Sunday, 23 January 2011

Adoption rate "needs to quadruple over the next few years"

This article from The Guardian contains an impressive mix of information and views on transracial adoption. The article appeared more than two and a half years ago, though it's the best thing I've found on the matter since I saw The Guardian's interview with Barnado's outgoing chief exec, Martin Narey, this week.

Narey criticised local authorities and adoption agencies for preventing adoptions on the grounds that potential parents' ethnicities don't match the child's. The ensuing delays -- and in some cases even relocations -- has led many willing parents to give up, while the children -- predominantly black, Asian or mixed race -- remain in care. Meanwhile adoption is at an all-time low: according to the interview, "[o]nly 70 babies were adopted last year compared with 4,000 in 1976."

Monday, 17 January 2011

Oh. *That* argument again.

Two reasons to listen to today's Radio 4 PM programme:
  • You can hear LPMG hero Dave King arguing against recent proposals to pay sperm and egg donors.  Hurray!
  • You can hear supercilious very-much-non-expert Toby Young arguing against Fatherhood Institute Chief Exec Rob Williams, for not giving fathers the chance to have substantial parental leave.  Boo.
Young's argument?  That women are just naturally better at it (palm on forehead), and that the experience of the dozy bloke drowning in nappies and loving care or whatever is detrimental to the mother-father relationship.  Gah!

It would be all too easy to criticize Toby Young for regurgitating clichéd, unreconstructed essentialist claims as if they were established fact.  And if it is true (which I imagine it is) that, statistically, men are more likely to express anxieties about their parenting skills, you don't have to be a sociologist of great esteem (like Toby's dad) to wonder whether prevalent gender norms might not play a significant role in ensuring that men are less well initiated for parenting, and more comfortable admitting to their unwillingness and feelings of inadequacy as a parent.  Nor does it take a great cognitive leap to think that all this might actually justify an equal system of parental leave, which would give fathers the opportunity to do their share, which is not even available (never mind attractive or not) to the vast majority of fathers.  And what a cinch it would be to offer the obvious observation that fathers might actually have an obligation to their children to be better at parenting and helping around the house, and that it's about time the rest of us stopped letting them get away with it.

Yup.  It would be all too easy to make these basic points.  So how come no-one at the BBC did?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Demos' launch of The Home Front report

Tomorrow morning (Monday 17th) at 9.45, New Labour's favourite think tank Demos will launch The Home Front, their new report on work and families.

According to this BBC News article, the report will make several feminist-friendly recommendations, not least among them being "an equal system of parental leave". (There are no details yet whether this would mean that each the parents get the opportunity to take up to, say, 6 months off; or whether some fixed amount of time is shared between them. Dave has argued to me very convincingly against the latter.) Nick Clegg (yeah, I know) is giving the keynote speech.

The Demos webpage for the event is here. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The police response to Joanna Yeates' murder, and Reclaim the Night

So it seems little has changed since the late 1970s. According to this Guardian article, following the murder of Joanna Yeates, Avon and Somerset police are advising women not to walk alone at night. Sound familiar?

This casually sexist response by the police, according to which women are effectively being advised not to have a life (especially given the wintry daylight hours!) reminds us of the importance events like Reclaim the Night and the Million Women Rise March. They are as important as they ever were, since the early Take Back the Night marches in Philadelphia and Brussells in the mid-1970's. (A history of Take Back the Night is here.) What is frustrating is that the same argument needs constantly to be made, 35 years on.

When the first Take Back the Night and Reclaim the Night marches took place, they were a direct response to small-minded sexist police "advice" like that recently meted out by the Avon and Somerset police. That is why they were held outdoors; that is why they were held at night; and that is why they were women-only affairs. But recently the focus of many RTN marches has justifiably shifted to domestic violence and intimate partner violence. (According to Home Office statistics, only 17% of rapes are committed by strangers; 54% are committed by partners (including spouses) or ex-partners. And according to this BCS report, only 13% of rapes are committed in a public place; 55% occur in the victim's own home, and 20% occur in the offender's home.)

I have personally heard the view many times that this change of focus makes RTN marches in some sense passé. But this criticism overlooks the fact that RTN marches make for a strong, clear public message, and provide an opportunity for the feminist community to reassert their continued presence and solidarity. And anyway, thanks to Avon & Somerset police, it turns out that after all we all need reminding of the original motivation for RTN: that violence against women is not the responsibility of the women who suffer it.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Happy New Year from the London Pro-feminist Men's Group!

You might have noticed that the blog is looking a bit different these days. Following the departure of two key members, who we can't thank enough for all their efforts (love to Dan and Jon!), we have taken the opportunity to reinvent the group somewhat. So welcome!

The group has always been about consciousness-raising, and we want to keep that aspect of the group. But now we want to direct our attentions outwards somewhat, and make more the opportunity of so many pro-feminist men being in the same place, so we are gearing up for some more focussed activism (as well as the day-to-day stuff we have always done!).

We each have our own take on our feminism or pro-feminism, and the group will be a great way to meet like-minded men to get involved in some actions. But our main concentration as a group is the campaign for equal parental leave, as well as surrounding issues of work/life balance and better working conditions for women and men with dependents.

To get things rolling, we are all reading the recent report by the Fatherhood Institute into a variety of gender inequalities and injustices in current government legislation about parenting and more besides. You can download the report here. The UK is a pathetic *18th* out of 21 countries considered. If you want to do something about it too, consider joining us for our next meeting, on the 23rd January. (Email us for more details.)

More New Year feminist and pro-feminist things of interest:

bill's profeminist blog has this great post suggesting some Pro-feminist New Year's resolutions for straight guys. (I think plenty also apply to gay men!) Thanks, Bill!

The Feminist Library is celebrating 35 years of archiving and activism on the 19th February, at the Round Chapel, Powerscroft Road, London E5 0PU. (For FB-lovers, the event page is here.) It's going to be a good one, and volunteers are still wanted!

We will also be updating the blog much more often, so bookmark us, or sign up to our RSS feed, and get involved!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

BBC World Service Interview

Jon was interviewed about the group for "The World Today" on the BBC World Service which is listened to by 33 million people world wide! You can listen to it here...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Come to the next LPMG meeting on sunday 19th Sept

We have been meeting fortnightly for almost 3 years now. The aims of our meetings are:
- to support each other in our personal struggles as men, including our efforts to rid ourselves of sexist behaviour
- to raise consciousness with regards to sexism in our lives and in society
- to discuss issues around gender politics generally
- to plan what actions we can take as pro-feminists

Though we are mainly a consciousness raising group, we also sometimes facilitated workshops and give talks, organized creches at feminist events, and participated in demos. This helped all of us tremendously in acknowledging, realising and working on our sexist behaviours! In practice our group has always been a men-only group, although it has always been open to anyone who felt that sharing their life experience would be beneficial for them and/or other members of the group.

From now on. we have decided to meet every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month at 3pm at LARC, 62 Fieldgate st E1 1ES (whitechapel, Aldgate)

If you've often thought this is an interesting group but never found energy or time to come round, this is the opportunity!!

The next one will be on Sunday 19th of September, 3pm-7pm.

Our meetings are generally composed of different parts. Usually we start with a round about ourselves, our lives, how we are and past experiences of sexism we were involved in. Then we talk about concrete action plans we have for the future. After a break we try to discuss a theme linked to gender and feminism (such as our fathers/mothers, homophobia, pornography, seduction etc.) always trying to start from our own life experience and then go to the global/more theoretical.

Hope to see you all there!

