Open Letter to Dr. David Duncan and Dr. Adrian Lee

OPEN LETTER TO DR. DAVID DUNCAN AND DR. ADRIAN LEE REGARDING THE UNIVERSITY PRESS RELEASE ON ‘INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY’

Friday 13 November 2015

 

To the Registrar (Dr. David Duncan) and Dr. Adrian Lee of the Academic Support Office:

We the undersigned – students, staff and alumni of the University of York – are deeply concerned by the University’s recent decision to mark International Men’s Day. We believe that giving practical application to concepts of equality and diversity should be taken seriously by the university. However, we do not believe that this is furthered by the promotion of International Men’s Day in general and are concerned by the particular way in which the university has chosen to do so.

According to its official UK website, ‘International Men’s Day’ exists to raise awareness of global issues facing men and boys, and to ‘celebrate the contribution that men make.’ It does not, however, seek a dialogue on such issues with women’s equality campaigns or initiatives. Nor does it acknowledge that the patriarchal structures which underpin society are inimical to both male and female advancement and well-being, or that the achievements of men are celebrated and disproportionately highlighted as a matter of course. We believe in a critical approach towards equality and diversity, which seeks to understand the structural causes of disadvantage.

We also believe that there is a significant reputational risk to the university in aligning itself with International Men’s Day – an event which has not been without significant controversy. The homepage of the global website for International Men’s Day states: ‘The ability to sacrifice your needs on behalf of others is fundamental to manhood, as is honour. Manhood rites of passage the world over recognise the importance of sacrifice in the development of Manhood.’ Retrograde statements like this show a profound lack of understanding on issues surrounding masculinity.

A day that celebrates men’s issues – especially those outlined in the University’s statement – does not combat inequality, but merely amplifies existing, structurally imposed, inequalities. The closing remark – ‘gender equality is for everyone’ – echoes misogynistic rhetoric that men’s issues have been drowned out by the focus on women’s rights. One particularly wrongheaded and offensive assertion is that ‘in the professional support services, there are areas where men are significantly under-represented. Likewise in academic departments, the support staff complement is often heavily weighted towards women, with some departments employing no men at all in these roles.’ Though the statement concedes that the ‘reasons for these circumstances are complex,’ it proposes that they should be addressed ‘in the same way that we approach unfairness and discrimination by women.’ This misses the crucial point that men’s ‘underrepresentation’ in these areas is a direct consequence of unfairness and discrimination towards women; secretarial and support work are gendered and demeaned as ‘women’s work,’ whereas men dominate senior – and better paid – roles. The statement is particularly crass in view of the fact that of the twelve-strong university Senior Management Group (SMG), three quarters are male.

In recent years, a number of serious issues highlighting women’s inequality at the university at all levels have been reported. These include: the lack of female and BME candidates running for YUSU President in the past five years; reports from the YUSU Women’s Officer on serious issues surrounding sexual harassment and ‘lad culture’; the fact that the majority of executive committee positions in political and careers societies are held by men; and the continuing marginalisation of women in academic roles. Within this context, the Equality and Diversity Committee statement’s generalised references to ‘raising awareness about – and removing barriers for – women’ fails to acknowledge the full implications of gender bias against women within the institution.

We believe that men’s issues cannot be approached in the same way as unfairness and discrimination towards women, because women are structurally unequal to men. We recognise that patriarchy is damaging to both men and women, and we are in support of a discussion concerning this, as well as increased attention to specific issues surrounding men’s health. We do not, however, believe that the university statement engages with these complex issues with sufficient nuance or understanding. The failure of the Equality and Diversity Committee to do so undermines their self-proclaimed commitment to gender equality, and leaves us deeply concerned that their supposed investment in women’s rights is mere lip service.

We ask that you provide a full account of the means by which a decision to promote men’s issues in this way was reached by the Equality and Diversity Committee. We hope you will take our concerns and criticism with the seriousness they deserve, and look forward to a full response as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned

Full list of signatories:

Sibyl Adam, University of York Alumna

Luis Abolafia Anguita, University of York Alumnus

Boriana Alexandrova, Department of English & Related Literature

Henrice Altink, Head of Department, Department of History

Jasmine Allen, University of York Alumna

Daniel Ashman, University of York Alumnus

Catherine Atkinson, Centre for Women’s Studies    

Derek Attridge, Professor, Department of English and Related Literature

George Bancroft, Disabled Students’ Convener to Women’s and LGBTQ Networks, Department of Biology

