Are men in crisis?
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church
Friday 11th September 2015
Organised by: insideMan
Are men in crisis? This was the question posed for the panelists at the insideMan organised debate at the Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. The panel comprised John Adams, Karen Woodall, Kenny D Mammarella- D’ Cruz, Mark Simpson and Neil Lyndon. The debate was expertly and cheerfully facilitated by Glen Poole, co-Editor with Dan Bell of the insideMan book being launched at this event. Both men are co-founders of the insideMan website.
Opening speaker, John Adams, stated his firm view that there was a crisis. He argued that the problem had become tangled up with the women’s rights movement. Whilst he said the movement was needed, the problem was some of the unintended consequences of furthering women’s equality and rights. In a way there’s a crisis as men can’t rely anymore on their superior masculine strength to get by in today’s society. Equality of opportunity is missing. We now have men and women competing for the same jobs. There are no new types of roles or jobs for men in a post industrial society.
What would be his solutions?
- Men should be prepared to downgrade or give up their careers to bring up a family.
- People should accept that there is a crisis in masculinity and that men do face inequality e.g. higher male suicide rates; men die earlier and men are more likely to be attacked to name but three examples. *
- Women must change in the domestic sphere and let go of their iron clad grip of being the maternal gatekeepers. Too many have kept men at bay when it comes to raising their very own children. This alienates fathers and children from one another which doesn’t help in building and maintaining strong family units.
- There’s a cost. Society must change. Society must accept that masculinity is changing.
- Policy makers & MP’s need to pursue more family friendly policies inclusive of men.
- Incidentally this was a theme touched on by Comedian Andrew Lawrence during his ‘Uncensored’ show at last month’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Family campaigner Karen Woodall was a surprisingly good speaker on this subject. I don’t mean in the sense that she didn’t know her subject, she did, but I had wondered why there was one woman on the panel considering the subject matter. My fears were very quickly allayed with a snappy 6 minute presentation from Karen. She stated that legislation has made it easier for women and men to separate from one another and their families. This may well have been welcomed by many women wishing to exit awful and/or abusive relationships, but it had the negative impact of making it easier to break up all family units regardless of whether or not they were dysfunctional.
She did not consider men to be in any crisis at all, by way of explanation stating, “Men can be anything they want.” However she did, like John Adams, acknowledge that there are areas of concern e.g. men are not going to university in as great a number as they used to and more men are living homeless on the streets.
She didn’t feel there was equality for men and boys or even women and girls for that matter. A onetime staunch feminist, her stance has changed completely. Her mantra now is, “It’s equality for all of us or it’s not equality at all.” That was a great point to make and one of the stand out comments of the night. It’s why the insideMan movement is not anti-women, but pro-mankind, pro-equality for all. Being pro-male rights does not, as some might think, causally equate to being anti-women or anti-feminism.
She considered that as a society “we’ve lost empathy,” which cuts across gender lines. For instance, she questioned why women aren’t complaining that 100 men a week are killing themselves instead of supporting Barrister’s like Charlotte Proudman screaming sexism (the story that broke during week commencing 7th September 2015 re the 57 year old senior Barrister Alexander Carter-Silk who described her Linked-In profile as “stunning”.)
Kenny Mammarella-D’Cruz delivered a passionate, very personal story re his own unique journey from growing up in Uganda, moving to and settling in London. As boy he had to grow up fast to look after his family in the absence of his father. It was either that or die. As a result he felt he was pretending to be a man and that feeling stayed with him right through adulthood until a particular comment from a passenger on a number 39 bus going through Camden made him realise that he was a real man, could consider himself to be a fully fledged man and not an imposter pretending to be one.
His message was one of men needing to let go of masculine pretence and be their authentic selves. To be real both to oneself and with interactions with others. He felt that the fear of humiliation and abandonment were the two biggest fears for men.”
Kenny has written a chapter entitled ’The Day I Realised I’d Married My Wife into a Lifetime of Racism’, in the ‘insideMan – Pioneering Stories about Men and Boys’ book, which was launched at the event.
Like Karen Woodall, Mark Simpson, famous for coining the phrase ‘metrosexual’ does not see a present day crisis for men. He felt that people using that phrase were more than likely referring more to their own crises rather than speaking for the whole male population. If there ever was a crisis, he posited that it took place in the 1980’s and 1990’s, particularly in the Midlands and North. This was a time when a great many men were laid of work. Britain went through the loss of the coal, steel, mining and ship building industries. The so called heavy industries. He was of the view that men have adapted and evolved since then. Some more than others admittedly. “If anything society needs to change, for men already have.”
