- CURRENT WORK
- PUBLISHED WORK
- The Soft Heart of the British Empire
- Men and the Women’s Liberation Movement
- Facts are Sacred: the Manchester Guardian and India
- Anti-imperialism in 1960
- The British Left and India
- The Labour Party and the Aristocratic Embrace
- Civil Society and British Progressives in India
- The Conservative Party and Indian Independence
- The Cripps Mission: A Reinterpretation
- ABOUT ME
- CONTACT ME
I discussed men’s groups of the 1970s briefly in my article on men’s involvement or non-involvement in the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s, an article which appeared in Historical Journal. But there is a lot more to be said about them, especially concerning their failure to achieve the same success as the women’s consciousness-raising groups on which they were at least partly modelled. They were less popular, and the techniques that the women developed in their groups seem not to have translated very easily. They also form a useful test case for my claims about the participation of adherents in ‘other people’s struggles’. There were difficulties in establishing the right relationship between the men’s groups and the women’s movement. Were they ancillary organisations, there to provide support to the women in their struggle? Or was there a distinct struggle for men to conduct on their own account, for men’s liberation? If so, was it complementary to the women’s struggle, or did the struggles at some point diverge?
I have been investigating why men were mostly absent from the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s. This forms part of my research project on the participation of outsiders in social movements: Other People’s Struggles. The most common explanation is that men did not much support feminist demands. I have tried to test this explanation using opinion polls from the 1960s and 1970s.
The original data is still available, so it is possible to split it between male and female respondents. I have tried to find questions as close as possible to the ‘six demands’ of the Women’s Liberation Movement, and then examine the data to see whether the answers of men and women significantly differ.
Surprisingly, men were at least as good feminists as women on many of these demands. They too favoured equal pay, equal opportunities, free contraception, easier abortion, better childcare, and improved legal rights for women. If participation in the Women’s Liberation Movement were defined by attitudes, it ought to have been a movement of young, middle class men and women, rather than (as it was) women alone.
But there are some questions, notably those concerning pornography and sexual violence, where men’s and women’s attitudes did significantly differ. And it may be that the questions do not fully capture feminist attitudes. And it may be that movements are not fully defined by their demands.