There is space for men in Feminism. But women need the space more.
WORDS BY ABBEY LENTON
A side of hostility with your morning coffee, anyone?
Sunday morning’s Weekend Sunrise saw a hot mess of a panel discussion on the topic “Are men treated as second class citizens?”. Of course, the producers decided to pitch conservative columnists Miranda Devine, ‘You’ve got Male’ columnist Rory Gibson and former MP Mark Latham against feminist writer Van Badham. The personalities, including Weekend Sunrise presenters Andrew O’Keefe and Angela Cox, then proceeded to attempt to out shout each other on the topic “Is Feminism responsible for men feeling displaced?” And I can safely say that I have never seen such explosive television before 9am on a Sunday.
Since the segment’s title already reinforced a battle of the sexes, viewers already expected to be subjected to a debate that could outdo some of Q&A’s most spicy episodes. One only had to tune in for a minute to understand that this was not your usual female feminist vs. male misogynist debate. Miranda Devine, the first to speak on the issue, established within her first few sentences that men were becoming “second-class citizens”, insisting that the “most prominent” forms of feminism were “toxic”. And so ensued 15 minutes of a woman bashing feminism with men jumping to agree.
What Weekend Sunrise’s segment highlighted was not gender inequality but rather the issue of ethical TV journalism. The imbalanced panel of 3 anti-feminist guests vs. 1 feminist guest was not representative of the views of the Australian population and had to rely on the non-objective involvement of O’Keefe and Cox to even the playing field. Nonetheless, the pro-feminist hosts weren’t able to prevent the rogue Latham as he hijacked the show by launching personal attacks at the opposition.
What followed was the Andrew and Mark show. The important topics of the gender pay gap and domestic violence were skimmed through and dominated by the two middle-aged men quarrelling. Meanwhile, in the twittersphere, audiences participated by egging on the two men, forgetting the show’s female participants.
There is space for men in feminism - men like Andrew O’Keefe who is fluent and passionate about the movement’s agenda. However, when the only thing the public takes from the debate stems from an argument between two middle-aged men, we need to start questioning the ethics of giving platform to men in a movement whose primary concern is women.
Discussing feminism in mainstream media is important and needs to continue. However the current weight given to the opinions of men and anti-feminist women is more destructive than constructive to the cause. The Feminist movement is getting airtime but only on the condition that men’s voices are included which is all too ironic. Men should be included in our movement, but not as the leading voices.