Gender Pay Gap Disclosure

In the UK, companies with more than 250 employees are being forced to disclose the “gender pay gap” between men and women: If they were wise, they would disclose so much more.

There is no doubt that, in the past, women got a tough deal when it came to pay. Most companies had different pay scales for men and women, with women earning a fraction of the pay of men doing the same job. To listen to the hype in the press at the moment, you could be forgiven for believing that this was still the case, but it is just sheer nonsense.

There is a statistical difference between the average pay of men and women, but that does not imply that employers pay women less just because they are female. Forget altruism: companies exist only to make money. Even charitable organisations exist only to maximise the money available to donate to their good causes. The idea that there is some patriarchal plot to keep down the wages of women is so far removed from the reality of business as to be almost laughable. If employers believed that they could pay women less for doing the same job, at the same level, and with the same results, they would all employ women rather than men at all levels. If CEO’s felt that having more women on the board would increase the profitability of their companies, they would do so.

Up to the age of around 40, there is virtually no pay gap between men and women. For younger graduates, women earn more than men. There are several reasons why the wage gap increases in later years: all are reasonable and logical, but to see them you have to abandon the “women are always the victims” mantra. So what are these reasons and why do I think that companies should disclose more pay gap information rather than less?

 

Career Gaps and changes of career: This is the probably the biggest reason for the pay gap. It is still the case that women are much more likely than men to take time off work to look after the children. This will slowly and inevitably change as young women now often earn significantly more than their partner. I know more than one couple where the woman will have to go back to work to pay the mortgage, leaving the man at home. Neither are particularly happy with the situation.

If society, largely due to years of feminism, undervalues “stay-at-home mums”, it undervalues much more “stay-at-home dads”. Again, this arises from decades, even centuries, of men being regarded as the breadwinner, and those who don’t win the bread, risk losing the respect of both their partners and society in general. There are other reasons why both men and women may take a career break, or change careers, and I would suggest that they too would suffer financially as a consequence. So, my suggestion to companies disclosing pay information would be to show their salary distribution not only by gender, but also by years of experience in either the company itself, or a comparable company.

Performance: I worked for many years in a large company and salaries were vastly different amongst those doing nominally the same job. This was due to both experience, mentioned above, and the outcome of performance reviews.

Generally, performance related pay is thought to be a good thing and companies will do their best to retain, reward and promote their best performers. Companies exist to maximise profit, not to socially engineer equality between employees. I have no idea how women perform relative to men in different jobs, but, if I were an employer, I would find a way of bringing performance into my pay disclosure. In other words, and I don’t know the answer to this, are women (or men, for that matter) paid less because of their gender, or is it really related to relatively poor performance.

Choice: In our affluent society, we have the privilege of a relatively high standard of living. We have much more freedom than those in many other societies to choice jobs and careers that reflect our interests.

We all know that girls at school are now put under a lot of pressure to enter science and engineering, and I am sure that there cannot be a schoolgirl in the country who does not know that she has the freedom to go in that direction if she wishes. Nevertheless, it is still the case that, completely by choice, girls and boys still gravitate towards different subjects. This is not a patriarchal plot, it just reflects different priorities and interests. Similarly, many women choose to work part time, even after the children have flown the nest. This is not wrong, it is a choice, but it does influence average earnings. If I was an employer, I would relate the number of employees in part-time or lower paid jobs to the number applying for those jobs. If there are twice as many women working part time, does that reflect the proportion of women applying for jobs of that type.

In summary, I believe that employers are being set up to appear to be sexist in their pay policies with no real basis in fact. They should preempt the accusations by presenting all the evidence they can to show that differences in pay are due to many factors, but are not directly related to the gender of the employee.

Equality under the Law: are women offenders treated more leniently than men?

 

In my last post, I expressed astonishment at the apparently lenient, non-custodial sentence imposed on a women who attacked a man with a champagne bottle causing permanent facial scarring. I suggest in the post that a man attacking a woman in this way would receive an immediate and significant jail sentence. Following this sorry incident, I decided to investigate briefly the facts surrounding sentencing of men and women offenders in the UK.

