Tue, Feb 12, 2019 - Page 2 News List

INTERVIEW: Group explores inequality from a man’s angle

GENDER ISSUES:Men also suffer from the gender divide, but are less likely to talk due to prevailing ideas about masculinity, the head of the Taiwan Men’s Association said

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

For many Taiwanese, last year ended with a disappointing backlash against gender equality movements, after voters on Nov. 24 passed three referendums to limit LGBT rights.

However, the year also saw the rise of a new form of resistance, organized by men for men, against gender stereotyping and “toxic masculinity.”

The efforts culminated in the creation of the Taiwan Men’s Association, which claims to be the first group to advocate gender equality from a man’s perspective in Taiwan — and possibly Asia.

Association president Shiau Hong-chi (蕭宏祺), a professor and chairman of Shih Hsin University’s Department of Communications Management, said the group’s goal is to “unsettle patriarchy” by inspiring conversations and imagination about “different ways of becoming men.”

“We want to promote the idea that there are all kinds of men out there and help make society more accepting of men with qualities not traditionally associated with masculinity,” he told the Taipei Times.

For Shiau, the association, founded in April last year, was a logical next step in the nation’s gender equality movement, after he observed a growing number of men supporting women’s and LGBT rights, he said.

“I have many heterosexual male friends who support gender equality, but taking part in advocacy events is often awkward for them,” he said. “They are easily considered chauvinists if they disagree with mainstream feminist ideas, when things might be more complicated than that.”

Although more women are victims of gender inequality, simplifying it as one-sided oppression risks antagonizing men and women, and creates an unnecessary impasse for feminist movements, he said.

“Society appears to have granted many privileges to men, but they might be unnecessary, or even oppressive,” he said. “It is like when you slap someone in the face, your hand hurts too.”

Gender equality movements have so far focused on the patriarchy’s oppression of women and LGBT people, while leaving its oppression of heterosexual men relatively unexplored, he said, adding: “that is something that we particularly want to examine.”

“Many men are neither abusers nor [traditional] victims. They support gay rights, but are not gay. We hope to include those people in gender equality movements through this association,” he said.

It is not easy to convince men to open up about how gender inequality has hurt them, Shiao said, but added that the association has received consistent support from feminists.

He said the association began as a spinoff project by the Garden of Hope Foundation, a leading women’s rights group, which has a section exclusively dedicated to gender equality campaigns targeting men.

The men’s association is partly funded by the foundation and has recruited many members from the group, he said, adding that women account for about one-third of its staff.

“We have only just begun and are still considering how to best proceed as we work on telling men’s experience,” he said.

The association at the moment focuses on recounting men’s experience and providing social critiques in a monthly column on Thinking Taiwan Forum (想想論壇) and at its own advocacy events.

It also organizes discussion groups on men’s experience for university students and is planning to host a film festival about men’s roles in families this summer.

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