Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recently announced new cabinet is an insult to men. He has appointed a minister of women and gender equality, a minister of diversity and youth, a minister of immigration and refugees, and a minister of seniors.
Two ministers are needed to deal with Aboriginal issues — a minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and a minister of Indigenous Services, though how they differ is anyone’s guess.
For heaven’s sake, there’s a minister of middle class prosperity, a minister of disability inclusion. Even the inanimate finds its place in this council of deadwood — we now have a minister of digital government.
So why is there no ministry of men? Every other demographic, gender and race-related group gets its place in the sun. Don’t us guys count?
But of course we know the answer to that. No.
Yet the past three decades have been brutal on working-class males. Most of the job loss in areas such as forestry, fisheries and oil extraction has fallen on men.
That’s one reason the male suicide rate is three times that of women. It also explains, in part, why 76 per cent of Canadians who die of a drug overdose are men.
Meanwhile, the B.C. government is spending $12.4 million to help women and other “under-represented” groups get jobs in the trades — one of the few remaining bastions of male employment. How about assisting men to find work in female-dominated careers, such as nursing?
But we can carry this analysis much further. Men are more likely to die of cancer, heart disease and diabetes at younger ages than women.
Perhaps I can be forgiven a personal note. In the late 1970s, when I joined the Budget Bureau in Saskatchewan, there were 14 male staffers, most in their 20s.
At least half this group are dead, few of whom, I believe, lived to be 60. Almost all of the fatalities were due to cardiovascular disease. I’m aware of no deaths among my female colleagues.
Males account for nearly 94 per cent of occupational fatalities in B.C. as well as the vast majority of hospitalizations caused by workplace accidents.
Looking at our education system, boys face more hurdles than girls, and generally perform less well in standardized testing. Fewer boys than girls gain a high school diploma, and fewer young men go on to university than young women.
And there are deeper issues to confront. The idea of what is socially acceptable, in terms of behaviour and attitudes, has swung decisively against young boys.
Girls and young women are being taught to spread their wings. Boys and young men are having their wings clipped, as if female liberation can only be achieved at the cost of, or through the means of, male repression.
As a result, boys often find themselves confused and isolated, as the long-standing concept of manliness is assailed from all sides as a form of toxic machismo.
I have no intention of disputing the often harmful aspects of traditional masculinity. A thoughtful re-examination of the roles both men and women should aspire to was long overdue.
But as is often the case with mass movements, the war on men has over-reached. The historical notion of what it means to be a man has been condemned, but nothing constructive put in its place.
We’re still at the blaming and shaming stage, long after such attitudes are neither helpful or required.
This is why we need a ministry of boys and men every bit as much as we need a ministry of women. The latter have made their point, a point that needed making.
But the former stand ignored and silent, and so they will remain, as long as the powers that be avert their gaze.