I very quickly came across a debate in the House of Commons on the issue of gender discrimination in sentencing. As I prefer to quote primary sources wherever possible, rather than rhetoric and hearsay, the following link will take you directly to the official transcript of the debate in Hansard: Sentencing Female Offenders. The same transcript, but in a somewhat more readable form, can be found at They Work for You. In this debate, Philip Davies MP, presents statistical facts about the relative leniency of sentences imposed on women as opposed to men. He does so in the face of repeated attempts by others in the debate to undermine the statistics. The single recurring fact coming out of the debate, which is irrefutable, is that in every category and severity of crime, women receive shorter sentences and are more likely to be released early than men who commit the same offense. A more detailed summary and analysis of the debate can be found at Brightonmanplan (I know this is Men’s Group, but it is an accurate summary and I have already given you the link to Hansard for you to check the facts for yourself).

One thing I will add, is that Helen Osborne, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities , said towards the end of the debate (second page in Hansard, after the adjournment)  “What I have just said is that the sentencing framework and guidelines are gender-neutral: everyone is absolutely equal before the law.” Fantastic soundbite, but it doesn’t seem to match the outcomes.

What is the feminist view? In a fine example of Orwellian double speak, the Fawcett Society, in an article on women in the justice system, says Gender-proof all youth violence policy and strategy by encouraging all agencies involved in addressing youth violence to take a gendered approach to understanding needs” (my bold and I know I can be accused of taking it out of context, so here is a link to the full article if you would like to check it out). Going a step further, the Women’s Justice Taskforce seems to suggest that no women should be sentenced to jail and all women’s prison should be closed! A man slaps a woman and goes to jail, a women murders a man and doesn’t: so much for equality. Please forgive me if I continue to question the claim by feminists to be seeking equality for all.

 

Why is violence against men trivialised?

Not a photo of the victim

I have written other posts on this blog about the way in which violence towards men is ignored or even condoned by the media and the law, in the case of both violence in general and domestic violence. I realise that many will read those posts and shrug their shoulders muttering about whining men (slugs and snails and puppy-dog tails) and oppressed saint-like women (sugar and spice and all things nice), and I thought it was worthwhile commenting on an unbelievable report in the newspapers today concerning a women, Sarah McKenzie-Ayres, who walked free from court, grinning, after being found guilty of hitting an innocent man on the head with a champagne bottle, scarring him for life and wrecking his career prospects. According to the newspaper report, the reason she wasn’t sent to jail for what the judge called “extraordinary violence” was that she was remorseful and believed the man was “making unwelcome advances”. You can judge for yourself how remorseful she is by looking at the photograph in the report linked above. I am not sure what was going through the judge’s mind, but the only question I would ask is what would have happened if the man had hit her with a champagne bottle. I suspect he would have been locked up in jail for a significant length of time. Apparently any woman can hit any man with impunity and suffer negligible consequence, yet a couple of days ago there were reports in the papers that wolf-whistling may be made a crime! So much for equality under the law: George Orwell must have had the current state of gender equality in mind when he wrote in Animal farm “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

Domestic violence is a problem for men, too

Once again we see an online article in a major national newspaper misrepresenting or, rather, partially representing, the nature of domestic violence in the UK. There is a comment in the Daily Telegraph today (24th April 2015) entitled “Domestic violence is on the political agenda like never before“, which portrays women as the only victims of domestic violence. Whilst there is nothing factually incorrect in this piece (that I know of, anyway), it falls into the trap of so many other such articles by completely ignoring the many male victims of domestic violence, and violence generally, in our country. The struggle to end violence against women and girls is, of course, enormously important and worthy of publicity, but in the whole of this rather lengthy article there is not a single word about male victims.

It is an interesting fact that these articles never give links back to the original source of data, which is the Office of National Statistics. For those with a genuine interest in the reality behind the gender-biased hype, this is the link to the real figures released on 12th February 2015 by the ONS. These figures are broadly in line with those published in previous years. Please don’t misunderstand me, it is true that greater numbers of women than men  are the victims of domestic violence. However, it is equally true that men are the most likely by far to be victims of violence generally, and 68%, over two-thirds, of murder victims are men. Many, if not most, of these male victims, are no more likely to be able effectively to defend themselves than women, even if misplaced male pride prevents them from admitting it.

