Analysing the Treatment of Men and the Influence Public Policies have on Constructing Manhood
Policy analysis is a part of the Men and Gender Equality Policy Project led by Instituto Promundo and theInternational Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Policy research and analysis was carried out in six countries in 2009-2010. Participating countries were: Brazil, Chile, Croatia, India, Mexico and Rwanda.
The goal of this analysis is to examine, through a gender perspective, the selected public policies in the Republic of Croatia, and to gain an insight into how they construct gender roles and identities: manhood, or womanhood, and whether they, through a targeted and specific treatment of women and men, transform the construction of gender roles and identities and change the gender roles in the Croatian society, or rather contribute to the existing relationship of gender inequality. The end goal of the analysis, as well as the global project that this analysis is a part of, is the inclusion of men and boys into the public policies and programs of gender equality, and thus this analysis is primarily targeted at the treatment of men in the chosen policies as well as their influence on the construction of masculinity. The starting premises of the research is that all public policies, implicitly or explicitly, are gendered and mirror gender relations and the existing gender order of power that is found in the society and social institutions. However, this dimension of the public policies mostly remains gender blind because it follows the customary, socially and culturally generally accepted understanding of male and female roles and identities. Public policies and their effects, except when they are targeted at realising gender equality, which is mostly a synonym for advancing the social status of women, are rarely analysed, monitored, and valued through the gender perspective. Therefore, public policies, although unintentionally and not necessarily as an expression of the intent of the policy creators and those who implement them, perpetuate the existing relations of social power and do not contribute to gender equality, even when equality is adopted on a declarative level as a policy and a social value.
As a consequence of the social relations in whom men are the dominant social group, public policy in mostly reflects such a reality and preserves the perception of the problems from the perspective of the male gender as a generic category. Public policies are, in the terms of the theoretic discourse of gender "men-centric" and "men-generic". Therefore, the difference in social status is overseen and neglected, as are the specific needs of women but also men who are homogenised in a group that is not diversified by social status or the amount of power that they posses – for example class, status or privileges which that status brings, as well as other specifics and characteristics, such as ethnicity, family status, sexual orientation and other characteristics that influence the deviation from the socially dominant gender roles, as well as the differences, various needs and forms of vulnerability of certain groups within the male population.
This analysis has shown that in the Croatian public policies the approach to the specific needs of men and women is uneven. On one side we have the examples of policies which are completely insensitive to sex and gender, like the policy combating addiction, alcoholism and the defence and security policy for the veterans, even though gender characteristics play an important part in those areas. On the other hand, the umbrella national Gender Equality Policy as well as some of the segments of the Health Policy, Employment Policy and the Population Policy in a smaller or larger extent recognise some specific needs of both sexes and the problem of the inequality of the sexes and can thus be characterised as partially sensitive to the issue of sex and gender differences. At the same time it is important to note that Croatian public policies use sex and gender interchangeably, and this includes the Gender Equality Policy.
The policies that are partially gender and sex specific, in most cases are related to the needs, position and problems of women, which is an important, positive result of over a decade or organised advocacy of feminist organisations as well as the implementation of international standards and mechanisms for the protection of women's' human rights. However the targeting of the measures and the policies exclusively (and still partially) at women, without a detailed analysis of the role and the needs of the men, contributes to the strengthening of the static and divided, instead of interdependent, approach to the issues of gender and sex in the context of resolving various problems, related to the intention of change of social relations with the goal of gender equality.
Therefore we can conclude that the impact of the Croatian public policies on the total of male-female relations in the society is very limited, in spite of the noted transformation potential of certain policies, like the Gender Equality Policy, the Education and Family Policy and the Policy for Combating Family Violence.
Therefore, for example, the policies directed at the problem of family violence, along the measures for protection and the care for the victims of violence (primarily women and children), through the measure of psychosocial treatment of the perpetrator implicitly do target the male population, because it is the man who is most often the perpetrator. The problem occurs on a technical level because not all organisational and financial preconditions for a systematic implementation have been dealt with. A similar situation can be found in the Employment Policy and the Education Policy that tend to de-stimulate the practice of feminisation, or rather masculinisation of certain professions where the problem is explicitly recognised in the official documents, however the concrete changes are delayed by the dragged-out reform of the education system.
