When British journalist
Neil Lyndon wrote an article promoting
men's rights in 1990, he soon regretted
it. He became, in his own words, "a
pariah - a professional and social
outcast." His income plummeted
and his friends and neighbors disowned
him. Commentators declared that he
must be impotent, or be ashamed of
being a man. Nearly all agreed that
he had "gone off his trolley."
Standing up to British feminist orthodoxy
in the 1990s was akin to mugging the
elderly, and Lyndon suffered accordingly.
Fast forward to 2005, and the men's
rights that Lyndon wrote about are
part of the mainstream. Pierce Brosnan
produced and starred in a film about
a father's fight to see his children.
Bob Geldoff has become a tireless
campaigner for divorced fathers. And
recently, a distinguished British
television journalist, Michael Buerk,
joined in declaring: "Life is
now lived in accordance with women's
rules ... men are merely sperm donors."
Buerk has suffered the tired rejoinder
that he must be acting out of personal
pique, but he hasn't faced anything
like the castigation that Lyndon weathered
a decade ago, and his views are being
Britain seems to be reaching a tipping
point. Men can not only stand up for
themselves for the first time in a
generation, but now they can even
right some perceived wrongs.
So what's changed since the 1990s?
According to the campaigners, the
ways in which British men are discriminated
against have become so damaging that
they simply can't be ignored any longer.
If a man marries and has children
he has a one-in-three chance of losing
his home and a one-in-ten chance of
losing contact with his children.
Men die, on average, seven years younger
than women; the vast majority of homeless
people are men; and over three times
as many men as women commit suicide.
But the more fundamental answer is
that Britain's men have gone political.
In 1990 Lyndon could rely on little
organizational backing. But since
then the number of men's rights groups
has exploded, with the UK Men's Movement,
ManKind, Families Need Fathers and
Fathers4Justice leading the way. At
first these organizations acted conservatively,
putting the case for men in the fields
of health, education and the family
law courts, and operated below the
The turning point came when Fathers4Justice
decided that real change could occur
only if the political agenda was grabbed
and shaken. When one of their campaigners
dressed up as Batman and clambered
along Buckingham Palace's walls, he
thrust the cause of men's rights into
the face of the public.
More importantly, the stunt made the
government take notice. Tony Blair's
government only takes an issue seriously
if it's on the front pages - its ministers
are more influenced by shenanigans
than reasoned debate. Once Fathers4Justice
started pulling media stunts, all
the things that Lyndon was lambasted
for suddenly became addressed by the
government. More money was spent on
men's health issues. A refuge was
set up for male victims of domestic
violence . And divorce courts are
taking the position of fathers more
The campaigners welcome this, but
point out that it's just a start.
Lyndon's 1990 article focused on "the
atmosphere of intolerance surrounding
men," and the way in which the
British media portray men as clumsy,
lazy, cheap and desperate. This portrayal
still exists. As one example, the
BBC had to apologize after airing
a television program called "Bring
Your Husband to Heel," which
showed women how to use dog-training
techniques to modify their husbands'
behavior. Few can imagine a similar
program about controlling the behavior
Still, things are changing to a degree
undreamed of by the pioneers of the
men's movement. Men throughout the
country are starting to defend themselves.
Even Neil Lyndon is back writing for
The test lies with a government that
appears to speak through gritted teeth
when saying anything positive about
men. One of Blair's earliest innovations
was to appoint a minister for women,
so perhaps, having examined the headlines,
the prime minister will now give similar
representation to the other half of
As for the minister for men, how about
(Robert Taylor is a London-based
journalist. He was communications
director for ManKind between 2000