Co-authored with Michael Kimmel and James Lang

The nature and effects of gender inequalities worldwide have been well documented. In 1995, the Beijing Platform for Action listed the following critical areas of concern: the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women; violence against women; inequality in economic structures and policies, in all forms of productive activities and in access to resources; inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision- making at all levels, and; gender inequalities in the management of natural resources and in safeguarding the environment (United Nations 1995a).

Implicit in this listing is the identification of men and male-dominated institutions as the producers and beneficiaries of the gender order that disadvantages women in all spheres of life. This paper addresses questions that arise when men’s contribution to gender equality goals is considered in the context of this prevailing global gender order:

  • To what extent can men be involved in transforming the gender inequalities that currently privilege them?
  • To what extent should gender programmes work with men, given the already scarce resources available for their existing work with women?
  • What are the ways in which gender programmes can work with men in order to achieve their gender equality goals?
  • How can a ‘politics of masculinity’ assist gender programmes to engage with men as potential agents of transformative change, without compromising current commitments to the advancement of women?

Across a range of development issues and institutions, there is an increasing interest in men as potential agents of change and not merely objects of blame. Commenting on the role of men in the HIV epidemic, Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, has stated that “[T]he time is ripe to start seeing men not as some kind of problem, but as part of the solution”. The questions of “which men?” and “which solutions?” remain to be answered.

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