International Men’s Day, gender and charity

Tomorrow (November 19th) is International Men’s Day and Ally Fogg, a journalist who blogs at Hetronormative Patriarchy for Men is doing a sponsored internet silence for Survivors Manchester, a charity which supports male victims of sexual abuse and rape. I’ve donated to this and I’d encourage readers who are interested to do the same (or at least to go and read more about what Survivors Manchester is doing).

I’ve been reading Ally Fogg for a while and though I don’t always agree with him, I think he’s one of the few enlightening writers on men’s rights around. Mainly because he treats men’s rights as though they’re not in a zero-sum game with women’s rights and he’s conscious of the effects of class. Things don’t have to be made worse for women to be made better for men, and not all men benefit equally from patriarchal systems. Some subsets of men are less privileged than some subsets of women in today’s world, as has almost always been in the case in patriarchal systems.

And if women as a group share problems that need targeted help, sometimes so do men as a group. In particular, even when men and women are facing the same problems (sexual abuse, suicidal urges, unemployment, parenting difficulties), in a sexist society their reactions to it (and those of their family and friends) may be different and they therefore may need different kinds of support. Suffering sexual violence is a human problem, but the needs of male victims are probably not going to be met adequately by services which focus primarily on women (and vice-versa).

Ally’s recent post also connects with a couple of other issues I’ve been thinking about recently. One is intersectionality. There are a vast number of worthy causes, and none of us has the time or money to support all of them. I think the feminist movement should concentrate on issues of women’s rights rather than men’s rights, but as an individual feminist, I’m happy to do a brief bit of signal-boosting here for an organisation that’s doing positive work in a different field. (Similarly, the Manchester Survivors site concentrates on providing help to men, but it also includes front-page links to services for women and young people).

The second issue is a theme that dr ngo is currently discussing, about charities and sponsorship. Why are people more prepared to give as the result of a sponsored activity when they don’t get any actual benefit from the activity being sponsored? There are some interesting comments in response, especially talking about publicity and also social reciprocity. I haven’t donated to Survivors Manchester before and I’m probably not going to be donating to them regularly (our family has other charities that we regularly support), but Ally’s act does mean that I’ve been made aware of the charity’s existence. And his publicity for this also challenges me to justify my ideological position. If I believe that patriarchy overall harms men as well as women, and that feminism overall should have positive outcomes for men as well as women, then I ought to support some of the male victims of patriarchal practices as well. I’m doing so now. If you call yourself a feminist or a feminist ally, then this is one possible way to make that point.


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