Why is the G20 Killing not Violence Against Men?

article-2385185-0B6382D100000578-583_634x513Glen Poole of the National Conference for Men and Boys organising committee offers a personal opinion on our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys.

This week, the Metropolitan Police Service has apologised “unreservedly” for the “excessive and unlawful force” that killed a man at the G20 protests in London in 2009.

Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old newspaper seller, was caught up in the demonstrations in the City of London as he walked home in April 2009. He was attacked with a baton from behind by Police Constable Simon Harwood, collapsed minutes later and died of internal bleeding.

Harwood was found not guilty of manslaughter but was later sacked by the Met Police for gross misconduct.

An inquest jury found Ian Tomlinson was the victim of an unlawful killing, but what nobody seems to be saying is that Mr Tomlinson was also the victim of violence against men and boys.

Every year, all over the world, men and boys are four times more likely to die a violent death. According to the World Health Organisation, men and boys account for 81% of the people who die violently each year. In total nearly half a million (455,000) men are boys are killed violently every year at a rate of one man dying of violence every minute of every day.

We are, it seems, more tolerant of violence against men—that’s all of us, men and women, together we have a greater collective tolerance of violence against men.

For every woman who is killed violently, four men are killed and there are no global campaigns to end violence against men and boys, yet there are global UN-sponsored campaigns to end violence against women and girls.

Women account for 19% of violent deaths and the international community has decided we need a global campaign to end violence against women and girls, but no campaign to help men and boys—and this is symptomatic of the fact that all over the world men and women are more tolerant of violence against men.

Can we say without doubt that the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson was because he was a man?

Tomlinson was a separated father who had struggled with alcoholism and was living in a homeless shelter. He was working casually selling the Evening Standard newspaper and got caught up in the G20 riots while trying to take his normal route home from work—by all accounts he just wanted to get back to his homeless shelter and his way home was blocked by police—and as the film footage clearly shows, one of them attacked him from behind.

Did this happen because he was a man?

As a man we can certainly say he was at far more likely to be separated from his children, have alcohol problems and be homeless—as a man we can also say he was far more likely to be the victim of violence on the street and it seems reasonable to speculate that if the police had attacked and killed a female passer-by that day, that our reaction would have been different because we are collectively more tolerant of violence against men and boys.

I saw this collective tolerance in action whilst watching a video of an anti-fracking protest in a nearby village in Sussex this week. Men and women joined arms to form a barricade put the police broke it up by inflicting pain on two of the protestors—it was a level of pain that would  no doubt be deemed as “reasonable force”, but it is notable that the pain wasn’t inflicted on two women, or even a man or woman, but on two men.

Why as men, if we go on a demonstration, are we more likely to have pain inflicted on us than any women we go with? Why as men are we more likely to be hit by a baton and die? Why as men are we more likely to be killed in the street by a stranger? Why as men are we four times more likely to die a violent death.

Is it simply because of our gender? Did being a man make Ian Tomlinson more likely to be killed when he got mixed up in the G20 protests. Is it because we tolerate violence against men more than we tolerate violence against women?

We certainly seem to tolerate men’s disposability more—whether it’s male soldiers dying in combat, male suicide, men dying at work, men like Ian Tomlinson being separated from his children, becoming homeless, becoming alcoholic, being killed by the police.

Readers in the UK and USA will be familiar with the names of Stephen Lawrence and Trayvon Martin—young black teenagers killed probably because they were black and definitely because they were men.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission in the UK tells us that black men are twice as likely as black women to be the victims of race hate crimes and gay men are twice as likely to be the victims of homophobic hate crimes. Because they are men—because we are more tolerant of violence against men —gay men and black men are at greater risk of violence than their female counterparts.

I grew up not in the Seventies and Eighties when it was deemed acceptable for male and female teachers—even the terrifying dinner ladies who paraded the playgrounds—to physically assault children. Though in reality it was the boys who took the bulk of the physical punishment. The last assault I was on the receiving end of personally was from a male teacher in 1985 — he grabbed me by the hair and shook me shortly before I took one of my O Levels—not the best preparation for an exam!

I often saw boys pulled about by the hair by adults in school—but never girls—because we are more tolerant of violence against men and boys.

Why when the Home Office tells us that six out of 10 people killed by someone they know and nine out of 10 people killed by a stranger are men and boys do we have a national strategy to end violence against women and girls, but no strategy to help men and boys?

