Fighting Wrong Battle of the Sexes

Does Ireland have a set of laws that assist men, because women are becoming so successful? And should America copy these Irish laws?


You might think so, if you believe what you see on TV and in cyberspace these days.

Let’s start at the beginning. The cover of the latest edition of the Atlantic Monthly declares that “The End of Men” in near.

The accompanying article, written by Atlantic editor Hanna Rosin, explores “how women are taking control of everything.”

Yikes! Not only does this seem like a frightening scenario that puts me and my fellow brothers on the express lane to obsolescence.

It’s also a rapid change from the days not too long ago when it was men, rather than women, dominating the world. So much so that serious people used to believe that various kinds of special programs, such as affirmative action, were needed to level the playing field for women.
Affirmative action basically encourages, without quite forcing, businesses and governments to hire folks who face distinct cultural challenges such as racism or sexism.

Rosin discussed her Atlantic article “The End of Men” last week on the comedy-news show The Colbert Report. When the host suggested we might now need “affirmative action for men,” Rosin said this may not be such a bad idea.

She went on to say, “In places like Australia and Ireland, they actually have affirmative action for men.”

Swiftly the blogosphere ran with this Irish angle on this gender debate. A blog about women’s issues at George Washington University commented upon Rosin’s appearance on The Colbert Report and added, “They also discussed that in Australia and Ireland they have affirmative action for men to help lift them up. Could this come to America?”

Is Ireland, like the U.S., also entering an age where men are irrelevant?

This seems unlikely. Just last year the Irish Independent published a report finding that gender inequality was “rife” in Ireland.

“Women in Ireland work less and earn less,” the newspaper noted, later adding, “Men, on the other hand, are over-represented in the Dail (Parliament) and Seanad (Senate).”

This hardly sounds like a society in which women are so successful that men need legally-mandated advantages to give them a fair shake. It appears the people debating this issue have confused some very important matters.
The only well-known affirmative action program on the island of Ireland is actually on the books in Northern Ireland. As a recent report by four professors from the University of Oxford noted, “Historically, Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland were typically highly segregated from each other in employment, with Catholics being concentrated in particular sectors of the labor market, and in particular firms, and suffering unemployment rates two to three times as high as those of Protestants.

“But for the last 20 years, Northern Ireland’s program of affirmative action has used detailed monitoring for firms’ composition plus agreed action plans, where necessary, to ensure for both groups ‘fair participation’ in employment, avoiding the setting of quotas.”

In the end, it is very dodgy to compare anything that is happening in Northern Ireland to anything happening in the U.S.

As Rosin makes clear in her article, there is indeed a crisis unfolding when it comes to men in America. Certain male-dominated jobs were decimated by recession in the 1990s as well as the 2000s.

Women now dominate U.S. college campuses, where just 40% of students these days are men.
But this is a very different context when compared to Northern Ireland. There you had a very clear pattern of historic discrimination based on numerous factors, including class, religion, political affiliation and even geography.

Whatever troubles (if you can pardon that phrase) facing American men these days, they are different from those that traditionally faced the Catholic men (and women) of Northern Ireland.

(Contact at tomdeignan@earthlink.net or facebook.com/tomdeignan)

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