Men failing in a woman's world

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 23/03/2014
Phil Gifford
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ

PHIL GIFFORD: Men could learn from women that going to a doctor is not a sign of weakness.

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A masculist crusader says feminism has come at the cost of men.

The comments were sparked by new research showing New Zealand blokes get a "raw deal" in education, health and wellbeing.

Men are more likely to fail at school, ditch university, end up in prison and commit suicide than women, according to the AUT study.

Meanwhile, females are racing ahead in education, commanding flexible working conditions and have longer life expectancy.

Self-described masculist Kerry Bevin said the women's rights movement went too far and men are paying the price in the "feminist aftermath".

"It's way out of kilter and the boys are suffering," he said. "You've now got men who are primary breadwinners but doing work at home and sports on the weekends. These guys are the true soldiers and don't get enough recognition."

Bevin, who campaigns for a Ministry of Men's Affairs to champion men's rights, said strong feminists like former Prime Minister Helen Clark are part of the problem.

"Now you have ultra-feminists who actually engaged in male persecution. They're not interested in equality. They want domination.

"Masculists are the reply to feminists. Come on darlings, we want fairness, balance and common sense."

Erling Rasmussen, AUT University professor of work and employment, said while there is debate around increasing women's representation on corporate boards, little attention is given to the widening gap between men and women.

He wrote the research paper - due to be published in next month's NZ Journal of Employment Relations - to highlight education and wellbeing issues for the modern man. "There has been some fundamental shifts in society particularly in education. Men are dropping out of the statistics."

The research has been met with a backlash by some females in academia who feel it is an attack on them, he said.

However, Rasmussen would like the genders to work together.

"A lot of the women's movements in Denmark now focus on the male and what we can do in education to make boys succeed.

"Most women understand this is about having a better and greater society. If we start fighting amongst ourselves we're finished."

Health is one area where men lag behind women, including shorter life expectancy and higher suicide rates.

Sports writer Phil Gifford, who overcame prostate cancer a few years ago, said men could learn from women that going to a doctor is not a sign of weakness.

"I was astounded how some friends would rather possibly die than have a prostate examination. Women are just so much more sensible."

New Zealand blokes took the wrong lesson from ex-All Black Buck Shelford's infamous accident on the sports field, Gifford said.

"There's always been a thing with many New Zealand males that it is unmanly to seek medical help. The most manly example of illness or pain was when Buck Shelford had his scrotum sewn up without the benefit of painkillers.

"The key lesson for kiwi males should have been that he got a medical person to help him, he didn't just put a sticking plaster on it."

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Feminist Julie Fairey said the women's movement may focus on the women's perspective but some of the messages carry over for males.

"Women who identify as feminists are concerned with a range of issues and it's not about putting women ahead at the cost of men. It's about sharing power."

Fairey, who is Auckland branch president of the National Council of Women, said females may perform better at school, but that is not reflected in the workplace. About two-thirds of law graduates are women but few women make it to the top of their field.

Women are also perceived as bossy, while men with similar traits are considered leaders, she said.

"It's not about men falling behind women. It's about individual circumstances and how can we get everyone to achieve," she said.

When it came to education shortfalls, Jock Phillips, historian and author of A Man's Country, said there are deep cultural ideas at play.

"Men tend to be much more enthusiastic about playing sports and fast cars than the intellectual achievements. It's grown out of our traditions and our expectations about what men and women should do."

However there are signs of change. Sir Peter Jackson is seen as the modern New Zealand success story while Sir Edmund Hillary reflected men of an older era. "No man is being excluded. It's about the culture and expectations they grow up in."

- Sunday Star Times

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