Don't hesitate to contact us: londonprofeministmensgroup at

or join us on errr Facebook but only after reading this!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

"Feminist" or "Profeminist"

  • Taken from our Facebook page...

    Richard Twine
    Not a Profeminist but a feminist...

    what do you think of the distinction?

    i think the argument that men should identify as pro-feminist rather than feminist stems from the notion of what academics call epistemic privilege i.e. in this case, men ought not identify as feminists as they cannot know how it is to experience oppression 'as a woman'.

    however i think this is problematic because it
    a) ignores the way in which patriarchy is also a system that includes relations of power between men, most obviously in the oppression of 'feminised' men.
    b) overstates the assumption that 'men' cannot empathise and learn about the experiential knowledge of 'women' (even though to homogenise this would be to ignore 30 years of feminist scholarship)
    c) overstates the value of separatism as a means to radical coalition building
    d) risks homogenising 'men'
    March 23 at 2:43pm · Mark as Irrelevant · Report · Delete Post
  • London Profeminist Hi! As you may already know there are many and different opinions on the issue of this distinction. If we wanted to give a reason for our choice, we would say that the LPMG chooses to identify itself as ‘pro-feminist’ instead of ‘feminist’ cause ‘we don’t need and we don’t want to steal the word from the feminist movement’. This is the opinion of many feminists also and we respect that. Of course, the feminist (or anti-sexist, anti-patriarchist) struggle aims to liberate men also from patriarchy and this is very much where our words and actions tend to contribute. However, it is always good to remind people that the structural inequalities and hierarchies still exist and that being a man in a patriarchal society is in no way the same with being a woman (most of all, in terms of experiences). Men can empathize with let’s say the victims of patriarchy, however we should not ever forget that this empathy is a choice (while oppression isn’t) that is made by men who nevertheless still preserve their privileges in this society.

    Truly, you see a methodological problem there (eg. homogenizing men) since 30 years of feminist scholarship (and most importantly feminist struggles) were enough to change the way some men think about their masculinities. However let’s not forget the previous 2,000 years or so of massive gender oppression… To empathize, after all, does not mean to say that we have the same experiences as women have. It does not mean to try to eliminate the difference among us and women. It is not a matter of competition of victimhood; it is a matter of respect and giving space to the ‘other’.

    And a last thing: the risk of homogenizing all (wo)men is visible in all kinds of gender politics, however many times this is a risk someone must take in order to ‘do politics’ and – let’s say – make a specific demand, no matter how much the academics dislike it. Generalization and homogenization are often strategic steps of this kind of politics and as far as I am concerned they are not false since patriarchy itself is a great, big, awful and violent generalization.

    From LPMG
    4 minutes ago · Edit Post · Delete Post
  • London Profeminist FROM DAVE in the LPMG (but not necessarily representing the views of LPMG!!!)...

    "We are certainly not a 'separatist' group: in the context of gender politics, separatism means primarily women's groups who literally try to have nothing whatever to do with men in their lives. That would make no sense whatever for a pro-feminist men's group.

    Although there is nowadays a greater emphasis in gender politics on men and women working together and on try to abolish gender roles, collapsing the distinctions too quickly is not helpful, and any decision to do so must rest with women. In my view the postmodern and queer emphasis on dismantling gender identities runs many risks. One is that if the people concerned have not done the work on themselves (and that work is big) it all becomes a pretence. A second risk, which I have often observed happening is that these politics collapse into well-meaning (radical) liberalism."


    Please feel free to join in the discussion here or on our Facebook page, or both!

Monday, 1 March 2010

LPMG response to “Wake up to Rape” report

Responding to media reports about The Havens' report on British public attitudes to rape (see this link for a media article about it), the London Pro-Feminist Men's Group said:

Rape is never acceptable, and it is never the fault of the woman. The idea that a woman 'should know what to expect if she goes back to a man's house' is based on the idea that men cannot control themselves or are naturally driven to have sex at any cost. These lies serve to absolve men of responsibility for their behaviour but they do us no service. We call on all men to clean up our acts: in order to gain women's trust, we need to establish a record of decent behaviour, and to show no tolerance for any form of abuse of women.

For more information, contact londonprofeministmensgroup at, providing a contact phone number.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Interview for York University Women's Society Zine

Hannah Cann Interviews Jon Waters for York Uni Women's Society Zine

Jon Waters set up the London Profeminist Men’s Group 2 years ago and they’ve been meeting every 2 weeks ever since.

Why Pro-Feminist?

“Well, we discuss it now and again... Not everyone agrees with the name. Some think that we should be called an ‘anti-sexist men’s group’. There’s the idea that we don’t want to colonize a term for a movement set up by women for the liberation of women, and that calling ourselves male feminists or something similar would suggest we don’t understand and aren’t sensitive to the issues. However, plenty of feminists argue that feminism is for all people who want equality, and that men ought to call themselves feminists as they are fighting the same fight as female feminists. I think we’re happy calling ourselves pro-feminists and helping to define what exactly that term means by simply existing under that title!

How do you think Feminism has affected the lives of men?

Feminism definitely has affected the lives of men... in loads of ways. It has forced men in some circumstances to treat women better, or as equals. In certain areas the level of sexism has been reduced a lot...It’s changed attitudes. It was a bit different for my mum and her generation...It was fine for her not to wear dresses and skirts, and ride a motorbike [laughs]. For me growing up, I got to see a much wider range of gender roles. And in some ways, it’s [Feminism] made it more acceptable for men to talk about their emotions more; which has a bit of a backlash because the ‘macho’ thing still weighs heavily on men and boys. But it’s easier than it was for men to be “in touch with their feminine side”, because Feminism’s changed gender roles. Men also benefit from reduced violence to women. Women are their sisters, mums, lovers. Men aren’t purely selfish individuals [laughs]...and obviously they don’t want the women they love to be the victims of violence.

Why do you think it has taken Feminism to promote certain improvements in men’s lives, such as better attitudes towards fatherhood?

I think it’s fantastic that we are starting to see a lot more men pushing buggies down the road, and there’s more talk about equal paternity leave.
I don’t think there’s an a priori reason why it needed to be a women’s movement. It’s conceivable that it could have been groups of men fighting for their rights to care for their own kids more. However, I think that men are not generally socialised to be particularly caring, to be blunt! [laughs]. It’s often not high on a man’s list of priorities to be a loving father, but rather a breadwinner and procreator. Being a good dad is in the list of “what a perfect man ought to do”, but particularly in the world of work, which is often male-dominated, there’s a lot of resistance to men taking time off work to look after kids. The more macho the work place, the harder it is.
Generally I think it’s a great example of an area where feminists have led the way, and men’s groups can take on the challenge of fighting for men to do more childcare in the home and outside it. As a men’s group we have run several crèches at feminist conferences, and I’m a part of another mixed gender group that focuses on the issue of improving access to activism for parents and carers as well as their kids.

What advice would you give to men who want to take more proactive steps in or for Feminism?

