As an honest gentleman, I must admit that when I first was invited to contribute to a blog about gender issues, I had some doubts. Entering a group composed mainly of women to discuss topics that (at least academically) have been largely the domain of women, I felt that perhaps I would be outnumbered, and not able to give my honest perspective for fear of metaphorical castration. The irony of making such a ludicrous presumption has not escaped me, so in anticipation of being labelled as sexist before the end of my first paragraph, allow me to introduce the topic.
This fear (paranoia if you will) of being involved in discussions of gender issues is something that I know a lot of men struggle with. When I say struggle, I don’t mean struggle in the same way that an addict struggles with heroin, but more like as my mum struggles with computers. For most men, it doesn’t matter that they find it difficult to discuss gender issues, because it never really comes up, and their daily lives go on unharmed. This is hardly surprising, because historically, gender issues have been mainly about levelling out the playing field of gender equality so that everyone can enjoy they same rights and privileges that men have enjoyed for centuries.
To this end, much has been accomplished over the last few decades, though there are still a number of inequalities to be dealt with. This is especially the case for groups with atypical sexual preferences or gender identities, especially in countries suffering from extreme poverty or under religious dictatorship (or even simply with a vocal religious presence). However, in the safety, comfort and (supposed) secularism of the developed world, some men find themselves unprepared to discuss gender issues, merely because they have never really had to.
So, when they are thrust into a discussion of gender issues, some men feel like they have not thought about these issues to the same extent as their conversational counterparts. Add to this the fact that males have enjoyed a privileged place in society for some centuries, and men might just feel that their contribution to gender discourse is neither relevant nor welcome.
Whether or not their assumptions are accurate is an entirely different question. I know both men and women have been shouted down by passionate feminists in gender studies classes worldwide, but I don’t think that this is a typical scenario. If it is, one simultaneously admires their passion and frowns upon their overenthusiastic communication style; everyone can agree that discussions are rarely constructive when they escalate to frustrated shouting matches, no matter how passionate people are about the issue.
The important point here is that if men feel intimidated by gender issues, they certainly won’t be eager to join in to the discussion, and may even feel somewhat threatened by the idea. What is the remedy to this reluctance? Sadly, I don’t know but, as always, it is a question for science rather than blind speculation (as should everything else that I have written about if it is to be properly investigated). I hope you agree that it is indeed worthy of being remedied, because the discussion of gender issues is something that both men and women should be involved in, not only for the sake of balance, but because in spite of what some men might think, this is an issue that concerns them.