Why we need an O.S.M.
It is ironic that at a time when governments are scrambling to get more women into parliament to give women a voice, it is the male perspective on policy issues that is under-represented. It's easy to hear the women's voice on just about any subject - if the Bureau of Statistics doesn't have a research paper on the subject, you need only open the Yellow Pages or a government directory to find dozens of organisations devoted to "women's issues". There are no equivalent resources for men. The reason? Unlike women, men are not considered an identifiable group whose votes could be courted.

Several stories in this issue of Certified Male illustrate the problems caused by the lack of a men's advocate.

  • The director of Alcohol and Drug Services at Sydney's St Vincent Hospital asks why it is that women are targeted by drug education campaigns when twice as many men as women have drug addictions.
  • Psychologist Michael Glicksman asks why there is no national outcry that male suicides outnumber female suicides by 4 to 1?
  • An agency of the Uniting Church had nowhere to turn for funding a comprehensive community education plan they developed to improve the image of fathers and get them more involved with children.
  • A university student who put forward a proposal that the Students' Union create the position of "men's officer" could not get support for the idea and was criticised by women's groups
  • The N.S.W. Board of Education has announced that girls outperform boys in almost every subject area, and the gap is widening rapidly. We have had a girls' education policy for decades - why don't we have a boys' policy as well?
  • Policy officers developing the South Australian men's health policy asked: "When we develop a draft policy, who do we show it to? Where are the men's organisations which have a charter to speak for men on health issues?".
In an ideal world there would be no need for either an Office of the Status of Women or an Office of the Status of Men, since each bureacracy would properly service the needs of all its constituency.

Until the OSW becomes an Office of Gender Equity, we need an OSM. And it will have have plenty to do. Some areas in need of immediate lobbying on behalf of men:

  • Family law, child custody and property settlement
  • Services for male survivors of sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence and other violence
  • Health promotion campaigns, such as testicular self-examination
  • Suicide prevention
  • The promotion of full-time parenting as an option for fathers
  • More part-time work for men
  • Active recruitment of men into primary teaching, nursing and other female-dominated professions
  • Boys' education policies
  • Protest media images which vilify or shame men
  • Research into social factors leading to men being involved in crime and violence.
The Government funds the Office of the Status of Women (OSW) not through concern for the welfare of women, but because it sees women's issues as a vote-winner.

Although men's problems are largely the same as women's, we cannot expect organisations set up for women and run by women to be concerned about our wellbeing. We must make it clear to our representatives that we expect government policies to enhance our quality of life, as well as women's.

The days when men's interests meant the price of petrol and taxation scales are over.

Let's start with a modest demand: an O.S.M. with one-tenth the budget of the O.S.W. So repeat after me: What do we want? An O.S.M.

When do we want it? NOW!

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