In certain circumstances it might be easier for men to get involved in feminism [than women], because it’s unusual. In some groups men might be welcomed almost as a hero! Similarly, in terms of talking about feminism, people have a lot of preconceptions about feminist women. They switch off, because they think “here we go...” as if they already know what she thinks. With a guy, people are often more intrigued. *Pauses* sorry, what was the question again?!! Oh yeah…
I suppose in a university context there are usually gender courses, and there are loads of academic books and “Brief Introductions to Feminism” out there. I would recommend a website called, which has tons of stuff written by pro-feminist men about their lives and their activism. It’s also good to know you’re not the only man in the world who cares! Obviously, if you’re in London, come to the Pro-Feminist Men’s Group [laughs] or check out our blog at
If you’re in York, go to Women’s Committee, or any groups that open doors to men. You also need to be receptive to the issues, and be sensitive about why some groups don’t want men, or at least not all the time. It’s important for men to come to terms with the importance of women only spaces. If you don’t get that, it’s easy to think it’s sexist to exclude men, which is what you’re fighting against! You can end up getting a bit stuck. If you find a group that says it doesn’t allow men at meetings, for example, ask them why and listen carefully guys! It’s really not that hard to understand, honest!
If possible, find other men who are interested in feminism. Best by far is to meet face-to-face with other men, but online communities can be a decent substitute if you can’t find anyone. A common theme in the men’s group is that we’ve all had a friend, lover or ex-lover who’s a strong feminist woman and has influenced us, our lives and behaviour. Ideally there’d be enough pro-feminist men out there that it didn’t always have to fall on women to “convert men” but learning lots from feminist friends is generally a great way to start out if you’re interested in gender issues.

What sort of feedback do you get from men and women? Does it vary from men to women?

Personally, I am not a very good advocate for the group. I don’t tend to put the group out there. It’s quite a cowardly approach I suppose. I tend to only tell people I think will be positive about it!
When I’m brave enough to tell men about the group it often feels like I’ve just said I’m part of a Jewish Pro-Nazi group. They get a “does not compute” face. ‘Consternation’ would be a good word for it! It’s a difficult job explaining what we do. We don’t have a narrow focus you can sum up in a few words, which makes it hard to talk about sometimes. Generally speaking, women are more interested and sometimes almost congratulatory. Some say they want their boyfriends to go along!

Why is it important for men to think about feminist issues today?

I think a lot of men want to live in a more equal and fair society, and don’t want to see women getting paid less on average, having to deal with loads more domestic violence than men, and generally having less power and privilege than men in most situations. Feminism also gives men the tools to radically alter the gender roles that cause them so much damage, even whilst they confer privilege on them. Boys are taught to become “real men” and face all sorts of bullying if they don’t conform. Changing masculinity and the expectations we have of what “being a real man” means would give men more freedom to be themselves and to express their feelings, hopefully leading to less pent up anger, depression, suicide and violence. A radically different masculinity would mean not having to live in fear of other men’s violence and fear of being seen as weak or not having all the answers all the time. Ultimately, men should get involved in feminist politics because FHM – Feminism Helps Men!
Jon Waters recommends and Slow Motion – changing masculinities, changing men by Lynne Segal to learn more about the male role in feminism. Contact him directly at

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Reclaim The Night Men’s demo 2009

An assorted bunch of 6 other men and I gathered in the rain on Saturday 21st November to show our support for the annual Reclaim the Night March. We came from South London, Yorkshire and Cambridge. We stood around the Edith Cavell memorial statue with banners saying (something like) “Real men respect their partners” and “Real men are not violent towards women”. We handed out soggy leaflets to passers by explaining what the Reclaim the Night march is all about and telling an interested minority of them about why we were having the demo. We had a good time in spite of the rain and were cheered on by the hundreds of marchers as they went past us up the hill. We then headed to the rally venue to get a bit drier and warmer.

The demonstration was organised by the London Profeminist Men’s Group and the White Ribbon Campaign and was designed to show solidarity with the women marching and to show that it’s not only women who care about ending male violence towards women. Men are not welcome on the march itself as it is about women reclaiming the streets for themselves at night without fear and without male “protection”. The London Profeminist Men’s Group agrees that this is an important political statement to make and have tried to support the event in various respectful ways since we began meeting in November 07. This has included setting up stalls and preparing the venue for the rally after the march, having a stall at the rally and holding demonstrations in support of the march. We hope to continue to support this event into the future.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Feminism In London Crèche

Over a year ago in the run up to the first Feminism In London Conference we asked LFN about childcare for their conference and whether they needed any volunteers. Although we were too late and no crèche had been arranged we agreed to run the crèche for FiL 09 and true to our word a year later we’ve finally done it!

We were very busy in the run up to the conference with some guys taking responsibility for the workshop and me organising the crèche. On the day a total of 4 members of the group and 5 women from LFN volunteered at various times and we had 7 kids come and visit for various lengths of time throughout the day. We had a couple of babies visit with their parents and the rest stayed happily playing whilst their parents/carers enjoyed the rest of the conference, and most didn’t want to leave at the end!

We had great fun making sticking pictures, doing colouring, building and knocking over towers, reading stories, playing catch, making a giant space ship out of chairs and couloured material, playing with balloons, creating a small farm with toy animals and playing with cars.

As well as the kids having fun and their respective adults getting to enjoy the conference the volunteers mostly seemed to get a lot out of it too, one saying that they “should do this more often”.

The quote below is from the parent of a child who stayed the whole day in the crèche and it sums up why I feel it was such a success:

“I would like to thank you for the good care Konrad received yesterday in crèche. He enjoyed it and asked if he can come back tomorrow.
It is very good for him to be around pro-feminist men as he does not have many occasions in every day life.
Your support means that mothers can with confidence take part in events like FiL and not worry about childcare.
Thanks to everyone involved.”

Until next year (or the next crèche anyway), bye for now!

Posted by Jon

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Feminism in London 2009

The second Feminism in London conference held last Saturday (October 10th) at Conway Hall was a great success. As the London Pro-feminist Men's Group we felt very privileged to be able to take part, contribute and support the second LFN conference this year.

We took part in the conference in two main ways as a group. Firstly we supported the LFN conference, by providing childcare and secondly we contributed to the conference by facilitating a workshop entitled "What are the issues for pro-feminist men?".

We had two aims whilst we created the workshop, which were (1) to give a practical introduction to what we do in the London Pro-feminist Men's Group and (2) to get feedback from both men and women on issues for pro-feminist men and what we should / should not do.

By this we hoped to start answering the question posed in the workshop about the connection between men's life issues and the struggle for feminism. In the next part I will outline our aims for the workshop in more detail.

Ad 1.) In the introduction of the workshop we focused on what we do in our group, the essence of which is the traditional feminist practice of consciousness-raising, based on the idea that the personal is political. With men – since we are part of the oppressor group - this is a tricky process. We have to keep our attention on the ways that we are sexist, but making us feel bad about ourselves will not be helpful. Also, it is fairly easy to deal with the ways in which we are consciously sexist, but there are many unconscious ways in which we are sexist. These are often ways of being into which men are socialised from very early age. To change this conscious and unconscious sexism requires sustained work on oneself.

Obviously being a man comes with lots of advantages. We as men generally get what we want and can get away with pretty much everything, We have the luxury to be selfish, we earn more money, we are not expected to bother about our appearance or bother about childcare. At some point, when one looks at oneself and wider society though, it has to become clear that the way we traditionally act as men is not good for society on the whole and that in the long run it is also not good for us. In the end, one has to come to the conclusion that the ways we are treated as boys and the roles we are taught to play as men are not good and that if we continue to act, think and behave in sexist ways, they will cause us major difficulties in our lives - even as they give us dominant positions in society and power over women.


With that background, we felt it should be fairly clear why it is useful for men to meet separately: (i) in order to understand how we have been socialised as men, we need to share common life experiences; (ii) meeting without women is important in order to create the safety to be able to admit sexist behaviors (iii) men need to learn to create a real relationships with and get support from each other, rather than relying on women for emotional support.

