Books about masculinity, it seems, are like buses: You wait ages for one, then three turn up at once. Two of the three books out this month exploring modern masculinity even have the same title: Man Up, by Rebecca Asher and Man Up: Surviving modern masculinity, by Jack Urwin.
The third of the triumvirate, Who Stole My Spear? How to be a man in the 21st century, is by Tim Samuels, presenter of BBC Radio’s Men’s Hour and one of the great contributor’s to our own book. Tim spoke to insideMAN about why he decided to write a book about men and where he thinks the conversation needs to go next.
1.) What inspired you to write Who Stole My Spear?
It was the eventual realisation that all the different pieces of the jigsaw came together as a picture – which showed that there was a real issue with masculinity we need to take to seriously as a society. So when you add up things like male prison rates, violence, Mental health, boys lagging behind at school, people being drawn to extreme politics and all that – it really felt like the modern male condition was something that needed to be explored urgently.
2.) Have you seen a change in the conversation about men, masculinity and men’s issues since you launched Men’s Hour? How/in what way?
When I first launched Men’s Hour the reaction was, what on earth have man got to complain about? And a lot of columnists – especially female – mocked that men needed to talk about anything apart from football. But over the last couple of years I’ve really noticed a sea change. People are taking male issues seriously, and we now have the likes of the Southbank Being a Man festival, the Telegraph and Huff Post have a male section – and insideMAN is a real testament to the bold thinking now going on around masculinity.
3.) What still needs to change about the mainstream conversation about men and men’s issues, in your opinion?
Man and mental health is such a crucial issue to get out there. The media are starting to wake up to this, but so much more needs to be done to provide the space and the right language to allow men to express how they feel when they are depressed etc. And big companies need to take responsibility for doing their bit – work is so central to man’s identity and well-being. Businesses just have so much more to do here, to provide work places that are going to be healthy for men and give them the right support.
4.) How has your perspective evolved i) since launching Men’s Hour ii) in the process of writing your book?
Over time I have become more and more convinced that we have to find good ways to vent masculinity. It is such a primal force in boys and men and unless we find ways to unleash this good masculinity it will find destructive outlets which will be bad for individuals and bad for society as a whole.
5.) What do you make of the fact three new books on men and masculinity have come out within four weeks of each other? (Your own, Jack Urwin’s and Rebecca Asher’s.)
I haven’t read the other books yet, so can’t really comment on what they are saying – but I guess men and masculinity is starting to hit the Zeitgeist which can only be a good thing.
6.) What has been the reaction to your book so far?
Who Stole My Spear? has had a great reaction so far… We’ve been picked up by the national press, radio and television – and people really seem to want to have the conversation about good masculinity. And women have been really engaging with it too – and there’s hardly been any of the usual ‘what have men go to whinge about’ stuff. So, I’m strangely hopeful that it might generate some new thinking around the challenges that man face today
7.) What is the most important thing / understanding you would like readers of your book to take away from it?
That these really are challenging and absurd times to be a man, living in our caveman-designed bodies but following lives totally out of kilter with our design and how we have lived for thousands and thousands of years. But there are things that we can do, changes to how we live and work, that will make us more in tune with our masculinity – and ultimately make us happier as individuals and better as a society.
8.) Anything else you’d like to add?
It would be great if men could spread the word about all this stuff. We really need men on a grassroots level to start sharing these ideas and getting some momentum behind some of these really big ideas which affect all our lives. Viva la revolution.
Who Stole My Spear? How to be a man in the 21st century is available from Amazon