Friday, April 30, 2010

'I'm pleased to say the majority of students are now women...'

It may seem strange to single out a throwaway remark from a ninety-minute debate, but they can often be the most revealing. I really did think it was utterly extraordinary that Gordon Brown seemed to genuinely regard an area of blatant gender inequality as a point of pride - indeed it was hard to escape the impression that it had never even occurred to him that it might not be. As a society we seem to be caught in a kind of trance on certain equality issues - because it's been absolutely right and necessary over a period of decades to radically enhance women's opportunities in many spheres, no-one seems to spot that this actually becomes a bad thing at the point at which males are unfairly left way behind. Does Mr Brown really think he deserves to be congratulated for an education system in which boys and men are now clearly disadvantaged?

We've heard many similar jaw-dropping claims before. There was an article in the Scotsman a year or two back about the decreasing proportion of medical graduates who are male, and it included a contribution from an expert who didn't bother proposing ways of reversing the trend, but instead suggested we should accept it and embrace the advantages of the 'feminisation of medicine'. Now, you can quite often measure the absurdity of a statement by saying the complete opposite out loud and seeing if it sounds right. Can you imagine the reaction if, in a hypothetically reversed situation in which women were still grossly under-represented amongst medical graduates, someone recommended that instead of bleating about it, we should simply celebrate the 'masculinity of medicine'?

Doubtless, there are many, many walks of life where women still face outrageous levels of discrimination and barriers to achievement. But the logical and just response to that is to tackle the problems in those specific areas, rather than trying to 'even the score' in some way by welcoming outright female supremacy in other spheres.

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