Dear Mr Raab
I want to personally congratulate you for speaking out about sexism against men and share with you the findings of The Men’s Network who have developed the world’s first Citywide Strategy For Men & Boys in Brighton & Hove – a city where poor boys die THIRTEEN YEARS younger than rich girls and yet women’s projects receive THIRTEEN HUNDRED TIMES more funding than men’s projects.
I also want to highlight the 13 INEQUALITIES EXPERIENCED BY MEN that we have uncovered in our work – and to ask for your help in addressing some of the discrimination against men we have discovered in the Coalition Government’s new Equalities Strategy.
As a stay-a-home father in the late nineties I discovered how sexist our society can be against men who go against stereotypes and spoke out against New Labour’s introduction of parental leave legislation that discriminated against fathers (and had a negative impact on their partners and children as a result).
I also discovered the sexism of the family law system in the UK that pretended to be gender neutral and yet clearly discriminated against men – even men like myself who took on being their children’s full-time care and whose wives ended the relationship.
This personal experience led me to play a prominent role in the national debate on family law in my role as the PR Director and media spokesdad for Fathers 4 Justice. I particularly recall meeting many of your fellow party members at the 2003 Conference in Blackpool – and was surprised – as a Labour voter who had always supported their gender equality agenda – to find that when it came to the rights of men, your party was instinctively more supportive of our issues – while many New Labour MPs were instinctively anti-men and men’s rights – as the response of Nia Griffith – the shadow business minister -demonstrates this still seems to be the case – her response to your statement on discrimination against men being: “get real and stop being so self-pitying”.
That statements speaks volumes as it would not be acceptable to tell a MP speaking out on behalf of women or any other equalities group – age, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexuality – to be told by a Labour front bencher to “get real and stop being so self-pitying”.
It is a demonstration of the obnoxious sexist bigotry that has become the norm amongst some (not all) feminists and you are right to tackle it in the way that previous generations have spoken out against intolerable racism, homophobia and sexism against women – as you say, “equality cuts both ways”.
For your benefit it is important to note that I am no longer involved in direct action campaigning for fathers’ rights but committed now to social action for all men and boys.
In 2010 I co-founded a Big Society style charitable venture for men and boys in Brighton & Hove called The Men’s Network – that has some small funding from the local council and works in partnership with the public, not-for-profit and private sector.
For our supporters reassurance – I remind them that I am now apolitical. I chose not to vote for the first time at the 2010 election to emphasize this point and will always seek to work with politicians from all parties (locally and nationally) to improve the way the world works for men and boys.
As far as your views are concerned, I strongly agree with you that what the country needs is for women and men to take ”a consistent approach to equality, ditching outdated gender warfare and finding practical solutions to the challenges couples go through together”.
With this in mind I thought it would be useful for us to share with you the 13 key inequalities experienced by Men and Boys that we have uncovered through our work with The Men’s Network in Brighton & Hove:
Boys born in the poorest wards in our city die 13 years younger than girls born in the wealthiest neighbourhoods
Boys now underperform girls at every level of education and are 4 time more likely to be permanently excluded
Men are 50% more likely to work full-time, three times more likely to be self employed and three times more likely to be unemployed and looking for work
4. SOCIAL DIVIDE
Boys are considerably more likely to grow up without same sex role models, have lower social capital according the ONS and less social mobility
5. WORK LIFE CHOICES
Male graduates are 50% more likely to be unemployed, women in their twenties earn more than men and new research on the pay gap suggests men have a narrower range of work life choices with 82% of dads wanting to spend more time with their children.
Men and boys are twice as likely to be victims of violence yet while there is an international campaign to tackle violence against women and girls, there is no campaign to end Violence Against Men and Boys.
7. AVOIDABLE DEATH
Men are two and a half time more likely to die before the age 25, three times more likely to commit suicide, nearly three times more likely to die on the road, three times more likely to be killed by a stranger and account for over 95% of people killed at work, with more men dying in the workplace than women dying at home through domestic violence. (I make the comparison because Harriet Harman’s supported her dismissal of your views by highlighting the violence and avoidable death that women experience, but never seems to mention the far greater levels of violence and avoidable death that men experience).
8. FATHERS’ RIGHTS
Around one in four fathers is separated from his children although only 1 in 9 shares parenting – a figure that is three times lower than for separated mums and dads in Sweden.
9. MENTAL HEALTH
Men and women experience depression in equal numbers but women are twice as likely to be diagnosed for depression and while there are strategies for helping women and children there is no national mental health strategy for men.
10. DRINK AND DRUGS
In the absence of good access to mental health support, men appear to self medicate and are twice as likely to be problem drinkers. Men in Brighton & Hove are also four times as likely to die of a drug related death with the city being Britain’s drug death capital with one death per week in 2009.
11. SEXUAL HEALTH
A report by The Men’s Health Forum revealed that the National Chlamydia Screening Programme screened fourteen times more women as men — yet it is known that men and women carry the chlamydia infection in equal numbers and that most women are infected by sexual contact with men.
Men are 60% more likely to get cancer, less likely to be screened, more likely to be living with undiagnosed cancer, 70% more likely to die from cancer. Men with prostate cancer - which claims the lives of nearly 200 men every week – report a significantly worse patient experience than people with other cancers and have considerably less money invested in research and palliative care.
13. OLD AGE
At 65 men are twice as likely to be working and twice as many women over 65 will still be alive at 100. Men who do live beyond 65 are particularly vulnerable to social isolation and ill health yet the specific needs of older men are largely ignored in current services for older people.
Despite all of this the Coalition Government’s new Equalities Strategy continues to exclude men and boys as a distinct group with specific needs despite stating that the old approach to Equalities meant that “too many people were made to feel that equality is not for them”
In our opinion the group most significantly excluded from the old approach to Equalities was – and still is – Men and Boys. The new Equalities Strategy sees “every person in Britain as different, each with a right to an equal chance to do well in life” – including men and boys
The new Equalities Strategy recognizes that life expectancy at birth, child mortality, the school results of 7 year olds, your chances of being excluded from school and how well you do in you GCSEs all impact on your ability to do well in life.
The group most likely to underperform in education, get excluded from school and die younger is men and boys.
So we are left wondering why when the Coalition Government has made a commitment to develop a new strategy to engage with women and women’s groups – it has not made a commitment to engage with men and men’s groups?
At The Men’s Network we would welcome your thoughts on this matter and ask for your support in pushing these issues up the political agenda.
You are very welcome to come and visit our project in Brighton & Hove and we would be happy to visit you in Westminster if you would like to discuss these matters with us further.
Thanks again for your bravery in standing up and speaking out about the taboo subject of discrimination and sexism against men.
Glen Poole, Chair, The Men’s Network