Hearn, Jeff
Title:Men and Gender Equality: Resistance, Responsibilities and Reaching Out
Published in:Keynote Paper, Men and Gender Equality, 15-16 March 2001, Örebro, Sweden
Place:Örebro, Sweden
Type:Other Outputs

      Abstract: As conference participants, you are already strongly involved in debates on gender equality in your own country, in the EU and beyond. The purpose of this conference is to develop the discussion on how to get men involved in gender equality issues in the EU. This means we have to consider such questions as: How do we think about and understand men's relations to and involvement with gender equality? What are the different kinds of relationship that men have to gender equality? Why is gender equality of interest to some, often relatively few, men? Why is it not of interest to some, often many, men? What are the theoretical, political, policy and practical reasons why it is important for men to become involved in these issues? How is this to be done? What are the promises and dangers of these developments?

      Many of these questions take us to the very heart of our assumptions, understandings, politics and ideologies about gender equality, even the very notion of gender. In many countries gender equality is still seen as 'just women's business'. Gender equality, as it is often understood, does not necessarily problematise men; it may adopt the 'short agenda' of seeking to elevate women to the way men are. Throughout I stress the need for men to understand men's broad relation to gender inequality and equality. While men are collectively and individually located as powerful in relation to women, these are not fixed or monolithic structures of power. Indeed part of the structuring of patriarchy is the maintenance of relations of power between men, by age, class, ethnicity, sexuality and other divisions. Some subordinated men, along with those who are defined as supportive of women, may also be discriminated against. To problematise gender equality is not a matter of adding 'the male perspective' or a 'male liberati
      on' perspective to an existing notion of gender equality. To do this is comparable to adding 'the white perspective' in a racist society, and is as such antagonistic to equality. Rather it means fundamentally rethinking what gender equality is, who is to define its framing, and how this translates to practical actions.

      In particular I address the resistance of many men to different forms of involvement in gender equality debates, policies and activities; the responsibilities of men in taking part in the promotion of gender equality; and the process of reaching out to other men who are less interested and less involved. Resistance to involvement comes from men for a wide variety of reasons: patriarchal practices, sexism, maintenance of power, complicity in current arrangements, definition of gender equality as 'women's business' and not the 'main or most important issues', preference for men and men's company. Responsibilities of men for involvement in gender equality range across the full range of social and economic arenas and issues: work, family and home, sexuality, violence, education, health, sport, organisations and management. Reaching out concerns how to make contact with men around these issues and arenas. Attention will be given to the question of men's violence, men's health and ill health, and the intersection

      of home, work and time.
Last Modified: 15.04.2002