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Action that matters

Middle-class man alert! Yep, I’m wading in on the IWD issue.

Here we go again, another ‘day’ when we can talk about women in the workplace. In some way, I really do find the whole thing quite demeaning and frustrating. Why one day for goodness’ sake? Shouldn’t we be talking about this every day? In fact, stop talking, start doing.

The Crystal Palace player, Wilfred Zaha brought a similar issue to light recently when he said that he found taking the knee at the start of Premier League games degrading. As he made clear, “I think the meaning behind the whole thing is becoming something that we just do now. That’s not enough.” After all, shouldn’t football be doing more meaningful things behind the scenes to eradicate racism?

I get where he is coming from. Gestures are one thing, but it is action that matters. Actions like enforcing gender pay parity; forcing equal representation across roles; forcing yourself to only work with companies with like-minded policies. That doesn’t happen with one day’s grandstanding.

Gestures are one thing, but it is action that matters. Actions like enforcing gender pay parity; forcing equal representation across roles; forcing yourself to only work with companies with like-minded policies. That doesn’t happen with one day’s grandstanding.

So, is IWD degrading? I’m not going that far in my criticism. You see, on the other hand, I so enjoy it when I see neanderthal men dragging their knuckles up from the ground every year to tweet: “What about an International Men’s Day, eh?” only to receive a sharp rebuke from comedian Richard Herring, “It’s November 19th.”

Perhaps this proves the point that there is a need for the day, because we are still light years away from getting things right. When a government can’t recognise that enforced maternity leave should not impact on compensation payments paid during a pandemic then we have a massive problem. Your baby, your problem girls. I hung my head in shame at the time.

But why should I be hanging my head in shame? After all, it’s not my fault is it? I’m a nice guy. I believe in equality. Surely that’s enough?

Well, it’s not actually. And guys – especially middle and upper-class white guys – it is especially our fault. And it’s our responsibility to put it right because we have all benefited from the scam where we’ve convinced the world that we are somehow a superior set of human beings by birth right. Guess what? We’re all born equal. The inequality sets in sometime after that, as we look around and see all those senior positions occupied by men; or as boys and girls are conditioned into roles from an early age. Masculine language means that male ways of doing things are the norm. Blue jobs and pink jobs. It may only be words, but they have a massive effect.

I went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago. This isn’t a joke by the way. I returned home and my wife asked, “So, what did he say?”

She say,” I replied.

My wife isn’t sexist. She isn’t anti-women. But gender bias and the assumption of male roles has been so ingrained in society that if, as a bloke, you can’t see that this plays to your advantage, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself. We live in a patriarchal society. And guess what? I think that’s pretty tiring for men too. Wouldn’t it be far better for us all if we lived in a fairer, more sharing and more caring meritocracy. It’s an idea that Grayson Perry explores beautifully in his book, The Descent of Man, a manual for all 21stcentury chaps, especially after the last four years of alpha male anger in the White House.

We live in a patriarchal society. And guess what? I think that’s pretty tiring for men too. Wouldn’t it be far better for us all if we lived in a fairer, more sharing and more caring meritocracy.

By the way, my wife picks me up on things all the time. As do the women I work with. I am delighted to be told when I’ve got things wrong. It is the only way we learn and, because I grew up in the Seventies, there’s a lot of reconditioning to do. So what needs to happen now? Hard affirmative and painful action. But don’t worry, everyone, it will only be painful for the men. And we’re supposedly the harder, tougher and uglier bunch, so we can handle it, can’t we?

So, here’s my message. Chaps, gender equality is the right thing to do and it’s happening on our watch. Play your part, step forward and get on with it.

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