Towards the end of 2014 the then Abbott Government reshuffled their ministry, including promoting a second woman to the cabinet. But what really got people's noses out of joint was the Prime Minister of the time, Tony Abbott, declaring he'd be the Minister for Women after one was not even assigned in their first year of Government.
Whilst having a man in the role did not especially bother me, Abbott seemed an exceptionally poor choice for a number of reasons, perhaps best highlighted by him having been taken to task by Prime Minister Julia Gillard for a string of misogyny. Another man in the role might have been okay, but nobody outside the Liberals thought he was an appropriate choice. Many among the Liberals probably thought it was ridiculous as well.
In amongst all this kerfuffle something caught my eye, as it has many times in the past. There's a Minister for Women, but there isn't a Minister for Men.
Now, I don't mean to imply there should not be a Minister for Women. Clearly that's a position that needs to exist as there are deeply entrenched biases and discrimination against women in society, from pay inequality to domestic violence rates to reproductive healthcare and so on. Women need a champion for their rights in the political sphere, unquestionably.
But what about men? People like to carry on about men having all the advantages in life already, but there are problems men face that are specific to them and they could equally use a champion for their cause.
Perhaps the best, least controversial, example of this is the simple fact that prostate cancer rates outstrip breast cancer. Prostate cancer is an exclusively male disease yet it gets a fraction of the attention and funding of breast cancer.
Women are typically the victim, not perpetrator, of domestic violence, and it's by a very large margin. Even when men are the victim, it's often other men as the abusers. But the number of male victims is not zero. Yet the support available for such men is nonexistent. Men approaching "domestic violence support" organisations are turned away because they're not women. Not that there's no resources available, they're just not geared towards supporting men, aren't interested in doing so or even express outright disdain for men needing their help.
Many initiatives exist for getting women into science, engineering, techie and other "male dominated" careers, but the reverse is not true. There aren't any, or far fewer, for any career path where men might be underrepresented. Partly because men have, of course, been doing practically all the jobs since forever...
Except for things like home duties and looking after the kids. It's quite normal for women to take on that role once a family is started, but men are frequently looked down on for taking on that role while the woman returns to work after the birth of a child. It's only recently that the idea of "paternity leave" has caught on, not that maternity leave has been any less of a struggle...
Maybe the problems facing men aren't as large as those of women, nor are the inequalities perhaps as pronounced, but it's always seemed clear to me that men face some unique issues that a devoted champion to stand up for them would make sense. Not as a competitor, or counterbalance to the Minister for Women, purely as an advocate for the specific issues facing men today.
Perhaps that's what all the other ministers address and we don't actually need a specific Minister for Men, but given that the Minister for Women role was entirely ceremonial under Tony Abbott... why not, right?
Anyway, I tweeted about this at the time and pinned it to the top of my profile for over a year and only ever got one slightly sarcastic reply that implied I was just looking to cause trouble. I wasn't, I just find it interesting. Have ever since a discussion during a School Council meeting where a Head Teacher for Girls was mentioned and nobody could tell me who the Head for Boys was, and couldn't explain why there wasn't one.
Turned out there was one, it just didn't come up a whole lot so nobody there happened to know off the top of their head.
And now that I've written a blog post about it I can pin something else to the top of my Twitter. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below...