Over the past few weeks we've been given a chance to see that that is spectacularly not the case. A few males in powerful positions have made some outlandish statements that have shocked the country - and so in some ways, of course, the reaction to these statements is evidence that many men feel very differently to them. But in other ways, too, it has become very obvious that a large number of men feel very sympathetic.
Back in the days of the women's suffrage campaign, this was the kind of criticism women were up against:
A frightening, domineering archwife lowering the dignity of Parliament. Emotional and uncontrolled, she is clearly unsuitable to guide the country with rationality and restraint.
The picture has changed rather a lot now. But, for two relatively high-profile men, these ideas linger.
(1) Alasdair Thompson, who has had to resign from his position as CEO of the Employers' and Manufacturers' Association (EMA), recently defended the gender pay gap, claiming that women take much more leave than men - an obvious example being maternity leave, a slightly less unnecessary example being "monthly sick problems". Eugh.
As inappropriate and thoughtless as this statement appeared to be, Thompson proceeded to dig himself a deep, deep hole. He appeared in a couple of TV interviews in which he behaved in a completely bizarre way, promised "satistics" and then produced anecdotes, and pretty much acted like someone who has no idea how to conduct himself in public. You can read about it, or watch the full interview, here.
Had a great time on twitter reading other people's comments on the issue, some of which have been recorded here.
One of my favourites was from someone calling themselves "Alasdair_at_EMA": 'I am being completely misquoted. I have not mentioned anything regarding menstruation. Period.'
Another @RyanSproull: "Women are actually paid less because they spend hours crying and gossiping and asking for directions."
Another @teh_aimee: "Dear Alasdair Thompson. People _all over the world_ are currently having to rehinge their jaws."
I have to admit to feeling a little sorry for Mr Thompson after he lost his job and became the butt of the country's jokes. He's obviously completely clueless rather than intentionally malicious, and he's probably a nice old man who dandles his grandchildren on his knee - definitely no domestic tyrant. But the things he said and the way he said them, as if they were perfectly obvious (again, see the TV interview) ... well, it became very clear that feminism still has some pertinent things to say to NZ culture.
So I thought that was it for a while - until...
(2) The marketing director for our very own slightly far Right political party, Act, came out with some comments so damaging that even the Act party had to get rid of him. Taken from this article.
John Ansell began with racism, criticising "white cowards" for not taking action against the "Maorification" of New Zealand. (The Maori being the indigenous people of this country.) He thinks that Maori get special treatment, and has compared the situation to apartheid.
This is the main focus of people's criticism of Ansell, and rightly so, I think. Couldn't help noticing one of Ansell's comments, though:
Act is "a men's party. I can't get them to agree to that but it's a party for men and women who think like men."
Great, here we go again. Then someone on twitter directed my attention to this comment thread which Ansell has been active on.
Man, I love it when people claim "the evidence of history" or "I'm just pointing out the simple truth", without specific reference to evidence of any kind.
DPF: “I’d be fascinated to hear why ACT is not a party for women who think like women.”
The evidence of history, David.
The women who support ACT are not squeamish about speaking bluntly about rational issues (including racial issues). I respect them very much.
In short, they’ve got guts.
More typical women are less rational and more emotional. They’d rather preserve relationships than rock the boat. Is that not true? ... women, by a reasonable margin, preferred to cuddle the various minority groups and spend more of other people’s money on welfare that to take the hard economic decisions. These ‘soft mothers’ voted for short-term gain and long-term pain.
The ‘strong fathers’, also by a reasonable margin, voted for short-term pain and long-term gain. The rational ... approach.
Now of course I’ll be branded misogynist as well as racist. But again, I’m just pointing out the simple truth.
The soft mother model doesn’t seem to be universal. In Britain, women ‘got’ Margaret Thatcher’s bold approach (a woman who thought like a man if ever there was one).
But in New Zealand, when it comes to strong policies that actually allow the country to move forward, the girls let the side down. ...
And yes, here we are again. Facing up against a really delusional man who cannot stop talking when he really should do so. Facing claims that any women who are womanlike in character are irrational and unsuited to take part in government or even to vote, if Ansell is to be believed.
It's amazing how much has changed since 1893. And yet it's amazing how much things have stayed the same.
(An interesting blog post on the political implications of people like Ansell - if you're interested.)