Don’t Pity White, Middle-Aged Men – Jonathan Freedland | The Guardian UK

Don’t Pity White, Middle-Aged Men. It’s Ludicrous to Cast Them as Victims

Jonathan Freedland | The Guardian UK

What we’re talking about here? Theresa May’s supposed purge of the white men in her government.

French female campaigners are defending men’s rights to ‘hit on’ women, while May’s ‘massacre’ of the pale, male and stale leaves them remarkably well intact.

Progressives need to update their settings: there’s a new beleaguered minority in town, one that needs our support. This group has been “punished summarily, forced out of their jobs”, according to campaigners in France, while in Britain it’s even more serious. Here, according to a leading national newspaper, this same oppressed group has just been subjected to a “massacre”.

Who is the target of this new onslaught of persecution, exclusion and violence? Is it Muslims, people of colour or women? Might it be refugees, gay or disabled people whose plight demands our solidarity?

 No, the afflicted group is men. Specifically, white middle-aged men, with extra sympathy demanded for those men guilty of making unwanted sexual advances.

The suffering of the latter was highlighted by 100 or so French female luminaries, including the actor Catherine Deneuve, who wrote to Le Monde to deplore the “witch-hunt” against men who “hit on” women “even persistently or cackhandedly”.

As for the former group, their cause has been taken up by the social justice warriors of the Daily Mail, whose front page today reports on Theresa May’s limited reshuffle with the headline “Massacre of the Middle-Aged Men”. In the Times, it’s “White men booted out in May’s push for women and minorities”.

And yet, as more than one social media wit has pointed out, as massacres go, this was one with a curiously high number of survivors. Boris, Michael and Philip all made it. As did Jeremy, Liam, Greg, Chris, Damian, Rory, Gavin, Matt, Brandon, Alun and four Davids.

This supposed cull of the pale, male and stale has left a government where all three of those groups remain remarkably well represented. The number of white members of the government has not exactly plummeted: Down from 113 to 111. The number of men has fallen from 89 to 82. Meanwhile, the average age has plunged from 52 to … 51. Some massacre.

It recalls the lamentation that issued from the mouth of Tesco chairman John Allan last year, when he warned that white men were becoming an “endangered species” in the boardroom, now that “the pendulum has swung very significantly” towards women and ethnic minorities. These days, he said, the white male had to work “twice as hard” to get on. Just look at his own 12-seat board, which found room for a mere nine white men, now that a whopping three places had been hogged by women. As for people from ethnic minorities, their dominance in business is apparently now so great that they had – and continue to have – a total of zero seats at Tesco’s top table.

What the Mail’s whine and the Deneuve letter have in common is not just an instinctive desire to defend the status quo, but a resistance to even the most modest action to correct an obvious imbalance or injustice.Sunder Katwala of British Future puts it well when he says: “Those already at the top who find the gradual adjustment from 90% to 70% of leadership roles too dizzying should get challenged.”

That’s all we’re talking about here. May’s supposed purge of the white men has left a government that remains 68% male and 92.5% white. It is not a massacre. It is a teeny, tiny, baby step in the right direction.

  • Jonathan Freedland is a Guardian columnist
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