The actual split of domestic abuse victims by gender is women 1,400,000, men 700,000: the first figure you will see reported everywhere, the second will very rarely be quoted. To ignore it so completely is an insult to those 700,000 men who must feel that no-one is interested and nobody cares. It is  highly probable that the figure for men is greatly understated as male victims are much less likely than women to report their abuse due to the fear of being mocked or disbelieved. The sheltered facilities provided for male victims are a very, very tiny fraction of those provided for women. I have neither the time nor the inclination to check the figures, but it is reputed that there are more spaces in sheltered accommodation for abused horses than for abused men, rather as fish are better represented in the Cabinet than men are.

Of course we should do everything possible to stop violence against women and girls, but please let us have just a little bit of even-handedness in the way we report the blight of domestic violence.

Although male victims are generally ignored by the media, politicians and feminists, it is recognised as a real problem by more sensible and less soundbite-conscious folk and advice is available if required. If you are affected by this you can get information from the Men’s Advice Line, The Mankind Initiative, and the NHS.

Labour Launches “Pink Manifesto” – do they really need to be so patronising to women today?

 

Vincent.limshowchen_-_Bee_and_flower_(by-sa)After shooting themselves in the foot by using a pink bus to attract women to the polling stations, perhaps rather like a plant hoping to use a colourful flower to attract recalcitrant bees, the Labour Party has now launched its pink manifesto “A Better Future for Women“. The colour doesn’t bother me in the least, although it does seem to be something of a rebuke to the various feminist organisations that complain vociferously about the injustice of marketing pink clothes for girls! What does concern me, though, is the patronising approach to women adopted in the document

The most overtly patronising part of the manifesto is Section 4 “Equality in Public Life”. Despite protestations to the contrary, women do have equal opportunity today. Young girls can, and do follow any career they choose, and for which they have the necessary qualifications and personal characteristics. All girls today know this: to assume otherwise is to question the intelligence of a whole generation of young women. They may still choose not to go into certain careers, but that is a different issue. I passed two teams of refuse collectors on the road today: out of a total of about ten workers, none was female.

Do women really still need men to give them a hand up?

In this respect, the concept of positive discrimination is outdated and inappropriate: it is unfair to the person discriminated against, and belittling to the person who benefits. This is especially true of all woman shortlists for parliamentary candidates. At best, these are demeaning for the poor women who need a hand up in order to compete with the men: at worst, they are atrociously anti-democratic and dictatorial. I suspect, but this is just a personal view with no supporting evidence, that there are far fewer women than men with a burning desire to become Members of Parliament. If this is indeed the case, why on Earth should it be written in stone that half of all MPs should be female? The same goes for the composition of the Cabinet. If there are fewer women than men in parliament, insisting on fifty percent in the Cabinet is, statistically, lowering the bar for ministers by saying that a ministerial position must be given to a (relatively) under qualified woman to the exclusion of a better qualified man. Of course women should be fairly represented in public office, but only if they are the best person for the job. The current political sound-bite for this is “getting the best value for money for the taxpayer”. True, sustainable equality is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Only 150 out of 30,000 midwives are men, but I wouldn’t expect to be given the job just because I filled in the application form and have the necessary tools (a Swiss army knife and two pieces of string)! I imagine that the potential mothers, too, would prefer a properly qualified woman, even if the search for the Holy Grail of equality of numbers was not being served.

Do Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP believe that men should receive their state pension at a younger age than women?

Nicola Sturgeon believes that higher state pension ages disadvantage Scots, who have a shorter life expectancy than those South of the border. Does this mean they believe men should receive their pension earlier than women?

We all know that for many decades men have received their state pension at the age of 65, whilst women, who have a significantly longer life expectancy, received it, until very recently, at 60. The pension ages are very slowly being equalised and by 2018, both men and women will retire at 65: this move was announced in 1995! Afterwards, state pension age for both men and women is set to rise together to 66 and ever upwards.

The assumption has always been that men and women’s state pension ages would then remain equal, despite the obvious fact that women’s greater life expectancy means they will receive their pension, on average, for several years longer than men. However, a surprise policy announcement this week by Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, throws that into doubt and suggests that, in their view, pension ages should be linked to life expectancy.

