For a long time, indeed many centuries, men, masculinity and men’s powers and practices have generally been taken-for-granted. Gender has largely been seen as a matter of and for women. Men were – and still are for the most part – generally seen as ungendered, as ‘just like that’, natural or naturalised. In research and activism, this is now changing; it is much less the case than even ten years ago.
However, European policies at all levels yet do not integrate a critical masculinities approach, and current gender policies seldom seek to actively address or involve men and boys. While considerable progress has been made in achieving gender equity and fulfilling the rights of women and girls in Europe in the past 50 years, much remains to be done. Although the situation may vary in different regions of Europe, data confirms that a large portion of European women and girls still report having been victims of physical violence by their male partners or other men and boys. Many women still report that they have experienced coerced or forced sex. In spite of efforts to engage men in sexual and reproductive health, women still assume nearly 75% of contraceptive use. In addition, women spend three to four times more time in caring for children.
In addition to this, current European policies yet fail to effectively identify and address many issues and problems facing men and boys. Often, problems such as the shorter life expectancies of men,
higher rates of suicide, accidents, substance abuse, crime, violence etcetera are not recognized as gendered issues. The missing notion of masculinities as social constructs in current policies lead to
loss of effectiveness and – in the worst case – no policies addressing these matters at all. This, in turn, contributes to the problems facing women and girls and degrades the results of existing gender
All of these issues require urgent action. It is time to bring men and boys more substantially into all aspects of gender policy in Europe to more effectively promote the wellbeing of girls and boys and
women and men.
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