A very illustrative example is that of the measure within the Family Policy and the Labour and Employment Policy that allows the fathers/caretakers to use parental leave. It is especially commendatory that this measure does not discriminate parents on the bases of the nature of their partnership, with an exception of discrimination of the same-sex families that do not at all have the right to adopt children, and the rights of the partners to raise their own children is not recognised by the law. The regulated right of men to use parental leave is the result of the measures within the national Policy of Gender Equality, with a goal of a more active inclusion of women in the labour market. The primary intent of the legislator was not a larger inclusion of fathers in the lives of their children and the strengthening of the partnership between the man and the woman in the family and in the raising of their children. A goal defined in such a way, or connecting the need to affirm women in the public sphere with the need to affirm men in the sphere of the family would confirm that there is a vision of social change from patriarchal to truly equal. In the existing solution, the change of the relationship between the man and the women in the sphere of the family can (but doesn't have to) become only the secondary, long-term, effect of the implementation of this measure.
Therefore, if we are examining the influence of the policies on the social construction of manhood, we can conclude that the Croatian public policies, despite certain shifts with a goal of eliminating gender stereotypes, especially as a part of the education policy, are still in a large extent generating the traditional patriarchal patterns of manhood, which are the responsibilities of financially providing for the family, and ensuring family but also national security. At the same time the man is, in the cases when he is in need of assistance, often invisible and unrecognised in public policies, which also supports the patriarchal pattern of a firm, successful and independent man, which is, in this case potentially damaging for him. This can clearly be seen in the lack of targeted measures of public health and security policies for the male population, even in those cases when the statistic indicators undoubtedly indicate men as the risk group. This is why we do not find specific measures dealing with men in the Policy of Combating Addiction as well as the Policy for Safe Driving or in the programs for combating malignant diseases of the reproductive organs, although it was in this very same policy, that the specific measures directed at women (breast cancer, reproductive health) were shown to give positive results.
An additional challenge to the development of suitable and successful policies is the lack of analysis of the specific needs and problems which leads to the lack of any analysis of the effects of the policies on men and women, their relationships and gender equality. The policies usually include measures that focus on the whole population, and very rarely plan measures that will use a more detailed approach tailored to the context and targeted at stratified groups. Such gender neutral approach is visible in the Policy for Combating Addiction, the Policy on the Prevention of Violence among the Youth and Sports fans, although in this cases it is very likely that the risk factors and successful solutions from the practice differ according to gender and the dominant gender role.
In the research we have analysed, in further detail, the veteran population (which is, overwhelmingly, made up of men and their families, and based upon the role of men in the war), due to the seriousness of this problem in Croatia. The concluding findings show that the veterans were, in the war and immediately after it, celebrated through the traditional role-models of manhood – warrior, creator, protector of the state and nation, historic hero. However, and unsuitable system of assistance and re-socialisation followed, as well as their categorisation in the social special-needs category that enjoys a series of social and political benefits. Instead of reintegration and adjustment to the economic and social transition in a large number of cases marginalisation and victimisation and the role of the transition looser occurs. In addition, the oversized and often corruptive rights and benefits of the veterans cause dissatisfaction of the rest of the public. This kind of policy also has a double impact on the construction of manhood and the personal experience of the gender identity. While the special position of the veterans comes from the patriarchal perception of the men warrior/hero, their unsuccessful post-war integration leads to the collapse of the traditional male competences for providing, independence and social success.
The issues related to the security and defence policy confirm the positive effects of abolishing mandatory military service for men and the professionalization of the army on the share of women in the armed forces that has increased from 4,5 % in the Homeland War to 9,5 % in 2009 which is more than the average of all the other members of the NATO alliance. However, it is obvious that this shift does not say much about the demasculinisation of the profession "solider", that is, in the patriarchal worldview, directly related to manhood. Men continue to dominate the armed forces and the survival of the traditional close relation between weapons, warfare and manhood and visible in a more explicit positive attitude of men then women towards weapons, especially young men - the new generations which the policies and the measures for reaching gender equality should influence the most.
Finally, the insufficiently systematic and ultimately unthought-of-through sex and gender sensitive approach in defining and resolving social problems is not successful in deconstructing the dominant traditional attributes of manhood and womanhood, and encouraging a complex and long-term, but needed transformation of social relations in the direction of the equality of men and women and the pluralism of gender identities. To this end, it is necessary to ensure a much wider public debate on the gender dimension of the Croatian public policies in order to finally recognise the umbrella Gender Equality Policy as truly common to both men and women, and as a mandatory component of resolving public problems and managing social relations.