April 22, 2019 | 59° F

PETRUCCI: Men are necessary in achieving equality

Opinions Column: The Annoying Vegan Millenial

The United Nations is a multi-nation governing body that functions like an instruction manual, everything is in English, French and Spanish. Even after following the instructions, the UN fails to actually function but we keep consulting it because it is the best guidance we have. 

Friday marked the last day of the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations (CSW). The CSW unites governments, civil society members and activists to promote women’s rights and global standards on gender equality.

The first CSW convened in 1947 at Lake Success, New York, uniting just 15 female government representatives. 

Interestingly, one of the Commission’s first major achievements was its contribution to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which they argued against the document’s references to men as synonymous for humanity. 

The 1948 Declaration implied that human rights “are to be understood as applying to women. Tradition, prejudice, social, economic and political interests have combined to exclude women from prevailing definitions of ‘general’ human rights and to relegate women to secondary and/or ‘special interest’ status within human rights considerations,” said Charlotte Bunch, executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership.

Patriarchy functions as the vanilla ice cream base which flavors every law and gender norm it touches. You add chocolate to vanilla, you get chocolate, you add chocolate chips to vanilla, you get chocolate chip. You add “hu” to man, you get human, you add “wo” to man you get a woeful pathetic man — so a woman, of course. 

Masculinity is a result of the vanilla patriarchy.

Patriarchy constitutes “the norms and practices that define women as inferior to men, impose controls on them, are present everywhere in our families, social relations, religious, laws, schools, textbooks, media, factories, offices. Thus, patriarchy is called the sum of the kind of male domination we see around women all the time,” said Abeda Sultana, associate professor of political science at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh.  

Like vanilla ice cream, we often do not need to evaluate its contents, its complexities or even its flavor and often become distracted by the flavors that exist as a result of it. Because patriarchy pervades everything from human rights law to society, it is easy to ignore masculinity as a set of norms to which men are expected to adhere to, which perpetuates female subordination. Thus, we often study those subordinated by patriarchy, women, rather than the system of patriarchy itself.

Gender equality will prevail with the inclusion of men and boys.

The Ministry of Canada co-hosted a session alongside Promundo, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Icelandic Permanent Mission to the UN entitled “Engaging Men and Boys in Partnership with Women and Girls” to discuss the male experience and “power” for the future of gender equality.

The first point is that men are not inherently “toxic” but the gender norms men are expected to adhere to are dangerous. The "Man Box Survey," a subsection of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), is a set of questions which determines what masculine norms men from the United States, Canada and Mexico feel their society imposes adherence to. Physical attractiveness, self-sufficiency, financial stability and resolving conflict through violence were a few of the many expectations. These expectations are associated with suicidal ideation, binge drinking, depressive disorders, perpetuating physical bullying and sexual harassment, according to the study. 

It is increasingly necessary to share domestic labor duties. According to the UN Human Development Report, unpaid care work, that is work mainly performed by women, is estimated in India at 39 percent, South Africa at15 percent, Guatemala between 26 percent and 34 percent and El Salvador at 32 percent of GDP.

The second point is that to be a man is to not be a woeful, pathetic woman who does domestic care work. “Even in patriarchal cultures where fathers are more present, masculinity is codified as a rejection of the mother and femininity, that is, a rejection of the qualities associated with caregiving and nurturance,” panelist Dr. Michael Kaufman said. 

It is here when Iceland's MP of Equality and Ásmundur Einar Daðason is like the winning show dog at the Westminster Dog Show, wagging its tail in favor of gender equality. Iceland enacted a 3-month paternity leave to redefine the caregiving role as both masculine and feminine and encourage father-child relationships.

It is necessary to deconstruct masculinity for the construction of equal gender relations. 

Francesca Petrucci is a School of Arts and Sciences junior double majoring in journalism and media studies and political science and minoring in Spanish. Her column, "The Annoying Vegan Millennial," runs on alternate Tuesdays. 


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Francesca Petrucci

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