In Celebration of Men
International Men’s Day
Friday 19th November 2010
International Men’s Day. What is this I hear you say? My thoughts exactly when I got the assignment to review this Tiemo Talk of The Town event. International Women’s day I was aware of, but a men’s day, what a ting!
My curiosity was awakened, followed by the thought, “good idea”, concluding with the feeling that actually we need more of these kinds of events for men.
Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, International Men’s Day (IMD) has come a long, long way, literally to UK shores, albeit with a somewhat jetlagged appearance reflected in low awareness of the day. However, not to be deterred by this, Michael Peters from Tiemo Talk of the Town took up the challenge to get key men of influence around the table for the UK’s first ‘In Celebration of Men’ dinner and debate to mark International Men’s Day. Held on 19th November 2010 at the Hotel Ibis in Euston, attendees were treated to a wide ranging discussion of some of the key issues facing men today.
The mixed panel of professionals (including women) included Investment Analyst, Michael Young; HR Manager, Beverley Green; Builder and Reach Role Model Hylton Forrester; Wendy Forrester; Michael Peters, Polish Publisher Anna Prochon and the Keynote speaker Damion Queva, Publisher of Fathers Quarterly, the only Fathers’ magazine in the UK. The stage, or should that be table, was set for an evening where men could air their views as to they see things.
One of the 5 main themes of International Men’s Day was to celebrate men as role models and much discussion ensued as to who should be celebrated. There was no gender divide on this, as the male and female participants all were clear that primary role models should stem from the home and be the parent(s), then others such as teachers, family or friends. A point very much supported by Hylton (a Reach Role Model for young people), emphasising the importance to lead by example, a stance he naturally assumed as a father of five boys. When questioned by Damion about the pressure of this, Hylton was candid, admitting that there was pressure, but speaking in schools and churches had ‘stretched’ him and he’d experienced the transformational impact on his own life.
Lack of male role models
The age old issue of the lack of male role models was one raised by Michael Young; however when President Barack Obama was given as a solution to this dilemma, another one was then posed by Damion as to whether his role model status was down to his policies or inspirational value? Inspiration of course was the consensus of the table. Just look at his achievements as a man, never mind as a black man. As publisher of a man’s magazine, Damion expressed his dilemma when it came to selling his magazine i.e. unless a celebrity was seen gracing his front cover, the attraction to buy was reduced.
Why should it take celebrities before people assume interest?
Key political figures such as Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott, David Lammy and Apprentice star Tim Campbell and Playwright and Actor Kwame Kwei-Armah were all praised as role models. As were significant London mentoring figures Ken Barnes and Olu Alake, Founder/ Emeritus President and at the time of this event, President respectively, of the 100 Black Men of London mentoring organisation. Michael Young, raised an interesting point about female role models for boys being influential in spurring them on to greater success, due to female success rate in education. So could women now be another form of ‘peer’ role model for men?
“Don’t forget musicians or sports figures!” trumpeted Michael Peters, “True”, said Damion,”but take the recent events of Tiger Woods, should it not be his achievements we judge rather that his personal life?” Michael responded that, “Goal models might be a better way of viewing celebrity role models. This was a term coined by Dr Lez Henry and usefully allows you to focus on the skills, ability, dedication and all round qualities needed to succeed and stay at the top. These can always be admired and modelled, regardless of the personal foibles and weaknesses of anyone whose star may fall. One area that definitely needs more debate. “My role model was my dad…” interjected Wendy, as the women joined in the debate, since his kind and loving nature was what she recalled of him. The stereotypical notion of ‘men as dogs’ was not one she subscribed to.
The home environment was raised by Hylton. Were men being undermined? Was the father limiting his communication only to his spouse and neglecting the children? Poignant questions to reflect on. Ken Barnes from the 100 black men mentoring organisation had the vision of developing a generation of young black men that would be ‘worthy’ of dating and eventually marrying his daughter. This was raised in an almost championing spirit of a newly found hope, which I considered a very interesting concept. “Ironically it can be off-putting if a man is too ‘giving’” said Wendy, citing references of men who had problems with women in this arena. “Why should he change, maybe they are not the right one for him?” replied Damion. Wise viewpoint, in my opinion.
Gender Role Models
The issue of gender role models reappeared due to the current state of family units; boys now looked to mothers as role models due to absent fathers. “Although not perfect, positives can be drawn from the negative.” stated Michael Young. The high incidence of suicide, men not being ‘in touch’ with their feelings child care issues and lack of solutions in the media for men’s problems (in comparison with women’s magazines with their agony aunts) needed more debate claimed Damion.
From a Polish stand point, religion is a key factor mentioned Anya. Polish people look to the Pope, in particular Polish Pope John Paul II as a role model. In terms of men showing their emotions, she said that’s to be welcomed. To see her father cry in no way belittled him in her eyes. These external societal influencers were also reiterated by Beverley, stating that we should celebrate family, Pastors et al who have contributed to society. The recent story of the father who took to ‘monitoring’ his son’s face book, so as to ensure profane language was removed, was raised and people felt that it demonstrated a father who was responsible and maybe more of this was needed? Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali and Kwame Kwei-Armah were all named as men to be celebrated. The topic of role models was an enlightening one, which looked set to run and run but time was ticking and we had to cover more ground.
Starting with a female perspective, Beverley underlined that getting to the root causes was crucial in rebuilding people; the church had a strong role in the community to signpost and guide. Also, men needed to be encouraged to get checkups. Hylton felt it was a matter of education, mindset, social and spiritual upliftment on a daily basis. He mentioned a personal example of the time her informed his son about how to check for testicular cancer. He wanted to see more popular interest shown in men’s health.
Beverley raised the question whether this had really improved in the workplace as although becoming more educated and skilled; men’s equality was still an issue in regards to race. Michael Peters felt that the glass ceiling had, in many fields, been broken in terms of progress by women, with a more feminised workplace widely in existence today, in the sense of more “soft” skills being more highly valued such as communication and empathy. On an individual basis perhaps that was correct, agreed Beverley, but in the corporate world a different story existed. “That’s why I stay outside the corporate arena and choose private enterprise,” rounded off Michael Young.
After an evening of hearty debate one thing is clear to me … men have ISSUES. Maybe the genders are not so different after all. So I look forward to Tiemo Talk of the Town hosting more seminars to discuss these topics again in greater detail and to hope that 19th November, International Men’s Day, becomes a key calendar date in men’s (and women’s’) diary for the future.
By Bunmi Williams
©Tiemo Talk of the Town
No unauthorised publication or reproduction of any part of this article is permitted without the permission of Tiemo Talk of the Town.
First published 3rd December 2010
Thank you for reading our review. We hope you enjoyed it and that if you did, will take a moment comment on it and/or share it with others who have the same interest in this subject and would also appreciate the chance to read and comment on it.
List of men celebrated:·
President Barack Obama· Bernie Grant· Bill Cosby· Damion Queva· David Lammy· Ken Barnes· Kwame Kwei-Armah· Muhammad Ali· Olu Alake· Pope Benedict· Richard Pryor· Tim Campbell· Diane Abbott (honorary woman celebrated).
1. Fathers Quarterly magazine – the UK’s only magazine for Dad’s and Dad’s to be
2. International Men’s Day – UK website
3. 100 Black Men of London – Education, development and mentoring charity
4. A Man’s Story – Ozwald Boateng – Tiemo documentary review – 08.03.12
4. The Trouble with Men II (Do men have to know it all?) – Tiemo Talk of the Town review 29.09.06
5. The Trouble with Men – Tiemo Talk of the Town review 07.06.06