The other day, The Ottawa Sun published a letter from resident Doug McGoldrick. In response to Councillor Diane Deans’s motion for a Women’s Bureau, McGoldrick responded:
If we are going to set up a women’s bureau at city hall, there should also be a men’s bureau set up. After all, there are many problems that men have.
Many of the men working for the city are in jobs where injuries often put them off work for some or all of their remaining careers. Very few women are in positions with those risks.
The time has come for males to stand up for themselves and that doesn’t begin with bodies demanding special rights for women. That is, after all, what women want from this new bureau. I may just file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission if this bureau is formed.
(Full disclosure: I’m a bi-weekly columnist for the Sun. Go read me. Now!)
What Mr. McGoldrick fails to understand is…well, everything about this issue. But the basic point of it all is that cities tend to plan and design things around the needs of men. This isn’t a new phenomenon and it’s not unique to Ottawa. It’s happening around the world, and it’s being studied and addressed around the world–like this, for example.
So it you’re wondering whether or not there’s a “Men’s Bureau”, the city, city councillors and city planners are already functionally more than adequately as one. Deans’s motion merely acknowledges this and seeks a means to tackle the problem.
Look, I don’t expect everyone to have read up on this stuff. I know I read more about city planning issues than the average person, so, sure, you don’t have to be an expert (and, hell, I’m not). But goddammit, take a moment to fucking read something and reflect a little bit before demanding that poor beleaguered men be treated as well as women in our society have historically been.
You know, Deans’s motion isn’t a critique. No one is saying politicians and planners are oppressing women on purpose. No one’s saying they lack empathy or don’t want to help women. What’s happening is that without stepping back and looking at things through a different frame, your inherent biases are going to creep in. And we all have inherent biases. It’s tough, but necessary, to try to counter-balance them.
It’s not a moral failing for city officials to have a less than 100% perfect holistic view of every city planning issue. It’s just human. Taking time to look at issues through a “gender lens” just helps them expand their understanding of city issues. It’ll just help them do their job better.
However, it is a moral failing to see women asking to be treated equally (or, at minimum, less unequally) and declare that your sacred rights as a man are being violated. Look, you (we) have been favoured for pretty much ever. Unfortunately, many people who have been so favoured react virulently against any sort of attempt to make life a little more fair for those who have not been so favoured.
It’s a common, ugly part of human nature. If you see it coming out in you, you need to step back, turn on your damned brain, grow a bit of compassion and humanity, and… well… feel free to do nothing. Just don’t get in the way of people who are trying to actually help.