23. juni, 2024

Congratulations, Richard!

Richard Reeves. Photo: Flickr.com/Paul Morigi.

Richard Reeves is one of 12 people who have received $20,000,000 from philanthropist Melinda French Gates, the ex-wife of Bill Gates.

Read this post in Danish here.

Tuesday was a big day for the British-American author and head of the American Institute for Boys and Men, Richard Reeves.

It was announced that Reeves has been selected by Melinda French Gates as one of 12 people to whom Gates is giving $20,000,000. Funds that Reeves and the other chosen individuals, in Gates’ own words in the New York Times, can use as they wish: “I offered 12 people whose work I admire their own $20 million grant-making fund to distribute as he or she sees fit.”

On X, Reeves himself shared the news in an eight-post thread.

“I’m honored to have been chosen by Melinda French Gates to invest $20,000,000 to promote gender equality. This is an important moment. It sends a powerful and timely message that the gender equality movement can & should include boys and men,” Reeves writes in the first post.

Reeves is best known for his book Of Boys and Men, which was published in 2022 and quickly became an international success. The book walks a fine line between, on one hand, arguing for greater political interest in men’s issues and, on the other, not stepping on feminists’ toes. Reeves repeatedly reminds the reader of the women’s movement’s achievements and constantly points out that equality is not a zero-sum game where one gender has to lose for the other to win.

A Pragmatic Idealist

For some readers, including myself, this balancing act becomes a bit tiresome. My 2023 book, Aldrig din skyld, altid din skyld, contains a lengthy passage on Reeves’ balancing act, where I initially criticize Reeves for turning a blind eye to the women’s movement.

“Reeves embraces both in the book and interviews the women’s movement and the significant progress it has made for women, but he does not mention that the same movement today uses its power to keep the focus on girls and women, even in areas like education, where it should long have shifted to boys and men,” I write.

However, I then acknowledge the strategic advantage of Reeves’ position. I understand why Reeves is cautious in his criticism. It has its benefits, and the cost of the opposite could be enormous.

“From a strategic perspective, it is understandable that Reeves treads carefully regarding feminism’s impact on boys and men’s issues. As most know, and as Reeves is explicitly aware, the gender debate is both sectarian and heated. Had Reeves allowed feminist critics to reduce him to a representative of the hated manosphere, he could very well have been excluded from the public debate before anyone had read his book and listened to what he had to say. Between the lines, Reeves suggests in several places that his caution is related to a fear of being labeled a woman-hater. (…) And Reeves’ book has indeed been well received. Partly, I believe, thanks to his cotton-soft approach to the part of the analysis that could have sparked controversy.”

In balancing interests, Reeves resembles Denmark’s Foreign Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen (M), who in 2023 advocated for what Rasmussen calls “pragmatic idealism” in Danish foreign policy. In a press release, he stated:

“Geopolitics has returned, bringing more tensions and greater competition. (…) These are the cold realities. We must respond to them realistically and pragmatically. That is one side of the equation. The other side is idealism. It means that we must hold on to our belief in ourselves as one of the world’s strongest societies with fantastic values. Democracy. Freedom. Human rights. Equality. Respect for diversity. We must not sell out on these. We should believe that our values are more correct and provide better lives than those in other places. But we must not become missionaries. That doesn’t get you far as a small nation of six million people in a big world with nearly eight billion people. That’s the balance we need to strike. It’s not easy. But it’s the right thing for Denmark.”

The same applies to Reeves. Reeves wants more focus on boys and men’s issues, therein the idealistic aspect, but he is aware that with that position, he is a small fish in a big sea, where you can quickly get eaten if you don’t stay on good terms with sharks and other predators. Reeves is an idealist who understands that pragmatism is a prerequisite for success.

Learn from Reeves

When I occasionally speak with men’s organizations that ask me how to gain more influence, I point them in the direction of the same realization.

It doesn’t help to spend all your time criticizing feminism if you want organizational success, including financial support. No one will throw money at that. If you want financial contributions to your work, you need to make yourself “fundable” and create projects that foundations and others can be proud to support. That’s how the game works. Someone at the other end needs to be able to boast about supporting what your organization delivers. They can’t do that if you mainly deliver angry posts on X.

When Reeves receives $20,000,000 to invest in various projects benefiting boys and men’s equality, it is because he has placed himself in a position from the start where it is possible for others to support him. Many men’s organizations can learn a lot from that.

Congratulations, Richard!

At the same time, the support is of course due to Reeves’ book and his other work pointing out ways to improve the conditions for boys and men at a time when it is becoming increasingly clear that boys and men are performing worse than girls and women in several serious areas.

Personally, I particularly appreciate Reeves’ view of the difference between structural explanations for women’s and men’s problems.

“For the third thing, I realized that boys’ and men’s problems are structural in nature, not individual; but they are rarely treated as such. The issue with men is typically framed as men’s problems. It is men who need to be fixed, one man or boy at a time. This individualistic approach is wrong. Boys lag behind in school and college because the education system is structured in ways that put them at a disadvantage,” Reeves writes in Of Boys and Men.

And he is right.

In Australia, they have just appointed a Parliamentary Secretary for Men’s Behaviour Change. That is, a junior minister tasked with changing men’s behavior. I think Reeves would agree with me that Australians should spend more time solving boys’ and men’s problems and less on changing them.

But all in good time. For now, Reeves should rejoice in the great honor and the many opportunities the $20,000,000 provides. Both are well deserved.

Congratulations, Richard!

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