Ad 2.) In the second part of the workshop we split into two groups - one female and one male. During the preparations for the workshop we had decided that we would facilitate the discussion in the men’s group and would not prescribe what the women would discuss. We had decided to do it like that, because we – as men – did not want to prescribe women what they should or should not talk about in a feminist environment. We did however encourage the women to talk about what it is they would / would not want from pro-feminist men.

In the end, two of us from the LPMG (London Pro-feminist Men’s Group) facilitated the men’s discussion, whilst LFN volunteer Jan volunteered on the spot to lead the women’s group discussion.


We started our discussion with a round in which we gave our names and an example of being sexist recently. Issues that came up were issues such as:

- interrupting women when they’re talking
- not challenging sexist jokes and comments in a group setting
- not listening to women when they give us feedback – perceiving it as nagging
- stereotyping women
- seeing women as objects

We then talked about how often one of us had organized childcare in the past year, if we had noticed how often man / women had talked in group settings or how often we’d felt fearful when we’d approached a stranger of the opposite sex in the street.

Not surprisingly none of us had organized childcare or felt fearful when approaching a stranger of the opposite sex in the street. We did feel however that men tend to speak more in mixed groups when compared to women. We used this exercise to underline the fact that women’s and men’s lives are very different and how different our positions in life are. Maybe in a way how harder and less safe it must feel to be a woman and how privileged we men are in our daily lives.

Due to time constraints we unfortunately did not get much chance to discuss how socialisation into boyhood / manhood had felt for us, which was what we’d originally planned to do. We did however shortly touch on the subject of pornography within our culture and the effects it has on men and our relationships to women.


At the end of the workshop the women that took part in the workshop gave us the following feedback.

the women wanted us (the men) to:


the women did not want us (the men) to:


Luckily, we had time to go through these, as we felt it was important that we get direct feedback from the women’s group. It was helpful to see that some of the issues we had discussed as men also had been talked about in the women’s group. Unfortunately there was not enough tome to think together about how we could practically work on these issues and what men can do to become more of a part in the struggle for feminism. In a sense though, I feel that some ideas about this came up in the initial discussion at the start of the workshop. The senses of what we – as men – can do in the struggle for feminism is (1) to get more involved in feminism and expose ourselves to feminism by attending events, conferences, fundraisers, marches and protests, (2) get involved or support in all-gender groups that support equality and struggle for feminism (e.g. OBJECT - or the FAWCETT SOCIETY - talk openly about our feminism with our friends and spread our thoughts and ideas in our circle of friends and acquaintances. Only if we as men do these important things, as well as keep in mind the "dos & donts" the women in our workshop presented us with, will we as men be able to make a practical contribution to the struggle for feminism.

A big thank you to everyone who came to the Feminism in London conference and a special thank you to everyone who came to our workshop. It was great working with you and we thought it was very valuable to hear all your thoughts and ideas! We were very pleased with the outcome of the workshop. Thank you also for your feedback on our workshop. If you have any further comments or questions with regards to our workshop, please send us an email.

Friday, 17 July 2009

No Pretence

The London Profeminist Men's Group (LPMG) wishes to thank and support the Anarcha-Feminists who made the "We Make No Pretence" intervention at the Anarchist Conference 2009.

The members of the LPMG cannot in anyway claim that they are less sexist than any men or anyone out there, whether inside or outside the anarchist scene. But we wish more men were interested in getting involved in discussion and consciousness raising groups that are here for us to work on our internal sexism and gender role and how it affects our lives and our everyday interaction with other people.

Oppression systems are everywhere. As individuals, we are sometimes on the good side of the power balance, sometimes on the bad side... It is more than time for everyone, including inside the anarchist movement, to get ready to be challenged. To stop "pretending nothing was said" and start asking why we're getting challenged by oppressed people. In this respect, white heterosexual men have to make lots of efforts. This is not about guilt. This is about realising our position in oppressive systems and taking responsibility for it.

Thanks to the group of Anarcha-Feminists for such a powerful and meaningful intervention. We do believe the "movement" needs to be shaken up.
We welcome the "Make no pretence" statement as well as the second statement written in response to the big reaction that the intervention provoked.

Finally, we condemn all hostility, intimidation and sexist reaction that the intervention has provoked.

Artificial sperm and the end of men??

Publication of a research paper on creating sperm cells from embryonic stem cells has created the usual media furore, complete with mostly uncritical hype about what this technology can actually achieve and a failure to ask scientists the really hard questions. Not being a pro-lifer I have no problem with the use of embryonic stem cells in basic research. However, the idea that sperm cells produced from embryonic stem cells in a laboratory could be used in fertility treatment is a dangerous and unethical technological fantasy. Like the idea of “therapeutic cloning”, what seems simple in theory will in practice prove practically impossible, precisely because it is so unnatural.

Much of the media discussion has focused on the idea that this might lead to 'men becoming redundant'. As with cloning, and the fears of armies of cloned soldiers, the point is not to take such scenarios literally, but to look beneath the surface at what the fears are really about. The scientific drive to abstract the whole of the human reproductive life cycle from its context of actual human bodies is just an example of the deep dynamic of science in our society. Since the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, the function of science has been to control nature and to impose order upon its random messiness, eventually to improve upon it, and ultimately to replace the need for it. What reproductive and biotechnology are now bringing home to us is that nature includes us. Thus, for the last 25 years we have seen the emergence of transhumanist/posthumanist movements, which look forward to the evolution through technology (including bio-, nano- and information technology) of posthuman beings (entities?). Feminists have been arguing since the 1970s that reproductive technology is an attempt to control and appropriate women's fertility, which aims ultimately to end the reliance on the female body for production of children, through artificial wombs. Now, it seems it is men's turn to feel this anxiety.

Of course, the capitalist-scientific drive to dominate nature is very male, (nature is gendered as female in nearly all cultures), and is one of the key features of patriarchy in our societies. What is interesting is that, by its own logic, it must also move to dispense with men's bodies, testes, penises.

There are feminist theories that argue that a major part of men's tendency to try to dominate women comes from a psychological insecurity which arises from the fact that men do not carry and give birth to children, which is, after all, a central part of human life. In that process, men feel like lightweights, and I think this latest research presses exactly on that nerve. That may be why, although the idea that men will become redundant is very unlikely, there has been so much interest in this bit of research.

David King
A fuller version of this blog can be found at
Here is an earlier comment by Mike Hurford and my response:

I have read your blogger with interest, but I appear to view our society in a way that none of you do. There are some very sexist and offensive men in our society. I agree. You seem to treat these men as an enemy, challenging their behaviour, and if you find yourselves acting in this way, you attempt to change your behaviour. My problem with your comments is this. Don’t think that a lot of women are equally sexist and offensive to men? There are many sexist women around today. Why don’t you challenge their behaviour in the same way? Feminism would be acceptable to me if it wasn’t so sexist, and didn’t keep generalising about the entire male sex.( Something that they claim to be fighting against, only about women). It seems to me that they, like you, are hypocrites. I have met many sexist people, men and women, but it is only the men who are challenged. The women are supported in their behaviour, by groups such as yours, and society in general. This is my view on feminism, and I would like one of you to discuss with me in an adult way where I’m going wrong. I look forward to a chat with you re the above. Regards M Hurford

Dear Mike,

Thanks for your post, and for raising an issue which seems to confuse a lot of people.