Who is looking out for the boys around the world who are beaten and bullied at school, the men and boys sent to war, the men and boys subjected to rape and sexual abuse and domestic violence who find it far harder than their female equivalents to access help and support?

Why on earth is there no law to stop people cutting off parts of a boy’s genitals without an anaesthetic for no medical reason, when there are laws to prevent lesser procedures on girls (like piercing or nicking). When it happens to girls we call it violence against women and girls. When we hear that a baby boy bleeds to death from the end of his penis in the UK in the 21st Century there not a single MP prepared to stand up in parliament and say this must end—and no-one dares to call it violence against men and boys.

So where are the feminists who claim to be fighting for gender equality in all of this? If women were four times more likely to die a violent death than men it would be a gender equality matter—so why not when it’s men?

Maybe that isn’t feminism’s job. If not, then where are the men’s rights activists? Why haven’t they created a global campaign to help the men and boys of the world be free from violence and abuse?

Part of the challenge is that to acknowledge our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys, men’s rights’ activists would also have to acknowledge that the majority of (not all) violence against men is perpetrated by men—they couldn’t credibly blame feminism or women for the majority of violence against men and boys—though some would try.

And because of this—because of the tendency of men’s rights advocates to see the world through the filter “men have problems and women and feminism are the problem”—focussing on stopping all violence against men and boys detracts from highlighting cases where men are victims of women’s bad behaviour.

As a result, it is currently pro-feminists who seem to be more likely to highlight the issue—or at least part of the issue of our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys. There is a growing “patriarchy hurts men too” narrative evolving that is mostly pro-feminist and is shifting the narrative on violence from “women have problems, men are problems” to “women and some men have problems and it’s men and patriarchy who are the problem”.

What pro-feminists struggle with is acknowledging that men are far more likely to be victims of violence than women —because this takes focus away from female victims— and they also struggle to acknowledge the violence that women do to men and boys—the mothers who beat and abuse their children, the women who beat their partners and husbands, the women involved in elder abuse.

And so between them, between the men’s rights activists and the feminists who all proclaim to be for “true equality”—no group is standing up to end our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys.

Only when we take a gender inclusive approach that acknowledges men and women as both perpetrators and victims will we ever create a world free from violence and abuse for everyone.

Men are four times more likely to die a violent death than women. The Met Police didn’t kill a genderless passer-by in 2009, they killed a man—our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys makes it more likely that there will be more deaths like his in future.



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.”


Sexually explicit novel about female sex offender divides critics

k-bigpicA controversial new American novel about a paedophile teacher who preys on prepubescent boys has divided critics, been shortlisted for an award and banned from some bookstores.

Described as a modern day Lolita, the book Tampa by author and professor Alissa Nutting exposes our double standards towards female perpetrators and  male victims.

Nutting told Lifestyle Mirror: “Our culture isn’t accustomed to viewing males (even underage teen ones) as the sexual victims of women, and I find that very problematic.”

The novel centres on Celeste Price, a 26-year-old sexual predator and high school teacher who abuses a 14-year-old boy. Nutting was inspired to write the book after a woman she went to school with was exposed as a female paedophile.

According to Daily Life in Australia, Nutting began to keep an eye out for the stories of female predators that kept cropping up and started to notice discrepancies in the way they were reported saying:

“I was really interested by the disparate reaction when the offender is a woman and when the offender is a male. I wanted to write a book that drew attention to the ways that we seem to give female sexual predators a pass. We live in a society that has a really hard time seeing women as being able to sexually victimise men at all. There’s this widespread view that men always want sex so there’s no way they can be sexually victimised. And also we tend to look upon the offenders with our very adult gaze and judge their behaviour that way when it’s women. I think a lot of times heterosexual adult men will look at the women and think, ‘Well, I’d want to sleep with her – where’s the crime?’ in a way that we don’t when it’s a male offender with a 14-year-old girl.”

Despite the controversy around the book, Nutting says that she’s received many messages from male victims who have thanked her for telling their story and spoken of the negative impact the abuse has had on their lives.

According to an interview with Jezebel, Nutting says:

“I want to draw attention to the ways we view predatory female sexual behavior, and to the limitations of sexual discussion in our culture.”

She says  one of the reasons that we don’t view female sex offenders in the same way as male sex offenders is because sex is often  “packaged as something for men to enjoy”.

