gathering.

The MPs in question are Diane Abbot, who will give a talk on Britain’s Crisis Of Masculinity at the centrist think tank Demos on Thursday and Jon Cruddas who gave a speech on fatherhood at the centre left think tanks IPPR on Monday.

Cruddas, who is Labour Party’s policy co-ordinator, said:

“The Conservatives have dominated debate about the family with their stereotype of a feckless underclass of absent fathers. They’ve concentrated on demonising a small minority and ignored the majority.
Many fathers…..feel that the Conservatives have failed them.”

On Thursday, Diane Abbot is expected to say:

‘Tomorrow, too many British men and boys will wake up isolated and misdirected by a boundless consumer outlook, economic instability and whirlwind social change.

‘Tomorrow, too many British men and boys who need the space and support to talk about manhood, expectations and boundaries from an early age, at schools, with other boys, and with their parents will remain silent.

“And I believe we need to say loudly and clearly, that there is a powerful role for fathers. The truth is that just as loving fathers are a benefit to children, so loving families are a benefit to men.”

If you have something to contribute on the political debate about which parties are best equipped to tackle men and boys issues then join us at this year’s National Conference or Men and Boys.

We welcome contributions from people with viewpoints and experience from across the political spectrum.

Click on the following  links for more details:

—Photo Credit: geishaboy500/Flickr