In my view, and I would guess most feminists would agree with me, the issue is not about making wrong generalisations. The feminist claim is there exists a system of oppression of women by men, called patriarchy. This system has existed in all societies we know about for the last few thousand years. In patriarchal societies women, women’s work, women’s values etc are systematically undervalued. Women are forced into a very narrow set of roles and possibilities for their lives. Women’s lives are ruled by men. Men abuse women sexually and with violence. There are too many examples to list, because patriarchy and sexism pervade everything in society. Although in Western liberal democracies some of the rough edges of this system have been knocked off in the last 40 years it is still very much in operation.

What this means is that contrary to what you seem to be assuming, there is no parity between men’s negative ideas about women, and women’s negative ideas about men. Men’s negative ideas about women are part of the system of oppression, and have a great deal of power associated with them. By contrast, women are comparatively much less powerful, and much of their hostility towards men is an understandable reaction to oppression. That does not excuse a general hostility to men, but we should be putting much more attention and energy into trying to deal with the oppression of women. Actually, I do not think that it is appropriate to use the term “sexism” to describe women’s hostility to men, because that word denotes not just a set of attitudes, but the fact that they occur within a system of massive inequality of power in favour of men. I don’t know what word we should use, there doesn’t seems to be one in English, but the key point is that sexism is not just about attitudes.

By the way, just in case you’re getting the wrong idea about where the group and I are coming from, the point of our group is not to beat ourselves up as bad guys. In agreeing with the feminist claim that women are oppressed under the system of patriarchy, we are also claiming that although men benefit from that, there are many aspects of the roles that men are forced into in that system that are harmful to men as well as women. Just one example would be the fact that men are supposed to be invulnerable and never seek support if they are feeling hurt or weak. So, in supporting feminism, we are working for the liberation of men as well.

Best Wishes
David King

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Can men be feminists?

Jon and I went to a discussion group at the Feminist Library today on the question of whether men can be feminists. Below is some of what was said and a couple of further thoughts by Jon and me on the topic.

Some ideas of today's talk:

  • Defining feminism as women-only means putting up gender barriers instead of destroying them
  • Feminism is a way of thinking - the gender of the person thinking it shouldn't matter
  • There should be another word than feminist to describe men who support feminism
  • Men shouldn't call themselves "pro-feminist" instead of "feminist" because it reinforces exclusive gender divisions
  • In some social situations, men have more to lose from standing up against sexism - because they can lose their position of privilege which women don't have in the first place. But is this an excuse for failing to do so?

Other issues and arguments

  • If feminism is women's liberation movement, then it must be women only. Men involved in women's liberation movement would be problematic because it would be very patronizing ("we'll liberate you").
  • Also, by calling what they are doing "feminist", men appropriate what belongs to women. It is argued that "feminist" is a term that ought to be reserved for those who have lived the embodied experience of growing up female and choose to resist the oppression that they experience as a result of this fact. Those who support that struggle should not colonise the term feminist but instead call themselves "pro-feminist" as their struggle is not the same as that of "feminists".
  • Alternatively, men can be feminists if feminism means being anti-patriarchy (bell hooks). Patriarchy is seen as the system of binary gender that oppresses everyone, albeit to very different extents, and anyone who resists this system of oppression can legitimately call themselves a feminist.
  • Seen more pragmatically, men need to be somehow involved in feminism for it to achieve its goals, because men are the ones who need to change the most.

Remaining open questions

Should we call ourselves pro-feminist or feminist men (or something else)?
And, to open another can of worms: If feminism is a way of thinking, and if it means destroying gender categories, isn't a "men's group" reinforcing those categories and thus sexist?

Comments welcome.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Pornography and Masculinity article by Robert Jensen

We're going to be reading this article (found at the following adderss by Robert Jensen about Pornography and Masculinity and discussing it at our meeting in a month's time so feel free to add to that discussion by coming along or commenting after this post or dropping us an email sometime.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Minutes of meeting: 30-03-2009

Attending: Dan, Dave, Jon, Filip & Björn

At the start of the meeting we discussed the new Facebook group Björn had created and together we had a look at the group's description. We discussed the text and made a few amendments to the description. We then opened the group to the whole of Facebook.

We started our discussions at about 12:20 and talked about various issues concerning masculinity. One of these was the fact that there seems to be a need in many men to be the “alpha male” and to compete with other men. We mainly talked about this in the context of anarchists, where it seems that male's (and females to some extent) compete on who is being the most radical / extreme or violent. A main focus of the discussion regarded the difficulty of ridding oneself of “masculinity” and that even as pro-feminist men one finds oneself competing in macho behaviors like these at times. This despite often feeling different from “those men”. When one realized though, how hard it is to escape one's own and society's masculinity, this results in a feeling of disappointment and / or annoyance with oneself.

Related to that, we talked about the G20 summit and the coming protests this week and how the potential for violence is scaring off people who might otherwise consider going. We discussed how this potential for violence is the backbone of a power struggle between the police and radical protesters. The police wants to deter as many people as possible from attending the protests, making use of their power and the potential violence. This might result in only the “hard core” of protesters going, which results in a very masculine struggle, consisting of violence and power.

We further discussed to what extent men are scared of other men in similar ways as women and how this at times prevents men from challenging sexist and misogynist behavior in other men. An example was a group of men with beer cans shouting something at a woman at a tube stop. The potential for violence and the strength of the group is scary to men as well and deters them from taking any action.

A reason we proposed for this was that when a man shows very masculine behavior (making sexist jokes in a pub or a sexist comment in the street) a challenge to this man will probably entice a more radical masculine response so that the male in question can retain their masculinity. This then might result in more verbal, or possibly physical abuse.In relation to this we talked about the question whether there were such things as “good” or “bad” moments when one can challenge strangers or people one knows and how difficult it can be when one feels one is fighting a fight against misogyny alone.

Our conclusion to this discussion was, that in a public place, a response to unacceptable behavior would probably not make an immediate change but would at least be exemplary to others who felt similar about the unacceptable behavior that occurred. It was also agreed that challenging the sexist behaviour of people we don't know is probably less likely to be effective than challenging the people we do know, and who are more likely to take our opinions on board.

Another point that was made later on was how important it is to do things collectively. This discussion led us to talk about the future of the group and we had the following ideas for the next few months:

- making more links with feminist groups and getting involved in more feminist events
- group reading of feminist / pro-feminist literature
- organizing crèches for feminist events in London
- doing more workshops and having a completed workshop “on file” that can be done by various members of the group
- keep the focus on the personal experience of “life as a man” in a patriarchal culture
- working more on accountability towards one another and challenging each other within the group with regards to own sexist/misogynist attitudes
- making a zine / e-zine

Engaging Men Conference

The global "Engaging Men" conference was held at the end of March in Rio de Janeiro.
The 5 stated goals of the conference are

1) To increase involvement of men and boys in the promotion of gender equality and the reduction of violence against women by scaling up existing work;
2) To build skills and capacity of NGOs committed to working with men and boys for gender equality;
3) To promote dialogue between existing NGO efforts, policy makers and private sector;
4) To highlight existing policies and best practices that can be reproduced to promote greater gender equality through the involvement of men and boys;
5) To build, strengthen, and expand a growing international network of programs, activists and policy makers dedicated to engaging men and boys in gender equality.

Find out more at

And check out this blog by the Canadian White Ribbon Campaign on the conference:

It's fantastic and really encouraging to see so many men's groups around the world working for gender equality.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Men Running Child Care

Some of us in the Profeminist Men's group work with children in various capacities already and we all share the conviction that profeminist men doing child care is a great idea. It’s one way we can support mothers and other carers (usually also women) and to facilitate feminist organising by giving parents and carers some free time to attend workshops, planning meetings etc. It also shows that men can provide loving child care and that raising kids isn’t “women’s work”. It's also something that men's groups in the 70s and 80s used to do to support the Women's Liberation movement and childcare at political events continues to be under provided today. Those of us that do work with kids also love it, and have really enjoyed doing childcare in a political context.

