Government ministry departments are constantly established, collapsed, abolished. A new ministry department is created when problems in a certain field increase, and when individuals, groups or the government realise this and subsequently act by establishing a new Ministry.
In West Germany, the Ministry for all-German affairs was created and later abolished in this manner during the cold war, and the German Family Ministry, changing with every administration, was also assigned the Departments of Youth, Women, Health or Sports. The Environmental Ministry was created by pressure of the Green Party, the Consumer Protection Ministry was created after the mad cow disease crisis (BSE), and the Office for the Recovery of East Germany is calling for its own Ministry as we speak.
The question therefore is whether men – as men – constitute a specific problem area and need their own Ministry to adress issues concerning men (or problems caused by men), and if so, how these problems differ from the specific problems that a Women’s Ministry adresses. After all, a Ministry for Women, adressing women’s issues, has already been established. Are there problems that need to be solved for men, and if so, what are they?
Housing the Women’s department in the Family ministry has merely entrenched the gender stereotypes. It just seemed “natural,“ and “true to the female destiny,” yet it was merely a symptom of the fact that society’s brainwashing by the churches over the centuries has worked remarkably well. In my opinion, the Women’s Department would be better placed in almost any other Ministry than the Family Ministry. With a bit of imagination, we could easily come up with good reasons why the Women’s Department should be assigned to the Ministry of Culture, since statistically women read more, visit more concerts, theatres, museums, galleries and cinemas, than men. It certainly would be better off there than with the Health Ministry, through which it passed as well. The Women’s Department could also be considered a part of the Foreign Ministry, since at its core the woman question is of international concern. We should not delve too deeply into this here, though.
In any case, we have become used to a Women’s Issues Ministry. The idea of a Men’s Ministry is laughed at, however. In contrast to the Departments of Economics, Labor or Defense, the introduction of a Women’s Ministry Department has created a situation in which “women” on the governmental level, both in the minds of politicians and the public, are considered generally deficient. The idea of a Men’s Department is ridiculed because the category “men” is not regarded in this way. Women need help, like youth or seniors; they need society’s special protection, and that is why this group has been tucked into its own Ministry Department.
But who makes up this this society, if 80% of its members – women, elderly and youngsters – need special protection from the rest? Who remains as the society here? Implicitly, but logically, just as with the Taliban, only those remain as normal members of society who are not too young, too old, or sick. According to this definition, our “society” consists of the 20% of men between voting age and retirement (and if we subtract East German men represented by the Department for the Recovery of East Germany, the number is even lower).
A Ministry for Men would make men themselves the object of analysis. It would become “the government’s responsibility” to explain why it is mostly men that throw bombs, trade slave girls, force women to marry yet refuse to take care of the children, invent fundamentalist theories, or organize themselves in secret lodges (20,000 in Germany alone, it is estimated), etc.
Today, costs for police security during football matches are not shown in comparison to the governmental support funds for children. The security funding for football matches, however, is undoubtedly support funding for men, and not a self-evident government responsibility. Has anyone ever done the math on who is NOT interested in the World Football Cup, and who is as much for the segregation of state and football as they are for the segregation of state and church? (The latter is also something that exists only on paper).
The estimated costs of security during the World Football Cup 2006 will be 500 million euros, the entire World Cup will cost circa 9 billion euros. If these costs were listed separately in the budget, they could be compared to other items, and political compromises would have to be made over the necessary government support, for example: This year we’ll fund a World Football Cup, next year so and so many new kindergardens, all-day schools, research facilities.
In foreign policy, it would be the inevitable task of a Ministry for Men to pursue the abolition of patriarchal behaviour, which includes the abolition of oppressive behaviour towards women.
In interior affairs, it would have to analyse the question whether sexism and xenophobia possibly have common causes, and whether xenophobia and sexism receive the same public attention.
Finally, a Ministry for Men would turn man into a political issue and would connect weak and overly academic gender theories with real people and real life. It would give politics the much missed and called-for impulse or “push.”
Humankind is now about 3 million years old, circa 3,000 years of which it was ruled by patriarchalism. It has become difficult to cope with the effects of this reign, effects, which are no longer good for men either. These problems will not be solved by a Ministry for Men, but perhaps it would bepossible to recognize some of their mechanisms through such an institution.
Surveillance cameras, more police, more soldiers, more tanks, all this will not solve the current world problems. It is time to wake up that 20% of society which sees itself as the sole representative of said society (and which has only been given this role by the others through lack of awareness of any other possibility); it is time for critical attention to be focused on this 20%.
The state budget of course should not increase. It would be right and good to couple both the Ministry for Men and the Ministry for Women with other departments. I would suggest the coupling of the Labor Ministry with the Women’s Ministry, and the Men’s Ministry with the Traffic Ministry, to have a “Minister for Traffic and Men.” It could face reality – which the current Family Ministry obviously can’t – and find solutions for the problem that women and men, whether married or not, have manifold sexual interests, yet need to provide a stable environment for children – a core question.
©Helke Sander August 2005
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