Last Friday, a columnist for my hometown paper and Australia’s major daily, the Sydney Morning Herald, penned a stirring op-ed entitled “Hell Hath No Fury Like a Man in a Boring Suit.” In it, Glover imagines that Julia Gillard, Australia’s first woman Prime Minister, has picked him to head up a new agency, the Office for the Status of Men. There is no such office, but Glover has kindly provided a list of the issues such an agency might work on were it to exist. Let’s have a look at what he thinks are the greatest issues facing Australian men today:
“Why are young Australian women now so tall? Consider the situation of young Australian men, forced to run around town with women who are uniformly tall and thin… My proposal: government grants for platform shoes so Australia’s men can finally look them in the eye.” Serious issue, that. Think of the burden on the Aussie healthcare system as millions of men strain their necks every year trying to look tall women in the eyes!
Other pressing problems Glover identifies: The headlines of tabloid magazines don’t include surnames, so men walking past newsstands don’t know which Jennifer, which Brad or which Nicole they’re referring to. These old girls’ clubs are excluding men, using secret codes to ensure that vital information doesn’t reach men. A gender leadership gap, you say? A reluctance to let women into networks where they might gain the information they need to advance professionally and come to fill more than 6% of the country’s top 200 CEO positions? Screw that, let’s focus on the real gap here: Women’s magazines are excluding men, and making them feel inferior for their lack of knowledge. Men’s magazines would never do that to women – in fact men’s magazines are FULL of women, and those women feel so welcome, so at home there, that they just go right ahead and take their clothes off. How about a little equality, Women’s Weekly and Who Magazine?
Also, according to Glover, Australian men are mocked for not going to the doctor often enough. If by “mocking” you mean “expressing concern that the rigid definition of manhood and masculinity means that men are expected to be so tough that they don’t feel pain and don’t need antibiotics, and that this might lead to fewer check-ups, less preventive care and generally poorer health outcomes,” then sure, I guess you could say women are mocking you. Alternatively, you could interpret our concern for your health as, oh, I don’t know, concern for your health.
Perhaps my favorite paragraph is this one, in which Glover addresses the fact that women in Australia, on average, pay less for car insurance:
Why should women be offered cheaper car insurance? Some companies are now offering cheaper rates for women drivers on the basis that they have fewer accidents. Well, der. That’s because they drive less. Even when they do drive, women can spend several hours trying to complete a single reverse park — time during which they are unlikely to have a major, speed-related collision. It’s also hard for them to cover any real distance since they have to keep turning the map wrong-way-up to work out which way they are going. My office will take a dim view of what is, frankly, prejudicial pricing.
Sexist insurance pricing policies: Not okay. Sexist jokes: Hilarious!
Wait, wait. That’s not actually my favorite paragraph. My favorite paragraph is the one where he complains that men are denied the kind of sartorial self-expression that women enjoy because their only choices in life are between a boring tie and a loud one, or between boot-cut jeans and stove-pipe jeans. “There were slaves in the American south who were allowed more scope,” he writes. Yeah, he really did write that, and his editor read it, and left it in there thinking it would be a great way to convey just how much Aussie men are suffering under this brutal system of oppression. Classy, right? Of course, when women want to wear, think about or talk about clothes, it’s considered frivolous and they’re mocked for it. When men want to do it, it’s because they’re yearning to express themselves.
Look, sexism sucks for everyone, men and women. The expectation that all women are fragile and weak, and that all men are tough and strong can indeed mean that men get less medical attention than women. Cultural rules about clothing, about what colors, shapes and textures men and women are allowed or expected to wear, really do limit self-expression, for people of all genders. “Sexism” refers to discrimination on the basis of sex, and it runs both ways, not just against women. Not to mention the fact that all this focus on ‘men v. women’
reinforces the gender binary, which is bad for all of us – women, men,
trans folks, and anyone who doesn’t want to conform to all the
socialized norms of one gender. Patriarchy limits us all, and that’s why we all have a stake in breaking it down.
And hey, at some point, it might in fact be a good idea to form a non-imaginary Office on the Status of Men to investigate the real issues that face Australian men. But if this column is anything to go by, Mr. Glover should have nothing to do with it. There are some real issues facing Australian men, and very few of them appear on this list. If Jennifer and Brad and really tall ladies are all you can find to complain about, then I suggest you take a good long hard look at just how much privilege you enjoy in this world.