15 Jan 2017

Being ManKind for everyone

Good morning all…

Today’s chat is potentially controversial, so please bear with me. Before I joined SBL, I accompanied some of my now-colleagues to a screening of a work in progress called, “Men Cry”, a film about masculinity. Not to be too critical, but I felt the project was missing a lot of key arguments and seemed to gloss over or ignore some very important facts about masculinity and society. One of those points for me was religion, or rather how patriarchal religions inform masculine views on a cultural level.

As I was saying this to my colleagues, I noticed someone in the row in front of me bristle. They then turned around and shouted me down. Unfortunately they hadn’t heard what I had said, but assumed that I had said that there isn’t a problem with masculinity in society, or words to that effect from the tongue-lashing I received. The person turned around from the row in front and stood over me as we sat and continued with their tirade.

I was conscious of not wanting to appear confrontational or aggressive, so kept checking myself – I don’t know why but I was paranoid about my arms, that folding them over my chest would appear overtly defensive or aggressive, so I kept them rigid by my sides. Eventually, when I realised that I wasn’t getting away anytime soon, I stood (gently, slowly and as non-threatening as I could be) and tried to engage with this person in as open a way as possible. I tried, in vain to explain that I agreed with them in lots of instances, that I am a feminist but that in order for there to be any hope of developing any form of positive change, both sides need to engage and support each other in as meaningful a way as possible. And yes, I believe that men need to make up a lot of ground in that regard, but equally, any movement that just wants dominance over the other, or would seek to impose an agenda that causes division, inferiority, subjugation or even a degree of vengeance is truly abhorrent, irrespective of the genders involved.

In any case my (very much on the defensive) points of discussion were duly refuted, angrily; I was told that “no men work in an administration capacity in offices”. I pointed out that, as an actor, my then day-job, the one that actually paid my rent was as an office receptionist, PA and all-round office dogsbody (rubbish) And that we employed another man in the same role (impossible). Indeed, I pointed out that lots of receptionists I’d encountered as an actor were male (total lies) – That’s not to deny that admin work is still a very female-heavy industry and that men are probably in the minority – I don’t know the figures, so won’t pretend to know.

But everything I said was dismissed as complete nonsense. I started to find myself getting angry and frustrated, that no matter what I said, it was challenged and shot down as fantasy. And then I started to wonder what on earth had happened in this poor person’s life that they felt so much aggression and contempt for me and men that they were comfortable and confident enough to verbally accost me in front of my friends – based on a mistake and something that they were determined to believe that I thought. And it made me realise that there is militancy on both sides of the debate that may never be convinced of changing their perspective. Or rather, being prepared to see another point of view, even though they don’t agree with it. Bottom line, if we have any chance of doing anything positive and succeeding with Being ManKind then we must engage with everyone, and do our best to challenge dangerous perceptions and attitudes towards gender. And to be prepared to be shouted at, to listen to what we don’t agree with, to take a deep breath and patiently try to show why what we are doing matters.

Anyway, enough serious chat from me. I’ll revert to type in due course…




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