Why work on men’s issues? The most extraordinary thing about this subject is that we should have to ask this question at all, says clinical psychologist Martin Seager.
-- This is article #26 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
All human beings have a gender. It is one of the great defining features of human identity and behaviour from the dawn of our species. Gender is universal across all cultures. Gender inevitably relates to our biological sex and is rooted in our evolution. If we are truly interested in humanity then we must be passionately inclusive about all aspects of human nature and how they relate to each other. If we don’t start to understand men and masculinity better therefore, then we will all lose out as a human family.
The striking thing for me is that even though I am a practising clinical psychologist and adult psychotherapist who has worked with men and women in the NHS and elsewhere for many years, it still took me until I was well into my forties before I saw past the enormous barriers and prejudices that were blinding me like everyone else in society to the fact that men too are gendered beings.
'There are deep rules about masculinity'
This wasn’t just about Feminism which has always been an important and necessary reaction to social and political inequalities facing women, even though Feminism clearly makes it harder to speak up for men because it can sound like you are defending privilege. It is also about masculinity itself.
Being a man means that you don’t seek help, speak out or draw attention to your needs and vulnerabilities. This is so much deeper than a social stereotype or a cultural issue. This is something that transcends culture and is much deeper within the gendered heritage of the human condition.
There are clearly deep rules about masculinity and femininity which are universal. The most obvious femininity rule is the glamour rule which hasn’t changed since the beginnings of known civilization and probably beyond. In our modern world there is no sign that the glamour rule is disappearing due to cultural influences. If anything, there is even more pressure on our young girls these days to be glamorous. These rules weren’t invented by men or women but have evolved collectively as a core part of human sexuality and gender identity in our species.
'We are in this together'
The time has surely come therefore to recognise that gender is not just an equality issue but a diversity issue. Men and women are different and their differences need to be honoured and respected just like other human differences. Our obsession with equality has made us blind to important and valuable gender differences.
However, even if inequality is our chosen narrative, then it is also high time that we drew attention also to the inequalities faced by the male gender in terms of, for example, physical and mental health, suicide, death by violence and overall life expectancy, drug addiction, dangerous working conditions, homelessness, child custody and educational performance.
As our troops pull out of Afghanistan, one of the legacies is that little girls in that country have now a much better chance of being educated thanks to the large number of predominantly male soldiers who died. There is no battle of the sexes. We are in this human story together. The most ancient masculinity rule is that of the fighter and protector. We are also honouring the dead of two world wars and a mature society that cares about gender will honour the gender of the vast majority of those who died for our collective freedom.
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 necessarily 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.