According to Ms Sturgeon, in the event of a hung parliament the SNP will refuse to support any rises in state pension age as this disadvantages Scots, who live, on average, around two years less than their English counterparts. Although the difference between men and women was not stated explicitly in this announcement, the gap in life expectancy between the two countries is significantly less than that between men and women throughout the UK. This must lead to speculation that SNP policy on fairness in state pension age will inevitably lead to moves to make women work two or more years longer than men in order to receive the same pension.

On the face of it, that is not unreasonable, as it means that the average man and the average woman will receive their pensions for around the same length of time. It remains to be seen, though, how women’s pressure groups will react to the possibility of this further step towards pension equality.

Biggest shake-up of UK care homes for 60 years – conscription of young women to care for the elderly

Changes announced to the care system in England have been heralded as the greatest shake-up for more than 60 years. The care act 2014 details the rights of those receiving care, those who pay for it and those who provide the care. It covers standards of service to be expected from care homes, as well as announcing innovative measures to provide care at minimum cost to both the guests and the taxpayer.

There are five major changes:

  • The clarification of national eligibility criteria covering entitlement to care, This removes the role of councils in setting their own criteria.
  • Councils will be made to offer loans to pay for care, which will be repayable from the estate after death
  • New criteria for assessing the role of carers
  • Councils will be made to provide information on private care homes
  • Young women between the ages of 18 and 21 will be made to spend 18 months providing basic cover in a care home.

These moves, which have cross-party support, and include a cap of £72,000 for the over-65s, were largely expected.

The surprise move to oblige young women, but not young men, to provide cover in care homes was met with outrage by women’s rights groups. The girls, who will be allowed to postpone their duty if they go to university, will receive six weeks training before being sent to a care home. They will receive the minimum wage during the time of their secondment. A government spokesperson stated “this capitalises on the natural physical, mental and emotional resilience of young women, who will, by and large, be pleased to be given this opportunity to serve their country”. When asked why young men were not to be given a similar obligation, the spokesperson replied “Women are natural carers and the public would expect this role to be filled by women. The man, or woman, in the street would not be prepared to see young men serving in a role like this. This move is perfectly legal and is not counted as gender discrimination by the European Charter of Human Rights“. This document guarantees freedom from forced labour and from gender discrimination, but a little publicised clause (Article 4, 3d) excludes any form of national or civic service from the charter. The spokesperson went on to say that without this imposition on women, the country would not be able to recruit sufficient carers to look after the elderly in the future.

Women’s rights group WaCow (Women Against Conscription of Women) says that this move to forcibly recruit women is a flagrant and shameful act of gender discrimination. Their spokeswomen said “It is one thing for the Charter to permit young men to be forced to join the army to defend women, but this exclusion clause gives nations the right to force women to serve their country too. This is clearly gender discrimination and this clause should be removed immediately. Women who do not wish to be recruited to this service should write without delay to their MP or MEP demanding that Article 4, Clause 3 of the Charter be repealed.”

The government spokesperson pointed out that such appeals were unlikely to meet with success as that clause is currently used by half a dozen European countries as an excuse for the gender-discriminatory conscription of young men, but not young women, into the armed forces.

Please note date of article!

Letter to Emma Watson – Why not “HeforShe and SheforHe”?

 

Dear Emma,

I sincerely congratulate you on your courageous and heart-felt speech to the United Nations a few months ago. I was particularly impressed by your even-handed approach and the way in which you highlighted the fact that men, too, experience discrimination. I recently reread the transcript and, filled with optimism and enthusiasm, went to the website ready to sign up. Unfortunately, at the point when I should have been clicking the button, I didn’t feel able to do so. I truly want to join and support a campaign that is genuinely and actively seeking equality for both men and women, so I thought I should tell you why I was so disappointed by the complete lack of any support for men on the HeforShe website.

