Sunday, 9 December 2007

Minutes from 29/11/07

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.


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the minutes. What about the positive impact your fathers had in your lives? Just thought those points were missing, did they come up in the discussion at all?


  2. Hi! wanted to get in contact with you guys but your email address doesnt seem to be working. Could you please please please let me know how i can get in contact with you?

  3. Hi Clare,

    To answer your question, we did all mention good things about our fathers and their impact on us. One person emphasised that their father was always really interested in his life and what he was up to another said his father was always good at giving him hugs and another mentioned how his father was a very peaceful man and was never violent!

    Hope that adds some balance to what is (I agree) a bit one sided! We did make more detailed notes on what we said about our own dads which we didn't feel comfortable posting publicly, as I'm sure you can understand. We're gonna carry on this discussion at our next meeting (later today in fact) and hopefully the next post will be more balanced.

    Thanks for reading our blog btw!

  4. Hi all

    Just wanted to say I think what you're doing is a great thing and I admire your courage in taking these steps and breaking down the taboos and barriers. I look forward to meeting you at feminist events in 2008.

    I've read that back and worry it might sound patronising, but I just wanted to give you a positive message really!


  5. Hi Sally,

    We'll take all forms of encouragement we get! (and I don't think it sounds patronising anyway)

    In fact getting loads of encouragement from feminist women is maybe something we should discuss in the group sometime - is it similar to when men get praised for doing the washing up or doing some child care? Could it could end up being a reason for us wanting to seem more feministy than we are? Playing up to some idea that we are the "good guys" and the rest are "bad guys"! Could be dangerous! But then again, it's always nice to get encouragement - ho hum, dunno where this one's going really. Maybe I should write something on this properly sometime or send it round the discussion list.

    Anyway, thanks for your positive comment and good luck in whatever you're up to.


  6. I wanted to post my encouragement to you as well.
    I'm reading your blog from the USA with great interest.