“ There’s a sense of, ‘adult men would want to have sex with this woman, so she’s incapable of committing a sexual crime.’ This perpetuates the harmful patriarchal stereotype that female sexuality can’t be violent—that it’s simply there for male use with no agency of its own, that it doesn’t hold power,” she told Jezebel

“Once caught, the main character Celeste is ultimately treated very differently than I think a male offender would be. For readers I think the reversal is somewhat of a challenge, because there are conflicting messages about how to respond to female sexual predators in our society. This is something the book engages: do we condemn her? Idolize her? Become aroused by her? And what cultural messages inform our reaction?”

The book has been compared by some with Fifty Shades Of Grey, a comparison Nutting dismisses:

“Tampa is sexually explicit, so I understand a dialogue surrounding the two of them. But I think the fact that Tampa is about an illegal predatory relationship, with an abuser and a victim, instead of about two consenting adults, negates any sort of direct parallel.

“I’m interested in the ways that these cases are often portrayed in the media. When it’s a female teacher and an underage male student, there’s often a discussion surrounding the case that implies it’s a victimless crime. I’m also interested in the ways that, for women, our culture tends to prioritize beauty and maintaining a youthful appearance above all else.

So what have critics made of the book? Well, Publishers Weekly says, “Nutting’s work creates a solid impression of Celeste’s psychopathic nature but, unlike the much richer Lolita, leaves the reader feeling empty”, while Entertainment Weekly says “the writing is often excellent, hilariously dark, and mean”.

The issue of male victims of rape and sexual abuse is a topic covered at the National Conference for Men and Boys. You can buy your tickets online today.

Your personal invite to the UK’s 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys

A personal invitation to come along to this year’s 3rd National Conference for men and boys in Brighton & Hove from 26th September to 29th September.

To buy your tickets online today click here now.

Social workers must change how they work with men

7683883952_6fa0a03576Social workers need to revisit how how they work with men, according to Professor Vivienne Cree at the University of Edinburgh, in a recent article for Community Care magazine.

Professor Cree is an influential figure who co-authored the 1996 book Working with Men: Feminism and Social Work which promoted the principle that ‘women are our first priority… work with men is done in order to improve the quality of life for women’.

Cree has revisited the subject herself in the intervening years, in a 2008 Lecture—“Feminism: Past It, Lost Cause or Unfinished Revolution?“—she noted the post-feminist views of some of her younger female students who were making observations like:

“I believe that placing too much focus on feminism can take away from the idea that men and women should be treated equally. It may allow for an excessive amount of sympathy for women, which will not promote their equality to men.”

And also:

“I think men are left out too much and there is a risk of seeing women as ‘victims’.”

Speaking for herself in 2013 Cree says:

“Those who do manage to engage with men often do so in the context of challenging their problematic behaviour. Men are still, more often than not, seen as the problem: they are presented as the absent fathers, abusive partners, sexual predators and generally bad examples for their children.

“This is not, of course, to suggest that there have been no changes. Fathers today are much more likely to be involved in the care of their children, especially their younger children, and some social work researchers have explored the positive value that this brings to children and communities.

“But this must be viewed in the context of what is a daily onslaught of ‘bad news’ stories about men: of gang rapes of women in India; of young women being locked up for years in a basement in the US; of children being sexually exploited at home and abroad.

“Men are, more than ever, presented as dangerous to themselves and others. Women and children, on the other hand, are increasingly seen as vulnerable and in need of protection.

“Of course, this is a caricature; I have painted a very black and white picture of binary opposites. Life is much more complex and uncertain, as evidence of women who abuse and men who care for others demonstrate.

“My point, however, is that this caricature is incredibly powerful. It seeps into all our dealings with others and may lead to very risk-averse, negative encounters with men in social work. Social work must now revisit how it works with men, learning some of the lessons of the past and accepting the complexity of the lives of women, men and children today.”

Further Reading:

Tackling anti-men attitudes in social work

Feminism: Past It, Lost Cause or Unfinished Revolution

Feminism in social work: revisiting how we work with men

10 Tips for Social Workers Working With Fathers

Five Ways for Social Workers to Engage With Young Fathers


There’s no greater pain than feeling you don’t measure up as a man

What’s the greatest pain a human can feel? Childbirth? Going to a Justin Bieber concert? Getting caught in your downstairs zipper?

No, apparently there is no greater pain than “feeling like you don’t measure up as a man”. The quote comes from American pastor and former professional footballer, Joe Ehrmann in a TEDx talk on masculinity (featured above).

