THE UK coordinator of International Men’s Day says he is ‘deeply saddened’ by the University of York’s decision to scrap plans to mark the event on Thursday.
Glenn Poole said he understood the university had planned to follow up the day by highlighting the availability of mental health and welfare support for men.
“When 13 a men a day in the UK are dying from suicide, it is essential that everyone in positions of power, trust and influence does everything they can to help men talk about the issues that affect them, and that includes the academic community and student representatives,” he said.
“It seems that on this occasions, those academics, student representatives and alumni who have campaigned against the university’s plans to mark International Men’s Day have put their personal gender politics ahead of their compassion for men and boys in crisis and distress.
“I’d invite these campaigners to reflect on their actions and ask themselves this question: “whose voice is it more important to listen to on International Men’s Day, yours or the voices of suicidal men and those bereaved by male suicide?”
His comments came after a campaign group called New Fathers 4 Justice said it might ‘target’ the University of York – and some students may stage a walk-out – over the decision.
The group has also called on the university to promote equality within its campus and says it should now also cancel any events planned for International Women’s Day next March
“Institutional discrimination against fathers and men must end the anti-male attitudes and bias that feminism has promoted and popularized must be treated with absolute disgust,” said the group, which says it is a splinter group campaigning for equal rights for fathers in divorce and separation proceedings, and is not associated with Fathers4Justice UK.
“Those that oppose this York University IMD event should be condemned as hypocrites and are no better than those who promote inequality.”
It went on to claim that male suicide rates were more than three times higher than the female suicide rate, and men aged over 40 were the segment of population that has been the most affected by job loss, the modification of family structure, and the disappearance of traditionally male-dominated industries.
It claimed homelessness also mostly impacted men and two in five of all victims of domestic violence were men, ‘contradicting the widespread impression that it is almost always women.’
It said: “It is important that these issues and their causes and effects are openly discuss.”
A university spokesman said: “The university will continue to take a balanced approach to all nine protected characteristics as defined in the 2010 Equality Act.
“Our overriding goal is to strive to treat every member of the University community with dignity and respect.”
The Press reported earlier that scores of students, staff and former students had signed an open letter slating comments made by Dr Adrian Lee, of the equality and diversity committee, in promoting the day.
He said that in academic staff appointments, the data suggested female candidates had a higher chance of being appointed than men, and went on: “In the professional support services, there are areas where men are significantly under-represented.
“The reasons for these circumstances are complex and the solutions will not be found overnight,but we are resolved to address these issues systematically and fairly, in the same way that we approach unfairness and discrimination faced by women.”
The open letter said the assertion about professional support services was ‘particularly wrongheaded and offensive’, and missed the crucial point that men’s underrepresentation in these areas was a direct consequence of unfairness and discrimination towards women.
It said: “Secretarial and support work are gendered and demeaned as ‘women’s work,’ whereas men dominate senior – and better paid – roles.
“We believe that giving practical application to concepts of equality and diversity should be taken seriously by the university. However, we do not believe that this is furthered by the promotion of International Men’s Day in general and are concerned by the particular way in which the university has chosen to do so.”
It said Men’s Day did not ‘seek a dialogue’ on issues with women’s equality campaigns or initiatives, and nor did it acknowledge that the ‘patriarchal structures which underpin society are inimical to both male and female advancement and well-being, or that the achievements of men are celebrated and disproportionately highlighted as a matter of course.’
The university said in a statement then that it was sorry the matter had ’caused unhappiness’ for some members of the university community, who felt that the statement was inappropriate and should never have been issued.
“The intention was to draw attention to some of the issues men tell us they encounter and to follow this up by highlighting in particular the availability of mental health and welfare support which we know men are sometimes reluctant to access,” it said.
“The Equality and Diversity Committee is clear that the main focus of gender equality work should continue to be on the inequalities faced by women, and in particular the under-representation of women in the professoriate and senior management.”