Thirty years on, it is proving harder than many of us had hoped for gender and development policy and practice to move beyond familiar stereotypes – women as abject victims or splendid heroines, men as all-powerful perpetrators. Axioms abound: ‘women are the poorest of the poor’, ‘women give more priority to others – men invest more resources in themselves’, ‘women live in a more sustainable way than men and cause less climate change’, ‘women are the antidote to the financial crisis’.
Representations of men are limited and limiting. The ready association of the words “men” and “masculinity” with brute force, brash competitiveness and brazen prerogative makes those on the receiving end of the exercise of masculine power decisively female.
These complaints about Gender promoting gender stereotypes come from the journal Contestations, in an article by the always thought-provoking Andrea Cornwall and Emily Esplen. They call for moving beyond stereotypes and actually involving Men in the cause of better lives for Women. They wonder why they have few male takers for their recommended actions:
Why ... do we see so few men actually taking up these actions – even the men around us who declare themselves sympathetic allies?
Along with lots of bad reasons that don't reflect well on men, it could also reflect a few men put off by a cause that, according to the authors, perpetrates the "all men are evil" stereotype.