This text is intended to bring new thoughts through. There was a time not long ago where men and women honoured each other’s differences in a slightly superficial way, without too many questions. This arrangement was not so comfortable after all, for either one of them, but perhaps more so for the women. After all, many of them were so uncomfortable with the arrangement they invented feminism, which questioned and is still questioning men’s entitlement to power and positions, and rightly so. This feminist movement has been tremendously successful, and the feminist arguments are incorporated in various policy documents all over the place. Slowly these arguments are also leading to systematic change. Brilliant.
On the other hand, the majority of the world’s men are, to a large extent, still playing out a sociology of masculinity dated around the fifties. “Men protect and provide for the family,” [that’s probably most for the good], “men do not talk about feelings,” [perhaps not so healthy], “fewer men than women have a close friend they could open up to,” [maybe not so healthy either]. “Men don’t ask for the way when lost,” [this is perhaps very inconvenient as it could take hours to get to the right address when Google map is down]. This old-fashioned model of masculinity is perhaps to some extent out-dated.
Now, when we soon write 2016, there is a growing number of men who are, unasked, raising their hands and voices to replicate this beautiful gift which women started giving men so many years ago: questioning. Men are questioning women’s entitlement to alimony and full custody of children. These issues are not exclusive to family law, but there are issues raised in the public arena and the family life as a whole. Some women are fighting for their right to labour and earn their money; some men are now fighting for their right to family life and to keep some money when divorced. Of course, this is an over-simplification to make a point.
However, some of these excellent men are imperfect humans, and they are giving their gift of questioning from the safe position of a closed heart. This fact is very understandable as there is so much anger in this global gender arena, [a man has got to protect himself after all] – see above. This position of a closed and guarded heart is the very position from where so much oppression from men has been executed over the years, no wonder so many women get pissed! I think I would be if I were a woman living today. Even if the angry voices are hurting one’s ears for a short while, all things happen for good. Behind one’s anger, there is always a deeper truth. We will not find this deeper truth if we don’t listen until the end. So keep on listening, most important beneath your anger, thank you.
Personally, I would love to see more men, women, and people who want yet other labels, to take a further step into the future, where questions are asked from an open heart. A future where it is possible to both honour and questioning each other, perhaps even honouring each other’s questioning. Because I firmly believe this questioning, in the end, will lead us to a better understanding of ourselves and of each other.
I would love to see more people and channels listening and engaging with a larger number of the individual stories on gender I have the privilege to read. Stories pointing to the fact that men’s situation in many cases is different from the questioning women’s perspective.
One question that seems to keep popping up all over the place is: Do we have to spend time listening to men after they have been so oppressive and dominated so many arenas over so many years? And it is a fair question as we have been listening to many self-centred, narcissistic and even sadistic men for so many years, in our homes, later in our workplaces and the media has been entirely dominated by middle-aged white men. (The author is a middle-aged white man).
My answer to this is: Certainly, and many arguments are supporting the idea. “Being a man is not pathology,” said Owen Marcus so eloquently during his TED-talk the other week. Men are human beings, with the same basic human rights as women or any other group of people. The state of affairs points to the fact that men are starting to open up about their inner life. As a society, we have to be listening to what these men have been guarding in their heart. Many of these men have unmet needs as a result of oppression, traumas, violence, and vulnerability shaming, and they have feelings of powerlessness, loneliness, and unprocessed grief. I purposely left out the word “victim”. Today we can read the texts of so many men working in the field of sociology of contemporary masculinity as the theme of men’s emotional neglect is now getting into the mainstream media in a whole new way. We are itching and itching and itching and guess what? Men are starting to itch, and because of this, we will soon have a huge need for new arenas where it is safe for men to open up. Men’s groups, men’s forums, men’s hubs, men’s sheds and men’s shelters. That is the reason we started Mensmovement.com. What I pray for is a rapid enlightenment of many people sitting on piles of money so that they will allocate resources in the form of education, time and money to this issue. Men’s cultural shift have to get the support its need from the larger society, Universities, NGO:s, Government Agencies and the corporate world as well.
A well-kept secret is the hidden cost of men’s suffering of their unprocessed emotions. So if not the humanitarian arguments will make society listen, the economic arguments will. Men’s emotional pain is a gigantic hidden cost. We will see many interesting rapports coming out of Think-tank’s shortly, where the perspectives of organisational psychologists, HR departments, and economists has puzzled together their pieces. All of this point towards a continuation in the change of modern masculinity, a change that is all happening for good.