Why even Straight Men should welcome the Gender Policy
There are many men who feel threatened by the words “gender policy”. To them it conjures up a world where women will displace them as the top dogs. Instead of competing with only half of humanity, they have to compete with all of humanity.
There are also many who feel threatened by any mention of gender equity, seeing it as part of a larger “homosexual agenda”. This irrational fear is partly explained by the well-documented association of homophobia with homosexual arousal in straight men (see article “Is Homophobia Associated With Homosexual Arousal” by Henry E. Adams, Ph.D., Lester Wright, Jr., Ph.D. and Bethany A. Lohr, University of Georgia, in Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 105, No. 3, pp 440-445.) In summary, studies indicate that all men are aroused to some degree by sexually explicit material of any kind. However, self- reported homophobic straight men show more arousal to homosexual material than self reported non-homophobic straight men. The implication is that the homophobia, described as the fear, anxiety, discomfort and aversion, that some straight men feel towards homosexuals is the result of repressed homosexual urges that the person is either unaware of or denies. In simple terms this means extreme homophobic attacks often stem from a man’s insecurity about his own sexual identity. Other less insecure men might feel a need to oppose homosexuality in order to clarify their own heterosexual identity. Yet, other men and women see homophobia as a means of publicising their attachment to religious and cultural traditions.
In any case, the launching of the revised Gender Policy last week has been overshadowed by negative publicity from a small but noisy group of self proclaimed guardians of our morals. Here then, are ten reasons why all straight men should support the new gender policy.
1. While it is true that in the past, men got to run things, they were also under tremendous pressure to single-handedly support their family. Many men who were unable to adequately fill this role walked out on their families rather than fail. If women and men can work together to provide for their children, many more men will feel comfortable to continue to be a part of their children’s lives even if they cannot single-handedly support them.
2. In the past, men had little or no responsibility for child rearing and while this gave them freedom to relax and spend time with friends, it also meant that many men were alienated from their children. Sharing responsibility for children means that men can form closer bonds with them that last into their adult lives.
3. Making sexist remarks to perfect strangers passing on the street or the secretary at work might have seemed like harmless fun but most men should be glad that their mothers, daughters and sisters should no longer have to endure such humiliation and harassment.
4. Having the power to decide when and with which women to have sex with may be hard to give up but remember this protection of women extends to your mothers, daughters and sisters.
5. Being the ultimate decision makers within the family may feed men’s egos but it also places extreme pressure on them to have all the answers and always be strong, fearless and in control. Sometimes, it’s a relief to share the burden.
6. Ignoring the different needs of women and men across their life cycles often puts men at a disadvantage. Gender policy does stress the special sexual and reproductive needs of women but it also recognises that more emphasis must be placed on increasing men’s participation in their own health needs. Men tend to access health services very late in the progress of an illness or disease, giving them a higher mortality rate than women on a variety of illnesses including cancer, diabetes, hypertension and HIV/AIDS.
7. Health systems are often so focussed on diseases that morbidity and mortality due to injuries arising from work, traffic accidents and violence are not given a high priority. However, these are the health issues that disproportionately affect men.
8. Gender policy seeks to improve educational outcomes for males and females. The increase in female access to education is spectacular but at the same time it is obvious that more must be done to keep young men in school both in lowering their drop-out rate at lower levels and encouraging increased participation in higher levels of education.
9. Most men profess to love their mothers, daughters and sisters so that strengthening laws and protocols relating to domestic violence will protect the women that men most love.
10. Extending respect and ending discrimination against sexual minorities does not turn straight men gay. However, it does increase civility and make society a better place for all of us. It also protects gay family members, friends and colleagues (some of whom may be too afraid of discrimination to come out of the closet) from verbal and often physical abuse. Some people claim that discrimination does not occur in Belize and it is true that it is rarely reported but this is because most authorities either do not take it seriously, blame the victim or may be the perpetrators of abuse themselves. Victims of abuse are often fearful that reporting will precipitate more abuse. Look how many years abuse of children within the Catholic Church went on before it was officially reported. However, UNIBAM is currently documenting examples of abuse and discrimination against LBGTs in Belize and this information should be available shortly.
Treating all Belizeans with respect should be something that we can all agree on.