For example, one member of the group recently helped run a kidspace on Raven’s Ait (an island in the Thames near Surbiton) during the G20 protests. A few of us ran the crèche/playroom thing at the Gender, Race and Class conference at SOAS in February and a couple of us also ran a smaller crèche during a feminist planning meeting back in the summer. We’re planning to continue this work in various forms (Feminism in London Conference next year for one) and aim to work closely with the CRAP! Collective (Child Rearing Against Patriarchy) to develop further links with parents and carers who want to make sure that they and their kids are not excluded from political events.

Below is a report about the recent kidspace on the island, written by one of the organisers.

The kidspace and childcare cooperative was organised by the CRAP! Collective (Child Rearers Against Petriarchy), London Pro-feminist Mens Group, the Global Mutiny Network and the community of Ravens Ait island.
Raven's Ait is a squatted island on the River Thames near Surbiton, South London. This artificially made island, which is actually still common land, is steeped in political history, although more recently has been used for weddings and corporate events. The present occupants are creating an amazing peaceful space for community, an eco-conference centre, permaculture gardens and workshops on sustainability and environmental issues.
Raven's Ait was the perfect place for the kidspace. We had a large indoor playroom with views of the river and passing boats, and a stunning grass lawn for the kids to run around on on and climb trees. We had loads of fun playing games and doing forest-school inspired crafts, such as: making dreamcatchers/ spiders webs, nature crowns, tipis, parachute games, football, twister, a mini rock concert, lots of drawing and painting, Spanish singing, picnics and even played croquet on the lawn, dahling! Being at Raven's Ait also gave the children a chance to experience communal living and working, in a safe space, away from the noise of the city and the police brutality during the G20 protests.
Many actions and demos can easily be made more welcoming for children and their carers to participate in, and we would encourage this. However in respect to this weeks G20 protests, we made the decision that it was too unpredictable and heavy for our children to attend, and looking back on it we feel we made the right decision organising the kidspace away from the action.
Mainstream society is not very welcoming to parents, carers and children, and personally I feel that often activism isnt either. Capitalism places no value, monetary or otherwise, on the work parents do, and patriarchy designates it as women's work. As activists we need to challenging these notions. We need to ensure that as much value is placed on the role of childcare, as is placed on all other aspects of organising actions, demos, meetings, workshops, etc. We also need to be challenging the sexist notion that women should be looking after the children, by ensuring that more men are given childcare roles. Paid childcare is very expensive, and most of us cant afford to pay for it to go to meetings or do actions, so if childare isnt provided, or children aren't welcome at meetings etc than we just cant go. Even if childcare cant be arranged, than we should at least think about enabling children attend with their parents/ carers.
This is an appeal for all those organising in the UK at the moment to ensure that your organising facilitates parents, carers and children attending and getting involved.
Dont leave your friends behind!
To get involved:,,,

To listen to our radio interview on dissident island from the kidspace, visit and listen to G20 part 1, we're about 30 minutes into the show.


Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Men and Feminism Workshop @ Ladyfest, 10/5/08

Men and Feminism Workshop @ Ladyfest, 10/5/08
Notes from discussions

This workshop was run by Dan and Jon from the London profeminist men’s group. It was held on Saturday afternoon and lasted 1.5 hours. It took place in a fairly small room with between 18 and 25 people present throughout (as people came and left).

We went round and introduced ourselves saying a little something about why we were at the workshop.

FIRST DISCUSSION – in three small groups

How are boys and men socialized to become dominant?

Points made:
- The fear of the consequences of being different.
- Families, especially parents, treating children differently. Giving them different toys to play with, dressing them differently, etc.
- Stereotypes portrayed in the media of a certain type of dominant masculinity
- The potential threat of violence gives men power/dominance
- Men are expected to “stand up for themselves” which means carrying yourself in a certain way in the street. Putting up a front of bravado.
- Men are taught to be more goal oriented which leads to them being more straightforward in their demands. This in turn leads to them getting more when they do demand stuff, such as higher wages, and this increases their dominance further.
- Social expectations in general and peer pressure at school in specific – also from looking up to and copying older boys’ ways of interacting and ways of acting out a dominant masculinity.
- Control
- The question is kind of about nature vs nurture.
- In school boys tend to be noisy and get more attention because of this. This reinforces their self-importance
- Girls and boys are praised for different things and this reinforces certain dominant behaviours in boys.
- Boys and girls are encouraged to do different subjects at school.
- Competitive sport might be another way in which boys are taught to be dominant.
- Boys and girls bully in different ways

The links between competitive masculinity and capitalism were noted and it was suggested that men become more dominant because they’re taught to be behave in a way that increases their power in a capitalist society – being goal oriented, competitive, aggressive etc.

Are men really dominant? Obviously females can also fit within the dominant role.

SECOND DISCUSSION – in three small groups

It’s possible to see there being two moments profeminist groups are going through,

1) a moment where men identify and give up their privileges.
2) a consciousness raising moment, where men think about how we got to be this way, work on ourselves and talk about our negative life experiences

How should a profeminist group deal with these two issues:

Should they give up on the second one? Men’s negative experiences of gender should not be discussed in profeminist groups because they are very limited when compared to how other groups suffer under patriarchy.
Is the second issue even a "profeminist" issue? How is it supporting the feminist struggle to discuss men's problems?
Should these two issues be treated separately, making it clear that they are two different moments, or should we talk about them together?
Could the second issue be used as a "marketing strategy" to attract men to the group? Wouldn't that be politically dangerous?

Points made:
- Everyone is gendered: all forms and degrees of oppression can be fought
- Have an open group focussing on male experiences of (pro)feminism and patriarchy. Maybe call it a “gender discussion group” rather than a feminist group.
- Would men feel more comfortable in a men only space? Is most of the world already a men only space?
- The second moment is valid as a starting point for men arriving at feminism … but not as a marketing strategy?
- Challenge the understanding of the word “feminism/profeminism” and make people understand what it really is, not the cultural clichés that have grown from it.
- Moment 1) is very individualistic and assumes very altruistic men. But it’s in men’s self-interest to fight patriarchy too.
- While some men do come to feminism through altruism or a sense of injustice this might be unsustainable.
- Men “giving up power” is far too simplistic. Profeminism is not an act of charity or pity.
- Consciousness raising is very important, but we must remember the political dimension.
- Foucault said something about how the oppressions of society are inside us and we all know the personal is political so… maybe sharing feelings/being unmasculine together is political.
- Is this really feminist though? Is there a difference between challenging patriarchy (through developing a new form of (un)masculinity) and feminism? Maybe it’s not feminist but is profeminist?
- Remember, just talking about it might not lead to real changes in our lives.
- Men overthrowing their gender roles is a very important step towards ending patriarchy.

THIRD DISCUSSION – all together

What do we think profeminist groups should look like, do, talk about etc?

· should there be men only profeminist groups / Are men only profeminist groups useful for feminist struggles? Couldn't we compare this to bosses gathering together to think about freeing the workers... or white only groups working on black liberation.
· what do you think are the main dangers a profeminist group should avoid?
· what topics do you think the group should discuss?
· what actions should the group be doing other than meeting and talking with each other?
· what kind of support are feminist groups expecting from a Men's profeminist group? theoretical, practical, financial?
· what should be the goals of a profeminist men’s group?
· should a men's only group be "monitored" by women’s feminist groups?
· should a men's only group always be "attached" to a women’s feminist group?