Joe says that there are “three words that are a phrase that have become the most culturally destructive mandates in this culture” and that “if we could change these words we could change the world”.

They are “the three scariest words that every man receives in his lifetime” says Joe and the words are “be a man”.

Joe is concerned that “young boys are taught at a very early age that in order to be a man they’ve got to separate their hearts from their  heads. Boys are taught that to have emotions, to show them, to share them, to emote them—somehow those things are considered signs of masculine failure.”

He says there are”three fundamental lies” that boys are told about what it means to be a man:

  1. Athletic ability
  2. Sexual conquest
  3. Economic success

“We live in a society where all kinds of men associate their self worth with their net worth,” says Joe.  “We’ve got to figure out how do we reframe this term of what it means to be a man.”

Joe points to the condition Alexithymia, a condition that he says 80% of  American men suffer from in some form.

Alexithymia is the inability to put emotions into words and he says it’s a disorder that we condition men into.

“It comes from the fact that when were five, six years old we were told to stop with the emotions, stop with the feelings, never given permission to emote, to develop a vocabulary, to even name our feelings as well—and this is where most of the social problems begin. Because if you don’t understand your own feelings, your own emotions, you’ll never understand the feelings and emotions of another human being,” he says.

Joe also highlights what he calls the “three footprints of covert masculine depression”—isolation, drug abuse and violence.

“I don’t think there’s anything more painful than feeling like you don’t measure up as a man,” says Joe “and given the cultural definition, you’ll never have a long enough athletic career, you’ll never sleep with enough women and  or make enough money to ever fulfilled and satisfied by that. So men start to medicate the pain of not feeling man enough—alcohol, drugs, sex, materialism, pornography—whatever men need to attach to in order to feel secure about their own masculinity.

“Men aren’t raised to be relationally successful,” says Joe. “As every young boy grows up we’ve got to give them affirmations we’ve got to give them some kind of validation about all of their emotions, all of their feelings all of their humanity

“So the next time you see some young boy struggling with the tears the emotions well you think what would happen in this world if we walk up to that person and said ‘way to be a man’.”


10 Reasons Men Need a Gender Equality Movement

65088584-equalityThere’s an interesting comment piece in the Boston Globe by Cathy Young, a Russian American writer whose books include Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality.

Young picks up the recent public debate on the need for a men’s movement and says what men and boys really need is a gender equality movement.

“To many, the very notion of “men’s issues” or men’s rights seems laughable” says Young but  “men’s advocacy raises important and worthy issues that often draw unfair ridicule”.

“Unfortunately,” adds Young the men’s rights movement “is also prone to toxic rhetoric that subverts its valid points and alienates potential supporters.”

“Perhaps what the 21st century needs is not a women’s movement  or a men’s movement, but a gender equality movement,” she concludes.

Here are ten of the key men’s issues Young thinks a gender equality movement would need to address:

  1. If women were dying in 90 percent of workplace fatalities and three out of four suicides, would we not see such numbers as troubling—and as legitimate women’s issues? Yet, reversed, the disparities go unnoticed
  2. Unlike racial profiling of minorities, the disproportionate targeting of males by law enforcement gets no attention
  3. Women account for more than a third of illegal drug use but fewer than 15 percent of arrests
  4. While men are often presumed dangerous to children, actual female molesters tend to get lenient treatment.
  5. There is virtually no recognition of ways in which current policies treat paternity as a public resource. Men coerced into unwilling fatherhood  must still pay child support. On the flip side, divorced fathers often feel they are treated more as wallets than as parents.
  6. When imbalances that disadvantage men or boys — such as male academic underachievement — become the subject of concern, such concerns are often viewed with suspicion as potential attacks on women.
  7. With a few exceptions, feminists have balked at any pro-equality advocacy that would support men in male-female disputes, acknowledge that women can mistreat men, or undermine female advantage.
  8. While the push for gender-neutral laws in the 1970s helped dismantle the formal presumption of maternal custody, actual efforts by fathers to get sole or joint custody brought on a swift backlash from the women’s movement.
  9. When the campaign for tough domestic violence policies netted more female perpetrators, women’s groups pressed for anti-male double standards, promoting the myth that nearly all female violence is in self-defense.
  10. Laudable feminist efforts to secure justice for rape victims have often turned into calls for a presumption of male guilt.

To read more on the current debate on whether the world needs a men’s movement see the following articles: