@ Dave’s house
Present: Adrian, Daniel, David, Jon, Nathan and Seb
We went round and introduced ourselves, said how we heard about the group and how we got interested in gender issues in the first place.
What shall we discuss?
We planned to talk about our fathers again and to talk about whether to be a men only or mixed group.
Someone wanted to talk about fathers first as this would make us focus emotionally, not just debating intellectual stuff.
But then we realised that before we discuss that, we ought to decide what sort of group we are going to be. Will it be more of a support group (that allows us to be emotionally deep and vulnerable etc.) or more of a campaigning/activist group? If it’s mainly about action then there’s less of a case for excluding women.
We discussed how important a supportive environment was to build trust and deal with certain issues before we could all work together on particular actions.
One person told us how there have already been lots of feminist groups showing an interest, through email and in person, in working with us in some capacity (protests, working on events together etc.) and lots of women showing solidarity and support more generally.
Decision: We want to be both a support group for men and also a group that would have input from women at certain times and would do campaigning/activism stuff working closely with women.
Someone mentioned wanting to be able to have a pro-feminist perspective on some f-word blog stuff (for example), maybe we could do this on our blog.
Another person mentioned that we need to make it clear we’re not a men only cult that beats ourselves with sage bushes!
Having decided to be men only at our regular meetings we realised we’d need to think about just how overt we’re going to be about that. It’s probably clear from the name, blog etc, but we probably wouldn’t choose to exclude a woman who was very keen to come, but ask her why she wanted to come along and also ask her to read the revised copy of the piece we’re writing to explain our reasons for being a men only group.
Action point: We’ll edit the document together so we come up with our generally agreed position on why we want to be men only at our regular meetings.
Another idea for the future was to alternate weekly between having a men only environment and a mixed meeting for planning and debating stuff.
Carried on from last week by going round and each talking for 5-10 minutes about our fathers, what they were like and how they’ve influenced us.
Every man had a very different relationship to his father(s). Between us we have people who never knew their biological father, people brought up mainly or exclusively by women and people who’s biological dad and mum are still together. We have dads who were very affectionate and dads who were very distant, dads who we enjoyed being around, dads who we struggle to be around and dads who we can’t be around any longer, dads who were clearly the head of the family and dads who gave the final say over most things to their partner, dads of very different political leanings and dads from all walks of life.
We also found some similar ideas popping up.
Some people mentioned how their fathers would go into their shell in an emotional situation (particularly when another person was angry/upset) and either shut down completely, go silent and not respond or put on a very logical and in control front that masks any emotional response. We agreed that this made the other (often female) person seem irrational and stupid and this tactic would result in the man “winning” the argument, even if they were in the wrong the whole time. Both the men who mentioned this about their fathers said they did this too and didn’t like it.
Several mentioned again how their fathers don’t have many friends, or even have no friends other than those they have through their partner. Some men felt like they were getting to know their fathers better now and possibly becoming a friend to them. Another described his relationship with his dad as more like a friend/mate than a father. Some others found the relationship with their father to be much colder and harder work than that.
We also mentioned the lack of an emotional language inherited from our fathers although we talked less about this than we did last time. We linked this to our fathers’ lack of friends with whom they could talk deeply.
We also talked a bit about vulnerability, and our difficulty with it. It’s a natural human thing not to want to put yourself at risk of being harmed but seems to be harder for men – we’re taught not to show weakness and not to be vulnerable, especially in front of other men. We also discussed whether being vulnerable was an attractive quality in a man. We agreed that it was a matter of opinion and that there are people who that see vulnerable men as unattractive and others that see them as attractive.
Jon felt that everyone who’s involved in meetings should have access to the email account so they could see which groups and individuals have been contacting us and so other people could respond to incoming emails if they wanted to. We shared the password with the men who were left at that stage.
We also agreed that one member would reply to the Spanish journalist who asked if she could interview someone from the group about the increasing trend of women taking lessons in pole dancing as a form of exercise.
Next meeting: Sunday 6th January at 3pm at Dave’s house again.
Dan will introduce the new topic of seduction and relationships with his own personal experience.