What motivates men to support and promote gender equality? Can it only happen on the basis of altruism or do men have something to gain? For over thirty years gender politics have struggled to find answers to these questions. This paper provides an overview of the key debates on the relationship between men and gender mainstreaming. It argues that if gender is regarded to be essentially about women, then it is impossible to recognise the relational dimension of gender and the way that institutionally-based unequal power relations are reproduced. If gender is only about women, men’s gender identities are not being challenged and perceived as natural.
This paper also takes into account some of the negative impacts of gender mainstreaming by highlighting that women’s services have been cut to finance men’s services and that this has supported the men’s rights discourse about men as victims. Many feminists have hence been sceptical about the possibility for real alliances. At the same time, the paper argues that there can be collective interests. When gender inequality is perceived as an oppressive system that harms the wider society men are willing to support ethical principles related to social justice.