Patricia Bartley, Centre for Applied Human Rights

Heidi Baseler, Department of Psychology

Lynne F Baxter, The York Management School

Kate Beaumont, University of York Alumna

Rachel Bickley, University of York Alumna

Elizabeth Biggs, Department of History

Laura Blomvall, Department of English and Related Literature  

Hannah Boast, Department of English and Related Literature

Eliza Bonello, Department of Chemistry

Kristin Bourassa, University of York Alumna

Chris Bovis, Centre for Medieval Studies

Robin Brabham, Department of Chemistry

Jude Brereton, Department of Electronics   

Evie Brill Paffard, YUSU LGBTQ officer, Department of English and Related Literature

Thomas Bromwell, Department of History of Art

Rachel Brown, Department of Politics

Sydney Calkin, University of York Alumna

Claire Canavan, Department of English and Related Literature

Anne-Marie Canning, President of YUSU 2007-2008

Gina Cardwell, Feminist Society Committee member, Department of Physics

Emily Casey, University of York Alumna

Nina Caspersen, Department of Politics

Sarah Cawthorne, Department of English and Related Literature

Claire Chambers, Lecturer in Global Literature, Department of English and Related Literature

Ting-Fang Chin, Centre for Women’s Studies

James Clarke, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy

Sabine Clarke, Lecturer, Department of History

Emma Cooper, University of York Alumna

Sophie Coulombeau, University of York Alumna

Katy Cubitt, Professor, Department of History

Rebekah Cumpsty, Department of English and Related Literature

Lucy Davies, University of York Alumna

Irene D’Amico, Professor, Department of Physics

Callum Delhoy, Liberal Democrats & Amnesty International Society, Department of Politics

Jack Denham, Department of Sociology

Caroline Dessent, Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemistry

Pelin Dinçer, Centre for Women’s Studies    

Carol Dixon, Department of Philosophy

Kirstin Donaldson, University of York Alumna    

Ana Duarte, Centre for Health Economics    

Anaïs Duong-Pedica, Department of Sociology  

Serena Dyer, University of York Alumna

Jonathan Eato, Department of Music

Katherine Ebury, University of York Alumna

Anna Einarsdottir, Senior Lecturer, The York Management School

Janet Eldred, Department of Philosophy, Department of Health Sciences

Luke Elliott, LGBTQ Network Secretary, Department of Physics

Karla K. Evans, Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Sanna Eriksson, Centre for Applied Human Rights

Mary Fairclough, Lecturer, English and Related Literature

Jonathan Fanning, Lecturer, The York Management School

Myra Faza, Department of Archaeology

Suki Finn, Teaching Fellow, Department of Philosophy

Triona Fitton, University of York Alumna

Sarah Fitzmaurice, Feminist Society Secretary, Department of Physics

Gemma Gibson, Centre for Women’s Studies

Veronica Gonzalez Temer, Department of Language and Linguistic Science

Erika Graham-Goering, Department of History

Hannah Greig, Senior Lecturer, Department of History

Joanna de Groot, Senior Lecturer, Department of History

Pat Hadley, Honorary Fellow, Department of Archaeology

James Haikney, Department of English and Related Literature

Catherine-Rose Hailstone, Department of History

Alex Hall, Department of Politics

Claire Harrill, University of York Alumna     

Alexander Hardie-Forsyth, Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies

James Haikney, Department of English and Related Literature

James Harland, Department of History

Kate Harper, Student and Academic Services

Kate Highman, University of York Alumna

Deborah Hines, Language and Linguistic Science.

Lucy Hodgetts, Department of English and Related Literature

Edward Holmes, Department of Sociology     

Dan Howdon, Centre for Health Economics    

Carolyn Hunter, The York Management School

Kaytlin Hunter, Department of Sociology  

Stevi Jackson, Director, Centre for Women’s Studies

Sharon Jagger, Centre for Women’s Studies

Carla Jardim, Centre for Medieval Studies    

Hannah Jeans, Department of History

Ella Jeffries, Department of Language and Linguistic Science

Sam Johnson, University of York Alumnus   

Martin Jones, Lecturer in International Human Rights Law, Centre for Applied Human Rights

Phil Jones, University of York Alumnus

Adam Kelly, Lecturer in American Literature, Department of English and Related Literature

Michelle Kelly, University of York Alumna

Catriona Kennedy, Senior Lecturer, Department of History

Emma Kennedy, University of York Alumna

Tim Kirk, Department of Chemistry

Emmanouela Kritikaki, Centre for Women’s Studies

Stephanie Lambert, Department of English and Related Literature

Jenna Lång, University of York Alumna

Tim Lawrence, Department of English and Related Literature

James Lomas, Research Fellow, Centre for Health Economics

Jelena Loncar, Department of Politics

Catherine Laws, Department of Music

Ken Leach, Department of Sociology  

Barry Lee, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy

Mary Leng, Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy  

Sam Lindsay, University of York Alumnus

Nicole Lindstrom, Lecturer, Department of Politics    
Bridget Lockyer, University of York Alumna

