In 2008, Julie Pulerwitz and Gary Barker in their thesis “Measuring Attitudes toward Gender Norms among Young Men in Brazil: Development and Psychometric Evaluation of the GEM Scale.” developed questionnaire to quantitatively measure gender equitable attitude of a country. This is a set of questions that are asked to respondents to understand prevailing gender roles. This is known as Gender Equitable Men (GEM) scale and UN Women in their various surveys use the same.
A 2016 study of masculinity in war torn Middle East and North African (MENA) countries – Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine this scale was used and all countries were found to be highly gender inequitable. This scale measures the index in a scale of 0-3 where 0 represents highly inequitable society and 3 represents a highly equitable society. By this measure, Lebanese women were found to be the most equitable whereas Egyptian men were found to be the least.
This article is to have a detailed look at the application of GEM score to determine masculinity of these countries.
The questionnaire in MENA survey was divided in three major areas –
- Attitudes toward gender roles and decision-making
- Attitude towards violence
- Perception of Masculinity and Femininity
The first three questions shown in the graphic belonged to the first category.
However, these questions are completely out of place in the context of a war ravaged and conflict prone country where not only there is a job crisis but available jobs are labor intensive. Coupled with this, most of the jobs available in these countries are temporary and low paying. Now let’s see why GEM Score can’t be applied in these countries.
The ‘Attitude towards gender roles’ and ‘perception of masculinity and femininity’ in GEM Scale are two overlapping areas of qualitative research. We find that traditional understanding of gender roles prevailed in all these countries. From the data presented in 2016 IMAGES – MENA survey, we find that in some areas majority did express gender neutral views. But before we get into that discussion let’s try to understand if it is worthwhile to even apply GEM Score where jobs are scarce, labour intensive and risky (because roads are not safe). We also need to keep in mind that these war-ravaged countries can’t ignore child rearing responsibilities.
Feminists may argue that the gender based and male controlled job / economic market itself is the problem, as it pushes women into homes and forces them to do unpaid work while men enjoy working for money and hence enjoy all benefits of the economy. But this nature of selection of job roles evolved over human evolution as men were forced to go out for hunting or for war, women needed to be at home to take care of children and elderly. It was in the best interest of the human race and there was no patriarchal conspiracy. This system also survived a time-tested process until some feminists imagined women’s oppression in this.
War torn MENA countries are probably the best examples where life is uncertain and men (being physically stronger), had to choose to fight or take up difficult jobs. Human males and females are hardwired into taking these roles. To understand this, we need to know about a study conducted by Richard Lippa, Professor of Psychology, California State University. Lippa conducted a study on job preferences in 53 countries. He got over 200,000 responses and found that men were more interested in object oriented occupations and women are more interested in people oriented occupations. Even though feminists talk about gender bias in job scenario women themselves are not interested in taking up certain jobs.
Problem is, feminists who talk about women’s freedom and choices; do not hesitate to term women as patriarchal when they choose to differ from feminists. This is where sociologists and UN Women fail miserably. They remain in their silos to change the world that is evolved over human evolution. It is highly imaginary to think that gender roles will be broken anytime soon. We find that even in Sweden and Norway, two leading gender equal nations only 10% Engineers are women and 10% nurses are men. Women are just not interested in taking up certain jobs and in MENA countries there are not enough jobs to maintain equality in workforce. This is where sociologists become completely unrealistic and GEM scale becomes irrelevant.
Even though the question that boys should be held responsible for their sisters’ behavior ‘even if the boys are younger’ really surprise us. The question that being guardian of female relatives is a man’s duty is a shocking revelation. But the questions on whether a spouse should have friends of opposite sex shows consistent response. i.e. MENA countries believed that both spouses should not have friends from opposite sex and this could be because of conservative nature of those countries.
Another problem is with the section on ‘gender perception of violence’. Feminists claim that women perceive violence differently than men. In all surveys, they end up taking survey of women experience of violence. If women perceive violence differently than men, then there are some scenarios that women perceive as violence but not men. This makes men more tolerant to violence. This is because men do not even perceive this violence when they are subjected to the same. GEM Scale fail in that perspective as well, as it ignores violence suffered by men from women.
In almost all recent UN surveys, the question whether ‘a woman is deserved to be beaten in some circumstances’ figures in. The perception that UN Women tries to create in these is women can’t be beaten under any circumstances. This becomes a problem of masculinity, however the same violence become acceptable against men and never feature in any scale or report. This is the double standard of equality that GEM Scale comes with.
Now let’s think for a moment that it is better for a war-ravaged economy like MENA countries to have women and men participate equally in workforce. Feminists’ argument is – “in a male defined economy women become victim when the man they are dependent on dies in war. The dependent women do not get jobs 1) because of social norms against them, and 2) because they themselves are hardwired into believing in gender roles and hence can’t perform well in those roles.” So they say, even if there is employment for only 20% (only an example) people, these jobs should be equally divided among the genders.” Obviously, then child rearing becomes a man’s responsibility as well.
As a men’s rights advocate I should be happy that feminists are trying to release men from the burden of being a provider. As the IMAGES survey also finds that more men suffer from depression (will be tackled in detail in a different article) in MENA countries because they can’t find a job. Feminists’ argument is, when gender roles are broken then both men and women will be liberated. And they want to apply the same logic in MENA countries as well through GEM score.
Similarly, the question that ‘a man should have final word about decisions at home’ is also out of place here because in these societies where men are acting as primary providers. It is natural for them to have the final word or think that way. If UN Women imagines of a world where the primary bread earner will not have final say of household spend, that is ‘female chauvinism and male slavery’ they are thinking of.
Even though these gender roles are becoming dangerous for males and as a Men’s Rights Activists, we should be happy that UN Women is now trying to break these roles; which will in turn make more women take up risky jobs and die and in turn reduce male death in hazardous workplaces. But such an ideal scenario cannot work in real life, as the gender roles have emerged not by some theories but through a time-tested process. These roles have emerged not through ‘patriarchy defined’ process as feminists claim but it was a ‘natural selection’.
In war ravaged and conflict prone countries of Middle East and North Africa (MENA), role selection can’t be forced onto anyone by UN or patriarchy. It is by natural choice emerging out of adverse conditions of life. GEM Score can’t be applied here. Before we apply any measure of masculinity there we must first bring normalcy and create enough jobs to ensure participation of everyone in economy to liberate women from household work or force men into doing household work leaving their outdoor world. It’s all about the Opportunity Cost for a gender to shed gender roles and currently in MENA countries it’s too high for both the genders.