On the first question, “should there be men only profeminist groups?”
- They are a good was to focus on men becoming feminist
- But men already have their own spaces in society and isn’t this just reproducing that?
- Depends on why the group exists, what role that group takes
- Important for the group not to take over women’s struggles and for men to take a back seat in mixed feminist organisations
- We need mixed spaces so maybe the group could link with a women’s group
- A non-judgmental space where men can express masculinity
- The group should protest outside strip clubs. A men only protest would cause a greater media stir than a mixed or women’s group doing the same. This would (rightly) piss off a lot of women who have been already doing this for years!

On the second question, “what are the main dangers a profeminist group should avoid?”
- Reconstructing (reproducing?) the fixed identity of “man”
- Getting too hung up on “men’s rights” issues
- Mainstream approach
- Condemning men who are violent/macho when they have no choice – e.g. men on a working class estate who believe they might sometimes need to fight to survive. [question: does being violent = being macho?]
- Being inactive for fear of a (real) feminist backlash from women! In other words fearing to undertake certain types of activity for fear of being told we’re doing the wrong thing by certain groups of feminists. But remember there’s plenty we can do which doesn’t involve stepping on any feminist toes.

Apparently at least one small group came to a rough consensus that a men’s only group was ok but that a mixed group would probably be better in lots of ways.

The group intends to take these comments on board, discuss them at the next meeting and decide how to change the group based on those discussions.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Interesting article

Below is an interesting article about men and feminism which some of you might be interested in. Thanks to Sarah for sending this in our direction.

Men and gender justice: old debate, new perspective

Emily Esplen

The expanding intellectual interest in "masculinities" is welcome but needs greater involvement by gender-justice and women's-rights specialists if it is to be the vehicle of progress, says Emily Esplen.

28 - 02 - 2008

The nature of men's involvement in the struggle for gender justice has long fiercely divided gender-equality advocates. After nearly three decades of disagreement this seam of tension doggedly persists, little engaged with and largely unresolved.

Even as the women's movement remains hesitant, often bordering on hostile, to the idea of men's involvement, the "masculinities agenda" is striding forwards with innovative work on men and masculinities - even though it is at times often flawed in its understanding of power and in the way it merely counterposes to the idea of women's empowerment a focus on working with men "for their sake".

The most promising work in this field is happening at the level of the personal: it concentrates on transforming men's sexual behaviour, challenging violence against women and relations of fatherhood. The pioneering work of organisations like the Instituto Promundo in Brazil, which supports young men to question traditional gender norms and promote gender-equitable behaviours and attitudes, has shown that, yes, men can change. Other organisations, like the Sonke Gender Justice Network in South Africa are taking work with men in exciting new directions, reorienting existing projects aimed at individual men and politicising it in order to promote men's broader mobilisation around structural inequities and injustices. Futhermore, organisations working with men are themselves coming together to facilitate sharing and learning, enabling a stronger, more coherent struggle, as with the recently established "Men Engage" global alliance which seeks to involve men and boys in reducing gender inequalities.

A unique opportunity

This current momentum offers a unique opportunity to advance the common goal of realising gender equality. But while the proliferation of organisations working with men for gender justice is welcome, it is notable that very few of them have close and direct relationships with the women's movement. True, some do have looser connections or networks that include people active in the women's movement in individual countries, but even these are rare. This creates a discernible danger that "masculinities" will become - or has become already - a discrete field of thinking and practice, somehow disconnected from the women's movement and from gender and development more broadly.

Indeed, a depressing reality is coming into view whereby "gender" seems - even among those most committed to the gender agenda - repeatedly to be conflated with women. As long as connections between the women's movement and those working with men remain fragile (at best) to non-existent (at worst), femininities are likely to be rendered invisible in evolving masculinities discourses. The result is that - once again - the fundamental interconnectedness of men and women and the relational nature of gendered power will be lost.

Indeed, I've been repeatedly struck at recent seminars and conferences on "engaging men in gender equality" by the meagre representation from the gender and development field: a couple of us at most, in an audience comprised overwhelmingly of specialists in sexual and reproductive health and rights. In part, this points to one of the weaknesses of the current masculinities field: the overwhelming focus on sexual health and violence, and the corresponding failure to engage sufficiently with equity issues: among them equal pay and leave entitlements, representation in politics, parental rights and benefits, and domestic work/housework. The lack of attention to such issues results in the waste of opportunities to advance shared concerns.

A false equivalence

There are other dangers in refusing to engage constructively with the evolving men and masculinities discourse. While many organisations working with men are deeply informed by feminist thinking and practice, others are less grounded in a pro-feminist framework. As the masculinities bandwagon gathers momentum, there is a temptation to slip into modes of thinking and language that (for example) regard women and men as equivalently vulnerable (i.e. women are harmed by femininity and men are harmed by masculinity), or even describe men as "worse off" than women.

This is reflected in the way that much of the discourse of men and masculinities has been expressed in terms of a "crisis in masculinity". It's certainly the case that many men share with the women in their lives similar experiences of indignity as a result of social and economic oppression. Yet it is important to recognise the real differences in power and privilege experienced by women and men on the basis of gender, and to avoid glossing over men's accountability for the ways in which they choose to act out their privilege. While it's important to engage with poor men's realities, this should be done without positing men as the "new victims".

At a symposium in October 2007 on "Politicising Masculinities", organised by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), it was noted that this issue of false equivalence surfaces frequently in discussions of men's own experience of violence. It is not uncommon to hear the statement that "men are also victims of violence at the hands of women". Such comments can be profoundly unhelpful, not least because this violence is nothing like on the same scale as the many forms of violence experienced by women from men. Alan Greig made clear at the IDS symposium that the mere counterposing of women's and men's experience and perpetration of violence is a trap; the challenge is rather to help illuminate the workings and functions of violence within the systems of oppression that organise our different societies, while holding accountable the individuals and institutions (mostly men and male-dominated) that are responsible for enacting this violence.

But to have some influence over the evolving masculinities discourse and practice in a way that avoids positing men as the "new victims" requires working in solidarity with those in the masculinities field who do understand power and the core issues of gender equality and justice. Now is an opportune time to open up the debate and advance thinking on what it would take to build bridges between the feminist/women's movement and those working with men. The eleventh Association for Women's Rights in Development (Awid) forum in November 2008 is on the horizon, with a timely focus on the power of movements; Men Engage are hosting their first global conference in early 2009 on engaging men and boys in gender equality; and the fifty-third United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will focus on engaging men in caring for people living with HIV.

These spaces offer a much-overdue opportunity for open, constructive dialogue between the feminist/women's movement and organisations working with men for gender justice. It's high time we started to have these conversations - to ask some of the questions people don't like to talk about. It's striking how little we really know or understand about women's hostility towards working with men, or indeed about men's experiences of trying to work with feminist and women's organisations. What will it take to build bridges? How can we promote dialogue and foster greater solidarity? How can we reframe our engagement with questions of masculinities and power so that new alliances can be created, bringing work on masculinities into the heart of movements for social and gender justice?

I don't have the answers - in fact, I doubt that straightforward or singular answers exist. But I do believe these are questions that badly need to be asked if we are to progress beyond the current polarisation of issues that ought to be everyone's concern. The inadequacies of focusing on women in isolation have long been recognised; if we are really serious about achieving a gender-just world, it's time for a more open debate to begin.