I am prompted to write this letter now by recent events in Lithuania, which demonstrate the fickle and one-sided nature of feminism. In that country, conscription was abolished around ten years ago. They have just re-introduced it – for men only. Lithuanian feminists have been quite vocal in recent years. Where are they now? Why are they not demonstrating to be conscripted along with the men? I won’t go into the arguments against male-only conscription here as they are set out in another post. Suffice it to say that it is just another case of feminists showing their total lack of commitment to seeking genuine equality. The female president is a supposedly equality-seeking feminist!

We have a European Charter of Human Rights that guarantees freedom from forced labour and gender discrimination for all: unless you have the misfortune to be a young man, that is. Several European countries still have military service for young men, with no similar obligation, of any kind, for young women. This is both forced labour and gender discrimination (but check out Article 4, Section 3b). Where are the feminist demands for equality? Feminists are quick to demand the right to equal opportunities in the armed forces, but slow to demand equal obligations. Norway, bless its equality-driven cotton socks, is the only European country to have military service with exactly the same obligations on both men and women.

In a similar vein, we all know that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, this is widely publicised and quoted as an example of suppression of women’s rights. What is less widely known is that many states in the US, men are unable to apply for a driving licence without registering for Selective Service (“the draft”). They also face many other draconian sanctions, such as being banned from applying for federal jobs, being liable for massive fines and being refused student grants. The obligation to register for Selective Service does not apply to women. Read the details and remember that these penalties apply only to men: those outside the US will find it difficult to believe that gender discrimination of this magnitude still exists in the Land of the Free. Where are the vocal feminist groups campaigning to end this scandalous gender discrimination? I would suggest that if the army boot of discrimination was on the other foot, this particular anachronism would have been kicked into touch many years ago.

From the content of your speech, I thought that, at last, we may have a movement that would be focused on acting to correct discrimination against both men and women: that would look at both sides. That was the optimistic thought that led me to go to the HeforShe website. I don’t, as you suggested in your speech, hate the word feminism, nor the movement itself. I do not hate feminists. I support many of the aims of feminist groups. However, I reject the notion that feminism is, in any way, a voice raised in the defense of men. It is simply what it says on the box: a movement to end discrimination when the victims are female.

As you so rightly said, men, too, are the victims of discrimination, but this discrimination is rarely discussed, certainly not by politicians and others with a high-profile, who are afraid to stick their head over the parapet and risk a feminist backlash. You mentioned in your speech some examples, such as the much greater rate of suicide among men compared to women, but there are more. I don’t want to labour the point too much, so I will give just three examples where there is an ignored male dimension to a popular cause:

The week before the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, with all of the accompanying media outrage and very laudable “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, 59 boys were burned alive by the same terrorist group, this merited about one column inch on an inside page of my national broadsheet newspaper! Only a short time ago, around 40 boys and young men were kidnapped by Boko Haram to be forced, we assume, to be child soldiers: to kill or be killed. Again, about one column inch on an inside page. Where are the high profile celebrities heading a “Bring Back Our Boys” campaign? I suppose there were only 40 of them and they had the misfortune of being only boys!

We know that FGM is an abhorrent act, and is rightly and widely condemned. It is, quite rightly, the subject of various campaigns and is illegal in many countries. I wholeheartedly support every effort to wipe it out. However, every day thousands of boys, often babies, undergo genital mutilation, often in unhygienic conditions and without anaesthetic. This agonising process (warning – not pleasant!) is legal and unchallenged in most countries. Why do we not campaign to end “Genital Mutilation”, rather than just leave these male babies to their fate?

On International Women’s’ Day last year, the Home Secretary announced Clare’s Law as if it were something that applied only to women. One-third of the victims of domestic violence are men and Clare’s Law allows men, as well as women, to seek information about new partners. You wouldn’t know this from the way it was launched. Male victims must have been left feeling completely unsupported. At least one national newspaper was forced to publish a correction following gender biased reporting of the law.

I am afraid that I do not agree with your basic premise that feminism is the struggle for equality for all. Feminism works towards equality in cases where women are disadvantaged: occasionally men may benefit, but this is by happenchance rather than design. I accept that this is the case, that the feminist movement has a very important role to play, and that there are very many cases throughout the world where woman are severely disadvantaged. My only complaint about feminism is its false claim to be seeking equality for all.

