Third meeting of the London Pro-feminist Men’s Group
29/11/07 @ LARC
Present: Adrian, Daniel, David and Jon
More men seem to be interested in gender issues recently – more men than last year at Reclaim the Night, possible new men’s groups in Brighton, Northern Ireland and Melbourne, new men’s Coalition set up in UK, lots happening from government too – all very exciting.
We all agreed that Vandana Shiva = cool and that we should probably read some of her stuff on the environment and feminism at some point.
- How we got interested in gender politics?
We all mentioned the strong influence of feminist women in our lives (mothers, sisters, friends and partners) who had made these political ideas personal and real. Some mentioned reading theory too, but emphasis was on those important women.
- Why did we come to the group?
Reasons for coming to the men’s group included wanting to have other people influence our personal gender politics again, challenging ourselves to mix more with other men, wanting a safe space where we could be more relaxed and feel like certain masks could fall off and develop deep relationships and start to address some of the ways masculinity has messed with our heads. This discussion led into the following question:
- Should we be a mixed or men only group?
Without answering this question we had some discussion and agreed to think about it more next time.
- Our Fathers
This was to be the main area of discussion for the meeting. We took it in turns to speak for around 10 minutes about our fathers and then asked each other questions for another 20 minutes or so.
Everyone had had very different relationships with their fathers and our stories focussed on our father’s characters, their treatment of us as sons, their role within the family and their ability to communicate emotionally.
We noticed a common theme of fathers lacking an emotional language to speak to us in. Those who’s fathers were present were not emotionally available because of this. All fathers found it hard to reach out and to ask for help, and this is was passed on through the generations. This reinforced the idea that men are supposed to be self-reliant and dependable, not emotionally “weak”.
The culture we live in expects boys and men not to need emotional support. We’re left with lots of unexpressed feelings and desperately want someone to ask us what’s wrong and to ask us exactly the right question. We end up desperately wanting that one person to ask us and to support us. We are also crap at noticing when someone else needs reaching out to as the whole thing is based on the idea that men are fine, they are sorted, they don’t need help. This is one reason why it’s so embarrassing and awkward for men to see another man crying and why depression is so taboo.
We also mentioned our fathers’ inability to engage with feminist ideas for various reasons.
We also discussed our feelings about being or becoming fathers ourselves. Some men talked about being terrified of being a father or just never wanting to be a father. We all agreed that the desire not to repeat our own fathers’ mistakes is very powerful. We might either end up reproducing stuff anyway (maybe subconsciously) or we may work so hard to avoid the obvious mistakes we over compensate!
We also mentioned ways in which our fathers’ attitudes and actions had influenced us and how even when we weren’t behaving like them, those behaviours were often just beneath the surface.
We ran out of time at this point and agreed to continue the same 2 discussions next time – whether to be a mixed group and our fathers.
Next meeting to be at 4:00 (to fit more discussion in) at Dave’s house on Sunday 16th December.