Emily Esplen is research and communications officer at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

Monday, 25 February 2008

Minutes from 24/2/08

>>Women acting dumb<<

We discussed our experience of women tending to “act dumb” in conversations with us as men, when we know that they are more intelligent. We thought that this was a learnt behaviour which, among other things, played the role of bolstering men’s ego’s by making them seem like the clever one in the conversation. One gay man present said that he’d never experienced women “dumbing down” in conversations with him which made us think that about it might have to do with more than just boosting male egos.

One thing we didn’t discuss (but should have!) was how we could react positively if we’re ever aware of a woman pandering to our ego by pretending to be stupider than they are.

>>Men and emotions<<

We thought about the questions, what do we do with our feelings, both positive and negative? What is our first reaction? Is it to share them with people around us? Keep them to ourselves? We agreed that often when we don’t talk about our feelings but kind of want to it’s as if we’re waiting for someone to ask us how we’re feeling. For most of us it’s normally a woman we’re waiting for to ask us that question. We’re not used to men using emotional language, asking us how we’re doing etc. Most of us are also not good at asking those emotional questions ourselves.

We talked about the phenomenon of men hiding themselves away from the world, deliberately isolating themselves. This is something that some of us had experienced to different levels of intensity. This isolation can become a kind of comfort zone that it’s hard to escape from, and can also be very lonely. Is this about mental health, or being male? Probably both, we thought.

We mentioned how sometimes we just don’t know how we’re feeling or don’t even realise when we’re having a feeling. We’ve all been taught in different ways to become boys and then men and a key element of this is learning not to show any of our emotions. We all recognised how this happened at school and was probably mot intense in single sex schools. We also talked about how we can unlearn this behaviour and start to reveal more of ourselves to the world, be more open about our feelings and learn to feel more.

We talked about doing a radio interview for Dissident Island Radio.

Two future topics for discussion were also suggested.

1) Are all people raised as men sexist?

2) Our friendships with women.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Recent discussion on homophobia and other issues

Minutes from 20/1/08

We talked about how we were feeling and tried to answer the question “how have we experienced life as a man in the last 2 weeks?”

>>Men and Emotions<<

We talked about how the majority of men we come in contact with just don’t talk about their emotions. We agreed it’s very hard to “reach out to” these men sometimes and there was some disagreement over how important it is to try to “convert” other men to be more profeminist.

>>Learning from Women’s Groups<<

We discussed how (probably due to socialisation into a more caring and thoughtful role) women’s way of doing politics is often much more inclusive in terms of making new people to a group feel at ease and welcomed and that as men we feel we’re not taught to be good at this! This led us to thinking about whether we want to emulate women’s “way of doing politics”, following a kind of women’s lib model, raising consciousness etc. and to what extent that just wasn’t possible (or desirable) as a men’s group. We didn’t get very far on this but agreed it should be a topic for further discussion another week.

>>On Homophobia<<

We talked about our own understandings of homophobia from an early age and how we’d all been called “gay” as an insult at school. We mentioned our various sexual experiences and fantasies about other men, and also discussed our own homophobic attitudes that we wished we didn’t have. One of these attitudes was finding overtly camp and flamboyant gay men intimidating and having some unconscious desire for other men to be “sensible”. Another was about feeling insulted when called gay.
We also mentioned (although didn’t really develop) the idea of how homophobia is a key ingredient in dominant masculinity and how homophobia supports patriarchy.

More positively we also talked about the feeling of loving to be surrounded by queer people, trans, or overtly camp gays or butch lesbians. How exciting it is being with people breaking norms. But then we questioned whether this could be a sort of “politically correct” form of solidarity, that you HAVE to like this or else you’re not a real tolerant left wing profeminist! We even questioned whether it is not a form of homophobia to even feel that we have to react or have to have an opinion about camp flamboyant gay guys, trans people etc. In response to this idea we discussed how enjoying a certain culture/atmosphere normally doesn’t represent a form of discrimination but is most probably a celebration of that culture. However, we never really know what’s going on in our subconscious, so who can really say!

This led us to talk about …

>>Self Criticism<<

We agreed that self criticism and reflection are fundamental to recognising and starting to deal with our own sexism and that this group should foster such self criticism.
We discussed how self critical it was appropriate to be, particularly in the light of some men’s habit of being overly self critical in front of others in order to elicit pity and reassurance. We agreed that this ought to be a safe place to be as self critical as possible and that the other men could be supportive in correcting someone who was being too harsh on themselves. We then wondered if this might become a form of male solidarity with us all letting each other off the hook for being sexist or using porn or whatever, and that this might not be very helpful. Someone knew a guy who’d been in profeminist groups before who felt that the biggest pressure to change his behaviour came from feminist women telling him off quite violently(!), not from the other men in the group. This reminded us of the importance of keeping close friendships with feminists and the importance of also being in mixed gender groups. We also questioned, from personal experience, whether this “being told off” by feminist women would change attitudes and feelings as well as behaviour.

Minutes from 3/2/08

We talked about how we were feeling and tried to answer the question “how have we experienced life as a man in the last 2 weeks?”

>>On Homophobia<<

- We discussed how the “flamboyant camp gay man” was an unhelpful stereotype to keep bringing up. It was suggested that this behaviour could, on some level, be a kind of “I’m proud of being gay so deal with it” to all the homophobes out there. We questioned why we’d focussed on it at all. We decided it’s because for some of us it was an important part of our homophobia; that we tended to focus on this particular stereotype.
- Men shaking hands with other men but kissing a woman in a social situation, this reinforces gendered behaviour (obviously) but also keeps men’s bodies apart and could be related to homophobia between men.
- We wondered whether men in activist groups could be crudely characterised by saying the more direct action focussed they are the more likely they are to be masculinist and homophobic because of it being a macho type activity.
- Male homophobia keeps men apart and they lose out on tenderness and affection. One thing suggested by Basil Elias in his article “Starting your own group for men against sexism” which Jon read on, was for the men in the group to try walking round the block holding hands together to start to break down some of these homophobic barriers. He also says (rather hilariously) “How many guys, when hugging, look like we’re burping each other?”!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Hi people,

Don't worry if you missed the Feminist Activist Forum events last weekend - which were totally awesome by the way, as there are plenty more opportunities for activism and politically engaging gender stuff that are open to men coming up, so get these dates in your diaries ...

1) London Profeminist Men's Group meeting - Sunday 3rd Feb @ 3 or 4pm @ Dave's place

2) Abortion Rights protest - Wednesday 6th Feb @ 6:30 @ Central Hall Westminster, see for more info.

3) Socialist feminist reading group - Friday 8th Feb @ 7:30 to 9:15 @ Lucas Arms pub, this month they're discussing what is gender and sex difference! For more info and to find the texts to read go to

4) Launch of the new Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution - Monday 11th Feb @ 6:30 @ Amnesty International centre near Old St, see for more details.

5) FEM 08 - Saturday 26th April in Sheffield, see the website for more info and to book your place now! It's a free conference on feminism and is open to everyone - should be a awesome!

6) Ladyfest London - May 9th - 11th. An Arts festival celebrating female art stuff with plenty of feministy workshops and general goodness going on across the capital! See

7) Also ongoing is the newly launched Fawcett Society campaign, Justice for rape victims. On the website they have options for different responses depending on how much time you have to spend on the issue from signing a letter to going to see your MP. Check out the website at

That's all for now, do send anymore things like this our way (add a comment or email the group).