So, Emma, I hoped from your speech that your campaign was going to be genuinely even-handed and I was keen to support it. I have to say that I was hugely disappointed to find that it was just more of the same old story: support the women, forget the men. What a missed opportunity!

Instead of words to the effect of “He for She: I agree to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.”, why not “He for She and She for He: I agree to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination ”? It seems to me that this would have reflected much more closely the content and sentiment of your speech.

Yours sincerely
Steve

P.S. If you make it “HeforShe and SheforHe”, I will join AND buy the cufflinks AND the pin…

Are Lithuanian women fighting for equality now?

Is male-only miltary conscription fair in today’s “equal” Europe

Lithuania has announced the reintroduction of conscription in the face of a perceived threat from Russia. All men aged between 19 and 26 will enter a ballot to decide who will be called up. Apparently, and not surprisingly, this has led to petitions to the Lithuanian Equal Opportunities Ombudsman claiming that men are being treated unfairly compared to women. The actual law, from 1998, says that the following do NOT count as discrimination:

* special protection of women during pregnancy, childbirth and nursing;
* compulsory military service prescribed by the law exclusively for men;
* different retirement age for women and men;
* requirements for safety at work applicable to women aimed at protecting women’s health owing to their physiological properties;
* specific work which can be performed only by a person of a particular sex;
* special temporary measures foreseen in the laws, which are applied to accelerate the implementation of de facto equality between women and men and are to be cancelled when equal opportunities for women and men are realised;
* different rules and conditions when implementing specific punishments.

In other words, the exclusions work entirely in favour of women. The two greatest examples of institutionalised discrimination against men, conscription and greater retirement age, are excluded.

There are a number of other European countries that still have compulsory military service. Of these, only Norway has exactly the same obligations on young men and young women. Israel also conscripts women, but their service is a shorter, watered-down version of that imposed on the men. All other European countries with conscription impose it on men only, with no comparable obligation on women. We have a European Charter of Human Rights which bans forced labour and gender discrimination: unless you have the misfortune to be a young man, of course, in which case military service slips through the net (see Article 4, Section 3b)

Going back a few decades, social attitudes were different. In general, men worked, women stayed at home: a man forced to join the army came back to civilian life and was not particularly disadvantaged in the workplace. Today things are entirely different. Women’s rights at work are protected by a whole range of European and national laws. Young women get jobs on an equal footing with men, and both genders compete in the workplace. A few years ago, when Germany still had conscription, a German colleague of mine left university at the same time as a girl on the same course. He had to go into the army, she did not. When he was allowed out, he got a job in an electronics company: the girl who left university at the same time as him was his boss! To rub salt into the wound, at around that time feminists in Germany, in the name of equal opportunities, gained the right for women to do military service if they wanted to, but without the obligation to do so. The woman’s right to choose: the man’s right to do as he is told. What strange ideas of equality we have.

Issues like this in the workplace will become more and more commonplace if male-only conscription is not outlawed. Women today fight alongside men in most branches of the armed services, and there is no real reason why this right should not be matched by a similar obligation. That said, even if the women are not forced into the army, surely the concept of common fairness suggests that they should at least do a similar period of compulsory civilian national service.

I know that some feminists will say that many women lose time in the workplace to have families. That is true. but the difference is that this is a lifestyle choice: conscription is compulsory. Also, the fact that young women now earn more than young men will see more women forced to remain at work to be the family breadwinner. More and more men will become stay-at-home dads, so even that dubious argument against female conscription will become more and more invalid.

It will be interesting to see if Lithuania follows Norway’s lead and extends its new conscription laws to women, or just ignores the whole concept of equality and imposes this forced labour on men only.

Do we ignore violence against men?

Society correctly condemns violence against women, but does it ignore, condone, or even encourage violence against men?

Own up! Hands up if you cheered, at least silently, when Hermione Granger punched Draco Malfoy in the nose in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! I know I did. Would the reaction have been the same if Pansy Parkinson insulted Harry and he punched her in the face? Probably not: I suspect that feminist groups would have been up in arms about the glorification of violence against women. What about when Ron returns in The Order of the Phoenix? Hermione attacks him (it is toned down in the film: the book is more graphic), but Ron “mans up” and takes it on the chin, and pretty much everywhere else too. What would the reaction have been if Ron had retaliated?

