Life is not easy whether we are worrying about providing for our families, helping our children with their problems or dealing with colleagues at work. But following in the heels of the corona crisis life is going to be a lot tougher. The economy, and our freedom has taken a massive hit and this is going to affect us in unpredictable and unanticipated ways.
But all the hardships and difficulties of life are so much easier to deal with hand in hand with a life partner. More often than not this will be someone of the opposite sex. Men and women work well together, they have children and form families, the unit on which society is built.
However, in the past century this solidarity between men and women, on which we built towns, cities and civilizations, which enabled us to withstand wars, famines and political upheaval, this co-operation which has been with us since the beginning of time, has been severely under threat.
Women have been led to believe that our helpmates and providers, our defenders and our lovers, our fathers and the fathers of our children are our potential abusers and oppressors. Our girls are taught to believe that boys and men will never treat them equally, that they will be regarded as sex objects and that they must be on guard against men if they want to get on in life.
For their part men have discovered that no matter how much they try to take the burden of housework, or make space for women in the workplace, or help with childcare, they risk being seen as sexist, harassers or even worse. Men find it difficult to get things right. They find their very essence described as toxic by their mothers and their daughters, their sisters and their wives; the people that they love.
Trust between men and women has all but completely broken down.
So far, we have been able to sustain society under these conditions but it is fraying at the seams. 450 children out of 1000 will see their parents split up before their 16th birthday. There are increasing rates of knife crime, children are suffering from mental health problems, there is nobody to look after the elderly because there is no one left at home. Following on from the corona crisis the challenge will be vast.
To rebuild society so it is stronger and better we need to start from our families and social networks. We need to build from bottom up. To do this we will need a strong bond between women and men. They are at the heart of society, the unit from which everything starts.
This will not be easy. It is not just that men and women have been taught to be deeply suspicious of each other. There is also a lot of pain. Many men have been dragged through family courts which have separated them from their children, boys are flailing in the education system and the large number of mainly male homeless have been the victims of untold harm.
However, there is no time for victim olympics. Rather we need to focus on building bridges between men and women. This means understanding that although we may be slightly different, we are totally and utterly equal and can love each other and work together in mutually fulfilling ways. Appreciating and exploring these differences could be a resource for us both.
We also need to understand that we may have different problems and difficulties. For example, we have just seen the devastatingly different effects the corona virus has on women and men.
But because we are utterly equal as human beings, we need to give equal attention to the problems and difficulties of both.
And just as the benefits which came from resolving issues which women were dealing with extended beyond women, the rewards which come from acknowledging and dealing with the problems which men face. will extend well beyond men.
When we ensure that a fit father cannot be excluded from the life of his son or daughter, we give a child a father for life.
When we ensure that men acquire the skills and education which lead them into gainful employment, we provide a mother with a contributing partner.
When we deal with male suicide, or male homelessness we save sisters from heartbreak and we bring joy and relief to the mothers of sons.
In order to give real attention to the issues which men struggle with we need, as a nation, to accord these issues and difficulties the same standing as the issues which women deal with.
The first thing we can do to correct an existing imbalance is to complement the Minister for Women and Equalities a partner with whom she can work together with for the benefit of all.
And that is why I want to give my full-hearted support to the creation of a Minister for Men.