No, obviously we don’t need ‘men’s representatives’ at our universities
Campaigns for them run on anger, ignorance, and entitlement
If there’s one group that is consistently represented on every political board, both student and national, it’s men.
And yet, in 2015 Keele University made headlines when it became the first university to introduced a ‘men’s representative’ to the elected officers. That, frankly, is bullshit.
Positions such as ‘women’s representative’, (sometimes called ‘women’s officer’), ‘BEM representative’, and ‘LGBTQ+ representatives’ have been standards at universities for a long time, and for good reason. The number of female and minority representatives are disproportionately outnumbered by white male figures, which is precisely why these positions are necessary and ‘men’s representatives’ are not.
Thanks to systemic sexism whether or not there was a dedicated ‘men’s’ seat on a committee, men would always be elected, in fact it’s likely that they would make up the majority of the board. Minority representatives play a very important role in capturing the diversity of university campuses and exist solely because, historically, men were the only ones being represented.
A ‘men’s representative’ not only ignores this fact, but undermines the struggle women and minorities went through, and are still going through, to have even a single voice on committees.
So why, now, do men feel like they need a representative? No argument can be made for the cause of men’s issues to be under-representation, which is why often debates in favour of the position resemble MRA reddit forums. Diversity threatens privilege, and ‘men’s representative’ is a reactionary response that stinks of the same attitude that asks why there’s no ‘white history month’. And it’s this malicious undertone that makes the position threatening to progression.
Now campaigns for men’s reps exist at other unis, like at Royal Holloway. One of the issues their men’s representative would apparently tackle is how ‘often false statistics given that show women being victims of society more than men (ie. wage gap, domestic violence).’
An online discussion board for students at Exeter University argued that ‘the role should be used to help dispel many of the myths that are being propagated such as the myth of the gender pay gap.’ To support their stance, they quoted even Milo Yiannopoulos: “If women are doing the same work for less money, why aren’t companies full of women?”. If using Milo as a credible source wasn’t bad enough, the fact that these campaigns ignore legitimate concerns about male student’s welfare, in favour of lashing out at random issues, just demonstrates how weak, desperate and irrelevant this position is.
If these campaigns focused less on run on point-scoring against progressive ideas, and more on aiding progression, they would soon realise that any gendered issues that men face come from the same place as women’s issues: The patriarchy. Lucy Allison, a Primary Education student at Oxford Brookes, told me: “My year has the highest number of men taking Primary Education, but still only a quarter are men. Last year there were only eight out of 100.
“It’s definitely easier for women on the course. If a child is crying it’s okay to give them a gentle hug. But my male friends have been told that if a child tries to hug them they should put their hands in the air so that no one can accuse them of anything.”
These issues are intertwined with the same patriarchal forces that femsocs and minority representatives are already tackling. Young men are put off from going into nurturing roles because they’re not ‘manly’. And because it breaks away from the norm, it must be perverse, right? The cause of this? It’s the patriarchy. Men often don’t report cases of domestic violence, or they are not taken seriously when they do because, again, it’s not ‘manly’. The cause? Patriarchy. Men feel they can’t talk about their feelings and mental health because it’s a sign of weakness. The cause? Well, you get the gist.
In order to tackle these issues, campaigners first to acknowledge their existence. And while a ‘men’s representative’ remains an ill-informed and ineffective method of approaching men’s issues, progress can be made when everyone gets behind the movement to end the patriarchy.
Issy Van der Velde, a male friend who attends Warwick University tells me: “The current systems favour males and so obviously there’s less need for a male rep than a female rep. Men are generally fairly represented as a result of the patriarchy, though I think a men’s representative who is also a feminist could do a good job fighting inequality and could be a valuable part of uni life.”
The fact is, at the moment these campaigns run on anger, ignorance and entitlement. They are a product of the mentality that shouts ‘femenazi!’, ‘special snowflake!’, and ‘not all men!’.
Until the ‘men’s representative’ position is serious about male welfare, and works with ‘women’s representative’, fighting patriarchal systems together, rather than against her, the position will only hinder progress and equality for everyone.