Izzy Lomas, Feminist Society President, Department of Biology

Jelena Loncar, Centre for Women’s Studies

Gill Loomes, Department of Sociology

Nicky Losseff, Department of Music

Hannah Lyons, University of York Alumna

Antigone MacKenzie, Department of English and Related Literature

Reena Magudia, University of York Alumna

Katrina Maliamauv, Centre for Applied Human Rights

Nathan Manning, Department of Sociology

Katie Markham, University of York Alumna

Ross McIntire, Centre for Medieval Studies

Katherine Mellor, YUSU Women’s Officer, Department of Social Policy and Social Work

John Mellors, Department of Politics

Juliana Mensah, Centre for Applied Human Rights

Jaz Millar, Trans*gender convener for YUSU LGBTQ, Department of Biology

Chris Millson, University of York Alumnus

Eilis Millson University of York Alumna

Leah Mitchell, University of York Alumna

Stephanie Monteith, Centre for Medieval Studies

Karen Mumford, Professor, Department of Economics

Alice Nah, Centre for Applied Human Rights

Sarah Napoli-Rangel, Assistant Head of College to Goodricke

Kasia Narkowicz, Department of Sociology

Dustin Neighbors, Department of History

Rachel Nicholson, University of York Alumna

Catherine Oakley, Department of English and Related Literature  

Megan Ollerhead, Directorate of Estates and Campus Services  

Sebastian Owen, English and Related Literature

Isabel Pearson, Chair Amnesty International Society, Department of Politics

Adam Perchard, University of York Alumnus

Josh Phillips, University of York Alumnus

Lucy Potter, Department of English and Related Literature

Laura Price, Department of History

Bryan Radley, Lecturer, Department of English and Related Literature

Kelly Ramnarine, Department of Psychology

Conny Rhode, Department of Philosophy

Louise Richardson, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy

Niamh Richardson, Department of Medieval Studies

Duncan Robertson, Department of English and Related Literature

Tim Rowbotham, Department of English and Related Literature and Centre for Medieval Literature

Xander Ryan, University of York Alumnus

Madelaine Schurch, Department of English and Related Literature  

Ruth Scobie, University of York Alumna

Brittany Scowcroft, Centre for Medieval Studies & History of Art

Cristina Sechel, Department of Economics and Related Studies

Munzar Sharif, University of York Alumnus

Christine Skinner, Reader in Social Policy, Department of Social Policy and Social Work

Claire Smith, Lecturer, Department of Politics

Peter Smith, Professor, Department of Economics    

Rosie Smith, Department of Sociology

Catherine Spencer, University of York Alumna

Elizabeth Spencer, Department of History    

Holly Steel, Department of Sociology     

Germaine Stockbridge, Department of Sociology

Tom Stoneham, Professor, Department of Philosophy

Dillon Struwig, Department of English and Related Literature

Ally Swadling, University of York Alumna

Vanita Sundaram, Senior Lecturer, Department of Education

Elizabeth Swann, University of York Alumna

Abigail Tazzyman, University of York Alumna

Ali Thompson, Department of Natural Sciences

Amy Tobin, Department of History of Art

Vikki Touzel, University of York Alumna

Evangeline Tsao, Centre for Women’s Studies

Giacomo Valeri, Department of English

[name redacted]

Paul Walton, Department of Chemistry

Sethina Watson, Senior Lecturer, Department of History

Sophie Weeks, Lecturer, Department of History

Joanna Wharton, University of York Alumna

Gregory White, Department of Social Policy and Social Work

Ruth Whyte, University of York Alumna

Jenny Wilkes, Department of English and Related Literature

James Williams, Lecturer, Department of English and Related Literature

Mary Elizabeth Wilson, Centre for Medieval Studies

Tim Wingard, University of York Alumnus

Adam Winstanley, Department of English and Related Literature

Nick Wolterman, Department of English and Related Literature

Rebecca Woods, Department of Language and Linguistic Science

Emma Woolfrey, Department of History of Art

Beth Yarwood Smith, University of York Alumna

Helen Yetter-Chappell, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy

Ananna Zaman, YUSU Women’s Officer, Department of Social Policy and Social Work

This letter was published on Monday 16 November. To add your signature, please state your name and departmental affiliation/status as alumni in the comments. 

Some names have been redacted  by individual request, due to harassment and safety fears.

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