He spoke excellently and has written ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ for the ‘insideMan – Pioneering Stories about Men and Boys’ book.
Neil Lyndon spoke brilliantly and passionately. This was especially impressive as he was called upon last minute to do so due to Martin Daubney being unable to make the presentation part of the event. He asked why people have forgotten the issue of male suffragettes. He said we should dispense of the notion that we live in a patriarchy for, “It strangles us. We don’t need it. It’s irrelevant now.”
He said men have always been at the forefront of women’s equality, going right back to the 1807 law that abolished slavery and the use of women as chattels. He emphasised the point that it was passed by the predominantly male House of Commons.
Jack O’Sullivan co-founder of what is now known as the Fatherhood Institute agreed with this saying that we need to do away with gender hierarchy – both patriarchy and matriarchy, saying that both are very bad for families.
Speaking during the Q&A session Martin Daubney criticised people like the Barrister Charlotte Proudman for being a poor example of feminism. She, as I mentioned earlier “outed” the male Barrister, Alexander Carter-Silk, for paying her a compliment. His ‘crime’ being that he complimented her on the professional networking site ‘Linked-in’.
Martin asserted that we needed more men in primary school education and criticised a feminist movement that wanted equal rights right down the middle, 50% of everything yet wanted to retain 100% of child rearing responsibilities.
He said men should be free to come together for men only meetings and discussions such as this one – but often such groups are blocked at university and college campuses. “We don’t need permission to talk or have to frame the discussions via the prism of feminism.”
I thought it was a good solid debate. Opening presentations were succinct and on point and the discussion flowed freely, was fair and balanced.
In my view I would say that men are in crisis but this isn’t a new one. It’s also a generational thing. For instance, men aged 60+ probably don’t feel a sense of crisis, for they’re of a generation when it probably wasn’t too difficult to find work, full employment existed when they started to work. They were perhaps commencing their working lives in an age when women were more likely to be stay at home mothers and wives and a single income could provide for a whole family.
Since perhaps the 1970’s that has no longer been the case and therefore women entered the workplace in far greater numbers; the decline of the heavy industries resulted in a sharp increase in mass unemployment.
This precipitated a move from an industrial age to a more technological age, where the brute strength required to work down the mines and factories was no longer required and “soft skills”, computer and communication skills were more to the fore, playing more to women’s strengths.
The feminisation of the classroom has been going on for decades too and I think primary schools have been female dominated for as long as I can remember, going back to at least the 1970’s. As mentioned earlier, with women competing for the same jobs as men, getting better educated, it has meant that men have had to adapt to survive. Family dynamics have needed to be recalibrated to reflect the fact that men need to do more domestic duties than was once the case.
Violence on the streets is still committed predominantly by men. Teenage related gangs wars have always existed, they have just become more fatally violent than in times gone by – with murders of teens rising through the ages. That may now necessarily be as a result of changing roles, but I would say it certainly speaks to a time we live in whereby some teenagers feel they have little to live and aspire for and would sooner take another person’s life just for looking at them in the “wrong way”. That runs deeper than gender lines and is a whole new subject altogether.
If anything the younger, under 40’s generation have only known equality, or arguably inequality and they have not lived in a world where there wasn’t equality. For instance, they will be used to the fact that, on average women under 40 are better educated and earning more than men under 40. They have grown up in a world where men and women go out to work and can enter which ever career they want to. This may well be their crisis, for if they are not earning a living and are excluded from the child rearing process, then what is their role in life, in society?
The debate reminded me of Tiemo Talk of the Town’s ‘The Trouble with Men’ series of debates. These are useful forums and more of these need to be held.
This event also doubled as the launch of insideMan’s ‘Pioneering stories about men and boys’ book launch. Featuring a number of the panelists, it is a collection of writing by 40 of the UK’s leading writers and experts on men and masculinity and is published by Troubador.
Photographs and review © Tiemo Talk of the Town
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- The Trouble with Men III review – 9th March 2015
- In Celebration of Men review – 7th March 2015
- The Trouble with Men II (Do Men Have to Know it All?) review – 29th December 2012
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