Should Our Menial Males Man Up?

The image above has been published in Good Housekeeping, Woman & Home, Marie Claire, OK!, Woman's Weekly, Cosmopolitan and many other periodicals, and it's been causing quite a stir! It's part of the pressure group Extreme Equality's latest campaign and a retort to the pro-separatist stance on what has been dubbed the genderquake. The pressure group's founder and former starlet Charlotte Chapel has repeatedly claimed that the pro-separatist movement are 'relics from the stone age' and 'a bunch of sad little misogynists who need to wake up'. Chapel claims that the latest Extreme Equality campaign highlights the positives and negatives of the genderquake in a simple and succinct manner. “It's designed to promote the debate as much as it's designed to change opinion.” she states. “It's really no big deal when a guy is told to wear a specific uniform, paint his face or shave his legs... it wasn't a problem when the girls had to do it and its not a problem now... and this poster highlights that.

The image first appeared in The Mirror newspaper in August (but didn't include the 'pros & cons') to illustrate the 'plight' faced by many 'menial males' in recent years, and depicts Ryan Harrison; a 17 year old waiter from Stoke Newington. Having left school with few qualifications and unable to enter further education, Ryan, like many under-qualified youths, has no choice but to take whatever job he can get or face the Compulsory Work Programme. His employer makes no concessions for male staff which means Ryan is subject to the same dress code as his female colleagues... and he's certainly not alone. It is estimated that some 16,000 males are required to wear feminine workwear in England and Wales alone.

The Mirror's article, which featured Ryan's story, was a plea for business owners and managers to put an end to the alleged forced feminisation of male members of staff who fill menial positions such as cleaning, care work, nursing and table service. Harrison and the Mirror Group have both condemned the use of the image as they feel that it has been taken completely out of context. “The image illustrates the misery felt by many males who are forced to wear women's clothing in the workplace. It's both dehumanising and humiliating. Taking it out of context like this is not helping young males such as Ryan, who simply want to be heard.” A spokesman from Mirror Group stated. 

Charlotte Chapel disagrees. "There's nothing dehumanising about appropriate workwear, and if some men feel humiliated by it, then they've just got to get over themselves."

A21 near Sevenoaks, Kent
Since the publishing rights for image are owned by a third party, neither Harrison nor the Mirror Group have control over who the usage rights are sold to. However Harrison's lawyers have secured an injunction to block Extreme Equality's use of his likeness from being used on billboards, buses and other large format advertisements in public places, but the injunction only applies to Greater London. The image is currently being used in large format advertising in other parts of the country.

Whilst many feel that forcing male members of staff to wear feminine attire should be legislated against, Chapel's Extreme Equality campaign takes the stance that all employers are well within their rights to impose a dress code on their staff regardless of gender, and cites the 9th Amendment to the Equality in the Workplace Act as legal justification for employers imposing a single uniform on all members of staff. Speaking about the use of Ryan Harrison's image as part of this latest campaign, Charlotte Chapel said, “I think it's great picture and Ryan should be proud of himself. He clearly takes pride in his appearance, although he really should sit with his knees together.

Having worked as a waiter for little over a year, Ryan Harrison has admitted to 'accepting' his feminine uniform, yet continues to maintain that it's also humiliating. Ryan, who declined to comment for this article, was quoted in The Mirror stating, “I work hard and try my best to live up to the standards expected of both my employer and customers, but with short hours and low pay, the cost of cosmetics takes a sizeable bite out of my already modest income.” Ryan also stated that he'd rather stick with his current job than be placed on the Compulsory Work Programme. “Who wants to chisel chewing gum off the pavement or clear knotweed for ten hours a day, six days a week for no money?

The Labour government's controversial introduction of the Compulsory Work Programme (CWP), 'forced' thousands of Britain's unemployed youth (aged 16-25) to fill the thousands of menial job vacancies, many of which are part time and underpaid. Those who fail to find paid employment are put on the CWP which has been criticised for its long working hours and minimal wages. In defence of the CWP, Prime Minister Hillary Harperson has said “Those who can't find work for themselves have been given work. They may not be given the best or most desirable jobs, but it's a job. If they don't like it, they are more than welcome to find themselves a better job.” Regarding the alleged forced feminisation of male workers, Hillary Harperson said, “The last thing the people want is further legislation of trivial matters such as workwear regulations. The current system is fair, it's equal, it's not broken, so why fix it?

Timothy Travers, owner of Town & City Cleaners Ltd, one of London's largest cleaning agencies claims that his male members of staff are not forcibly feminised, but are merely wearing a uniform that is appropriate for the task at hand. Travers' stance on the subject reflects Chapel's. “A domestic dress and apron, along with sensible footwear was entirely appropriate when women were expected to do the cleaning. Now that most women are working in professional roles, there's more opportunities for males to undertake cleaning duties, and I'm certainly not alone in thinking that the traditional style of domestic workwear is still entirely appropriate.” Travers' went on to say that they employ more male cleaners today than at any other time in the companies 36 year history, and claimed that most of his staff have no issues regarding their attire, although he did decline our request to interview some of his male members of staff.

It's not just the cleaning and table service sector that takes this stance either as many residential care homes and some private care providers also require both male and female staff to wear traditional nursing garments. And whilst objection is high amongst the largely male workforce, they have failed to get union support for their proposed changes to the current workwear laws and guidelines. Valerie Beeching, president of the National Union of Nurses and Care Workers (NUNC) said, “We've spent many years fighting for real and tangible equality in the workplace. We've had one rule for him and another rule for her before and it was terrible... one rule for all is best all round and long may it stay that way.

With both the unions and government in agreement, it's unlikely that anything is going to change any time soon. Many seem to have forgotten that before the genderquake, our 'menial males' were once our disenfranchised youth. Before the CWP was introduced they were the burden of the welfare state. Now they all have jobs and that's no bad thing. Britain's economy is growing substantially for the first time since the 2009 recession and unemployment in England & Wales is at its lowest since Thatcher's reign over three decades ago. It wasn't so long ago that women were expected to look and dress a certain way in order to undertake the most menial of tasks. They worked longer hours and were paid far less than today's 'menial males'. They fought for decades for the equal pay that today's menial workers such as Ryan Harrison benefit from. It may not be much, but it's exactly the same as his female colleagues earn. The 'menial males' of Britain should be more worried about trying to make ends meet on such a low wage rather than worry about whether or not the uniform their employer provides meets with their approval.

Walter Haughton, The Barking Bugle


  1. plz write more stories

  2. I totally suport CWP! Putting all these underqualified males to good use has brought us one of Europe’s lowest unemployement rate! and they want to complain!?

  3. Replies
    1. It's more than fiction... it's fictitious fiction!