Today insideMAN is launching a new initiative to publish 100 articles from different authors which are written by, for and about men and boys in the UK. Glen Poole gets the ball rolling by explaining why men and boys need a voice.
—This is article #1 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Earlier this year I attended a meeting about men—such meetings are quite rare, but because I am known for speaking out on men’s issues, I generally get invited to more meetings about men and boys in a typical year than most people will in a lifetime. You see, when it comes to talking about men’s issues, I am one of the few men in the country who has a voice.
This particular meeting focused on how we could get more people talking about and addressing some the social problems that have a disproportionate impact on men and boys—suicide, educational underachievement, shorter life expectancy, that type of thing.
Every man and woman in the room was committed to making a difference for men and boys and yet when I made the point that we needed to make sure that men’s voices are heard, it didn’t go down too well. The response went something like this:
“Ooh no, you can’t say that, people will just think it’s women who need a voice, because men already have all the power. If we say ‘men’s voices need to be heard’, people just won’t listen to us”.
Yep, you heard me right, this is how intelligent, well-intentioned people, who are genuinely committed to making a difference for men and boys think— they believe that if you, as a man, stand up and say that ‘men’s voices need to be heard’, people won’t listen to you, so the best thing to do, as a man, is to keep quiet and not say what you really think.
Men and boys should not be silent
And on one level I agree. If you attempt to enter the corridors of power, from the Houses of Parliament to your local council, no-one will listen to you if you try to make the case that ‘men’s voices need to be heard’. There may be more men “in power”, but when it comes to gender issues, male and female politicians spend the majority of their time addressing the concerns of women and girls. Is the appropriate response to this reality for men to stay quiet? I don’t think so. If people in positions of power won’t listen to men’s voices, then the appropriate response is for more men to SPEAK UP about male suicide, men’s health, boys’ education, fatherlessness, fathers’ rights, violence against men and boys and any other gender issue that concerns us.
And this is one reason why insideMAN is launching a new initiative called #100Voices4Men and Boys. Over the next fifty days, in the run up to International Men’s Day on 19th November 2014, we aim to publish 100 articles by, for and about men and boys in the UK.
For too long, men have been have been in the minority when it comes to conversations about gender. There are more than 7 billion people on the planet and every single one of us experiences life as a gendered human being. For the majority of adults this means either being a man or being a woman. Yet while one half of this equation is well served in the global conversation about gender, men and boys remain largely invisible.
This is not surprising when you consider the social institutions that have been put in place to drive forward this important global conversation: the UN has an organisation dedicated to women, but not men; the European Union has a Women’s Charter, but not a Men’s Charter; the UK government has a Women’s Minister, but no Men’s Minister; universities across the land have courses in Women’s Studies, but not Men’s Studies; unions have women’s officers, but not men’s officers; our local and and national newspapers have women’s sections but not men’s sections and the list goes on and on.
Men’s experience of gender is different
And yet we know that men and boys all over the world have a gendered experience of life that is distinctly different from women and girls. On average we die younger; spend more time at work; are more likely to fail at school; are more likely to be the primary breadwinner for our family; are more likely to be separated from our children; are more likely to be victims of men’s and women’s violence; are more likely to be unemployed, imprisoned, homeless or addicted and are more likely to commit suicide.
So how will publishing 100 articles on insideMAN change any of this? Well in reality it won’t. Each one of our articles for men and boys will be a mere drop in the ocean of conversation about women and girls. And yet we know that drops can become ripples and ripples become waves and so our intention is that these small conversations will have the potential to create big waves that in time, will make a difference for men and boys.
And this is where you can help.
We want to do everything can to ensure that our “100 voices” are reflective of the men and boys in all our diversity.We want to hear the voices of men across the political spectrum; men of all sexualities; men all nationalities; men and boys of all ages; men of all religions and beliefs; men of all physical and mental abilities and men with many different interests and experiences of life.
We want to hear from you
So if you feel that your voice—or the voice of a group of men or boys you are concerned about—isn’t represented, then please join the conversation and let us know. We want to hear from men and boys of all backgrounds during this #100Voices4Men and Boys project and for the sake of transparency there are three groups, who are generally excluded from discussions about gender, who we will definitely be favouring and they are:
1. Men (as most people already speaking about gender are women, so the vast majority of the 100 articles we publish will be written by men);
2. Non-feminists (because when it comes to gender politics, most conversations about gender are viewed from a feminist persepctive, so we’ll be welcoming non feminist writers into the conversation about gender);
3. People who focus on men’s problems (as conversations about gender that include men, usually focus on the problems men cause, which is why we’ll be welcoming people who focus on the “problems men have” into this discussion).
Everyone is welcome to get involved
This doesn’t mean that women, feminists and people concerned with “the problems that men cause” are not welcome to join the conversation, you are. In fact everyone is invited to take part in this important discussion, our only request is that you express yourself in a way that ensures everyone’s voice can be heard.
Being heard is a two-way process, it involves speaking and listening—and for too long men and boys have either not spoken up about their experiences of being male, or have not been listened to when they do speak out. Our #100Voices4Men and Boys project is a small but significant step towards giving men and boys in the UK a bigger voice in conversations about gender.
We hope you’ll get behind this initiative by commenting, sharing some of the articles with friends and submitting your own ideas and articles if you want to. We can’t promise to agree with everything you say, but we do promise we’ll listen.
Photo credit: flickr/floeschie
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men’s Day 2014 by clicking on this link—#100Voices4Men—and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
The views expressed in these articles are not the views of insideMAN editorial team. Whether you agree with the views expressed in this article or not we invite you to take take part in this important discussion, our only request is that you express yourself in a way that ensures everyone’s voice can be heard.