Whatever your political leanings, your engagement with internet debates or your opinions on anything in particular, chances are you’ve sensed it: the gender wars.
If you have the internet, you’ve probably come across contrary interpretations of the gender pay gap. Who doesn’t know about Emma Watson’s UN speech, or the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk entitled We Should All Be Feminists, or the potty-mouthed infant princesses, all waxing poetic about feminism?
As the world gets smaller and more connected, it’s likely you’ve come across the terms like rape culture and GamerGate. If you didn’t hear about Charlotte Proudman’s reaction to a male solicitor on LinkedIn, or the social media outrage at a shirt worn by Dr Matt Taylor – the British astrophysicist involved in the deft landing of a spacecraft on a speeding comet – then you’re likely in the minority; but only by actually being in outer space would you have missed the public disgrace of the Nobel Prize winning scientist Tim Hunt and the overly-facetious comments he made about women in the laboratory.
Over the last 5 years, these kinds of occurrences have increased in frequency. Ironically, they have also amplified in seriousness and facetiousness simultaneously, partly due to gleeful encouragement from the mainstream media. They signal a modern incantation of the age-old gender wars, but more earnest than a classic ‘boys vs girls’ game of tug of war, these modern gender wars stoke palpable fervour among passionate people on both sides.
They’re serious because people have received death threats, sackings and arrests, but they’re also jocular because they involve terms like mansplaining and donglegate. The gender wars are in such a state of flux between side-splitting and surreal that the fish are starting to wonder where all the good bicycles have gone…
The Gender Compassion Gap
These gender wars are changing the world. The activism following the kidnap of 200 girls in northern Nigeria brought desperately needed attention to the horrors of Boko-Haram, but barely acknowledged is the fact that the same terrorist group slaughtered 70 boys just weeks before. Closer to home, our views of intimate partner violence have faced modern challenges in the form of public social experiments, which bring to light a profound gender compassion and sympathy gap.
With a dramatic over-representations of black men in prison, and boys in general having worse educational prospects than girls in 70% of countries, perhaps the aforementioned gender compassion gap needs some disinfecting exposure. For example, if I were to guess how much more likely men were to commit a criminal offence, I would estimate figures like ‘50% more likely’ at best, or ‘twice as likely’ at worst. Therefore I was astounded to find that, in the UK, men are 20 times more likely to be incarcerated. This means that there is a classroom of men for every woman behind bars.
I postulate that the aforementioned ‘gender compassion gap’ explains most of our ardent indifference to extreme male suffering when it comes to incarceration and violence in general, but perhaps something else compounds it even further – something new in the gender wars. Last year, two attempts to bring such issues to public discourse on international men’s day were met with scorn, censorship and abject ridicule from the highest level in government.
Returning to jokes for a second, Fathers4Justice have taken ownership of the humour surrounding the gender wars by dressing up in super hero outfits to get their simple point across, but why fathers fighting for their rights to see their kids has to be discussed with such frivolous chatter is beyond me.
The UK family courts are infamously biased against fathers, and in America it’s even worse: as a single dad, losing your job and missing child support payments can get you locked up, which in turn makes you miss more payments, which keeps you locked up; then your job prospects are significantly reduced due to your criminal record, which increases the likelihood of missing payments, which can get you locked… you get my drift – all the while being ridiculed as a ‘deadbeat dad’. One can scratch their heads bloody pondering the Kafkaesque, universal apathy towards this monumental human rights disaster of our time.
Make… Peace, not War
But ironically, the gender wars are not strictly divided along gender lines. Women Against Feminism burst onto the scene last year only to be met with condescending scolding. Evidently, these confident contrarians make up more than a significant minority of women. In fact, only 7% of people in the UK identify as feminists (9% women, 4% men), even though the majority of people believe in equality of the sexes.
The gender wars transcend gender divisions, possibly because the concept of compassion for humanity is universal. It exists in us all. But we have found ourselves distracted by the concepts of collective guilt and privilege – sowing the seeds for collective blame and apathy. There is no evidence that males in parliament provide any advantage to the boys that are increasingly less likely to go to university; or that male CEOs bestow any privilege upon the men dominating the 3K jobs. And under no demographic circumstances should the crimes of the few justify fear or hatred of the many.
Evidently, one does not have to be sociopathologically-impaired to find themselves prioritising their humanity over someone else’s based only on sex chromosomes, and only a self-immolating minion would willingly place themselves in an abuser class. All one has to do is comply with a prevailing narrative, regardless of its glaring flaws.
It’s time to put down the ammunition and work towards human rights, starting with a push to simply acknowledge the gender compassion gap. These wars are predominantly ‘cold’ in the real world, but a virtual battleground has appeared on social media and in the comments sections of inflammatory articles on the subject. In light of this, an increasing number of people are beginning to develop a strong need to transcend these futile parleys, and they are just about ready to start prioritising suffering and injustice over genitalia.
Turbulent, overzealous reactions to ridiculous shirts, stupid comments and clumsy flirtation can only fuel division, and wilful ignorance or whitewashing of real human suffering is especially immoral. But thankfully, most of us are naturally inclined to oppose the patently absurd and dangerous concept of pitting the sexes against each other in a perverse ‘oppression Olympics’. Presently, both sexes can win the gender wars by focusing on gender empathy instead.