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Giving men a strong voice: what goes on Inside Man

By Peter West - posted Friday, 13 November 2015


Our society is becoming a femocracy in which men and masculinity are being marginalised. Men are being edged out of the family, the workplace and wider society.
In this feminised society, men who act like women are clearly preferred to men who act like men.

These comments - cited in Jim Macnamara's book on men in the media - were made by a British journalist, Michael Buerk. They apply pretty well to Australia. And the US, Canada and many other countries.

Womens voices are raised loudly in the media, and we heard on and on about a female jockey winning the Melbourne Cup. The real story was that millions of people were conned into putting their money onto a horse-race, and so yet more money was transferred from working people to wealthy owners of horses and people who run gambling.

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International Men's Day is 19 November. Its website has talks made in many languages. And men are half the world's population. Yet there seems little fuss being made about it so far. Similarly, "Movember'"is on. Men will 'grow a mo' in November to raise money for research on male-specific health problems like prostate cancer research. Participants are also being encouraged to do some physical activity every day this month. Once again, I haven't noticed much attention being given to this by the media. But there are signs of change.

Inside Man, a new book published in Australia and the UK, raises many issues about being a man and how men can lead fruitful lives. Dan Bell and Glen Poole have collected stories about men and boys from a journal based in the UK, Inside Man. The book raises many issues relevant to men in Australia and elsewhere.

When the authors met a group of guys and said, "men's voices need to be heard", there was a chorus. "Oh no, you can't say that….If we say 'men's voices need to be heard', people just won't listen to us".

This sounds very familiar to me. If I raise my voice as a man- say, to talk about male suicide, or men's health, or male depression- I get exasperated looks - or at best a patient smile. When I wore a shirt that said "Boys can do anything" I was told by a university colleague, "that means, boys can rape women". There are Women's Studies in the universities, as well as programs to support women as leaders and so on. Unions have Women's Officers, but not Men's Officers. The list goes on.

Universities should be places of light, of liberty, of learning, and freedom to think. The reverse is true when it comes to the dreaded 'gender issues' that often make male hearts sink into despair. There are still programs encouraging women to enter university, but women entrants to universities outnumber men more every year, in almost every country we look at . Medicine and dentistry are becoming much more female-dominated in the UK. But here and in the UK, 'Athena Swan' programs to encourage diversity continue. In practice, naturally, this means encouraging women. Why don't people in the universities ask: where are all the men? What happened to all the male undergrads? Why do we hear so little about the 'dating gap'i n which smart women graduates search in vain for graduate men as spouses? Why are men scared to mention the F-word (Feminism) except to be really, really careful and say only the nicest things for fear of being shouted down?

As Poole argues in a too-short introduction, and also in an inspiring TedX talk, our experience of the two sexes is unbalanced. Boys are more likely to be expelled or fail at school. Men die earlier than women, spend more time at work, and more likely to be separated from their children ; with unfortunate consequences for both parties. The book is dedicated to letting men tell their stories without feeling "Oh my God, am I allowed to say this?"

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Some of the stories in the book ring very true. Rick Belden asks who gets to say what a healthy man looks like? He says

The true story of healthy masculinity lies within each man. It is waiting for him in his mind, his heart, and his body. It speaks to him in his dreams, his daydreams, and his fantasies.

John Hastie is a gay man with a muscle-wasting disease. He manages to get out to the theatre and people make tiresome comments about his appearance. Apparently, this is normal for the disabled. He writes:

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Glen Poole is now in Australia and hosts a discussion on International Men's Day at ACON in central Sydney on 19th November . His book is available on Fishpond.



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About the Author

Dr Peter West is a well-known social commentator and an expert on men's and boys' issues. He is the author of Fathers, Sons and Lovers: Men Talk about Their Lives from the 1930s to Today (Finch,1996). He works part-time in the Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University, Sydney.

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