A man’s world?
When I was a lecturer in the 1980s, a friend of mine (also an academic) got very involved in a men’s group. I had never come across this kind of thing before and was intrigued, but in no way attracted to the concept. As far as I could see, they met and exchanged views on how men were not listened to any more, were unappreciated and lacked self-esteem. As far as I could make out this colleague got increasingly self-absorbed and even aggressive when he came back from these meetings. Well, maybe it was just the way I saw it, maybe it wasn’t really like that.
That was in the 1980s, and a little later the whole thing really took off. Now I read that the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) recently organised their first ‘Men’s Week’, with a programme that covered ‘different aspects of male issues, covering physical, emotional and societal topics relating to men.’
I can easily see that there are lots of things that men should explore that relate to ‘maleness’. These might include men’s health issues (which are often neglected), or a reconsideration of male stereotypes, or an assessment of male under-achievement in education. And yet I am always uneasy about such an approach. I am uneasy about men being persuaded that they suffer a gender disadvantage, whatever the context might be. I am uneasy about men seeing themselves as a group set apart from women.
Maybe I’m all wrong about this, because I certainly see that society may face serious problems because of the disaffection of many young males today. But I have seen too many men who, after being exposed to such discussions, appear to come away believing that men are now the ‘suffering sex’ (as one put it to me recently). In a world where leadership in politics, business and indeed academic life is still dominated by men we must face reality, and not turn it upside down.