The toughest causes to campaign for are those which are not fashionable. To fight racism in the 1950s or stand up for gay rights in the 1980s took guts – and the progress made today is largely down to those who took up the cause before it became a form of virtue signalling. International Women’s Day should be a chance to remember the billions of women who are treated appallingly in developing countries – but when it comes to Britain, the battle has pretty much been won. The pay gap is a problem for women born before 1975, but not after. The problem is sorting itself out. For the under-40s, there is a negative pay gap: i.e., men are paid marginally less.
But as Isabel Hardman wrote in her superb Spectator cover story, there are now good reasons to worry about male equality. Especially if you focus on the inequality that begets other inequalities: educational attainment. It’s the clearest sign yet of trouble brewing for the next generation of men. The below shows GCSE attainment: girls overtook boys in 1986 and after that the attainment gap has grown. The below graph shows O Grade/GCSE attainment from 1962 to 2006.
Worryingly, this is now converting into a widening and indefensible gender gap at universities.
And gender attainment gap is at its worst among working-class boys. UCAS break the data down: the below is the gender gap in university applications from the poorest 20pc of neighbourhoods.
Does anyone doubt that more fuss would be made about this gap if girls were the losers? UCAS have tried to bring attention to this, saying:
‘We have previously highlighted the unacceptably large and widening gap between entry rates for men and women and this year shows young men, and especially young white men, falling even further behind. We draw attention to this again this year because our new measures are signalling that the widening gap between men and women is acting to stall progress in reducing inequality overall.’
That’s from their report on university applications in 2014/15, which says 18-year-old women were a third more likely to go to university. Remember the headlines, and the howls of protest from the equality NGOs? Me neither.
In the rich world, at least, the cause of feminism is becoming detached from the cause of equality. And those who truly care about the latter need to start worrying about our boys.