I know that this is a trivial example, but I use it to illustrate just how deeply rooted in our subconscious is the fact that it is ok for a woman to hit a man, and that violence against men is acceptable. A friend of mine, around 30 years old now, was punched in the face at school by his ex-girlfriend. When he complained to the Head of Year, she refused to do anything, saying “You just have to expect girls to lash out like that sometimes”. Had he retaliated in kind, he would probably have been thrown out of the school, or at least been in serious trouble.

Slap double standard

This idea that it is acceptable for a woman to hit a man, in retaliation for a non-violent action on his part, is surprisingly common. Phrases along the lines of “If he said that to me, I’d slap him!” sum it up. There a rather public example of this on Youtube involving Jay-Z.

I don’t follow the lives of “celebrities” like this, so I don’t know the history of these two. Nevertheless, the scene in the lift and the subsequent comments by the host and the largely female audience of the American chat show, illustrate the point. Note the comment “He must have done something really foul” at around 8 minutes 30 seconds. She goes on to imply that, in her opinion, he had been less than completely faithful in his relationships! The suggestion being that a man making a comment or behaving in a way that a woman doesn’t like entitles her to react violently. This particular audience seemed to treat the whole thing with some hilarity: perhaps it would be uncharitable of me to suggest that, had he retaliated they would have been baying for his blood!

I was brought up to believe that   “You (a boy, that is) shouldn’t hit girls or boys wearing glasses”. Boys with good eyesight were fair game! In common with the vast majority of men, I still think it is cowardly for a man to hit a woman, but I believe that it is equally cowardly for a woman to hit a man knowing that he can’t, or won’t, hit back. As I now wear glasses, I fully support the second part of the injunction above and rejoice in my new-found invulnerability. Although men have every right to defend themselves, the vast majority will not retaliate when hit by a woman: of course, everyone eventually has a breaking point, and it is inevitable that retaliation will occur on some occasions: we can speculate as to which of the pair would be most likely to end up in court.

It is not only the occasional bad-tempered slap that is ignored. Despite evidence to the contrary, the fact that for many years men have been the victims in over one-third of domestic violence cases is swept under the carpet by politicians afraid to raise their head over the parapet. “Clare’s Law” was announced by the Home Secretary on International Women’s Day in 2014, in words that implied it was solely for the benefit of women, whereas, in fact, men too are entitled to ask police about a new partner’s potential history of violence. At least one national newspaper was forced by the Press Complaints Commission to publish a correction to their gender-biased reporting of this “law”. If anything, male victims and potential victims require more encouragement to come forward than women, as they are more likely to feel they will be disbelieved at best, belittled or ignored at worst.

British Crime survey 2011
For many years, over one-third of the victims of domestic violence have been men (British Crime Survey). Click image for page, click here for full survey.

As is often the case, we can find more extreme examples in other parts of the world. I am sure most of us remember the atrocious kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria in 2014. Shortly before this kidnapping of around 270 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, with all of the accompanying media outrage and very laudable “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, 59 boys were burned alive by the same terrorist group. This merited about one column inch on an inside page! A short while ago around 40 boys and young men were kidnapped by Boko Haram to be forced, we assume, to be child soldiers: to kill or be killed. Again, about one column inch in an inside page. Where are the high-profile celebrities heading a “Bring Back Our Boys” campaign? I suppose there were only 40 of them and they had the misfortune of being only boys!

We should remember that, in the UK, men make up about 70% of the victims of violent crime. The majority of these men are just as innocent as any female victim, but they are completely ignored due to the preoccupation of feminists, politicians and society in general with “women’s issues”.

None of this is meant to justify, in any way, violence against women, and it is true,of course, that there are very many woman all over the world still facing real problems of discrimination and subjugation and they deserve support. However, recognising this should not prevent us from being even-handed and remembering that men too have a right to lead peaceful lives, free from discrimination and violence, whether in this country or abroad.

Women do not have any right, legal or moral, to hit men unless it is in self-defense. Until we stop seeing domestic violence as purely a women’s issue and look at it from both sides, we will never get to the root of the problem.