Have women swung the pendulum too far?

December 12, 2011

When discussing gender issues from a male perspective you will often hear people talk about a pendulum that has swung too far.

It’s a nonsense metaphor that serves neither women nor men. The idea that there’s an imaginary pendulum that has been swung in women’s favour promotes a lazy binary thinking that can only view gender work as a Zero Sum Game where there’s always a winner and always a loser.

The Men’s Network is not and never has been about pushing an imaginary pendulum back towards men. We’re not interested in playing Zero Sum Games where there’s a winner or a loser.

The Men’s Network stands for a world where every man, woman, girl and boy can fulfil their greatest potential – and our focus is on helping men and boys to overcome the barriers and disadvantages that they face.

This means doing better for boys in schools; helping men live longer, happier, healthier lives; supporting more dads to be more involved in their children’s lives; making sure boys and girls have male role models in their lives and making the world a safer place for all by keeping men and boys safe.

And it means doing this in a way that the whole team wins.

Doing better for men and boys doesn’t mean women have to lose out.

When working with one gender the enemy is not the other gender. There doesn’t have to be a winner or a loser when working with women or men because if we do it well then everyone wins.

But if there is no pendulum and the other gender isn’t the enemy then why does it seem like such a fight some times?

Well it’s because the enemies we are fighting are huge.  The enemy is poverty, the enemy is poor health, the enemy is a bad education, the enemy is crime and disorder and the enemy is violence and abuse.

And if you try telling someone who’s committed to making the world a better place for women and girls – who quite rightly cares about women’s pay, or girls’ access to education worldwide, or women’s cancers, or domestic violence and sexual abuse  – you try telling that person that there’s a pendulum and it’s swung too far now – they would nor surprisingly think you were a little bit mad.

And that’s why the pendulum metaphor doesn’t work because if you’re taking on addressing big problems like poverty and violence then your pendulum can never swing far enough.

And that’s why we need new way of looking at gender issues that empower us to look at issues like women’s pay or boys’ education or men’s life expectancy or men’s risk of offending or violence against women and girls in a way that acknowledges that:

  • Women are not the only ones to experience poor pay and poverty – and most men and women are not in poverty
  • Boys are not the only ones to get a bad education – and most boys and girls get good results
  • Men are not the only ones to die young – and most men and women live long, happy, healthy lives
  • Women are not the only victims of violence – and most men and women are neither perpetrators nor victims of crime and violence

I don’t know what a world where every man, women, girl and boy can fulfil their greatest potential looks like because we haven’t created yet.

And I do know it’s possible.

And I also know that swinging back and forth on a metaphorical pendulum playing Zero Sum Games where there’re winners and losers is NOT the way to make that possibility a reality.

If we must have a metaphor for working with men and women that works for everyone then I’d much rather we sit in a rowing boat than swing on a pendulum.

A rowing boat works really well when all the oars are in perfect balance. If you just pull on the oars on your side, everyone in the boat goes round and round in circles.

So if you’re serious about making a difference for men or women or both then I have a request – will you please step away from the pendulum, hop in the boat and grab an oar!

And don’t all rush to one side now……………

A Merry Christmas to you all

Best Regards

Glen Poole, Strategic Director, The Men’s Network

Source: Have women swung the pendulum too far? (http://brightonmanplan.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/have-women-swung-the-pendulum-too-far/)

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