The loss of power and the ‘Men’s Movement’

When I was teaching there was some interesting research going around regarding boys perception of teacher’s time spent with boys and girls.
Firstly, by analysing video of many co-ed classes the research found that boys overwhelmingly received more of the teacher’s time – if my memory serves me correctly it was at least a two-to-one ration. What was interesting though was the boys perception of teachers’ time. In these same classes, boys reported that the teachers spent about the same amount of time with boys as with girls.
Further, whenever teachers took any action to redress the objective measure of imbalance the boys complained that the teachers were spending too much time with the girls and they weren;t getting a fair go.
I have a suspicion that the modern ‘Men’s Movement’ is an expression of the same phenomenom.
I was prompted again to think about this after reading Farah Farouque’s moving piece The male backlash in The Age.
There is no doubt that many men feel alienated, lonely and feel an extreme loss of identity and the most common trigger for those feelings is marriage breakdown. You can only feel compassion for the plight of these men.
However, as Eva Cox points out, the use of “victim strategies” by the men’s movement, previously adopted by early feminists with little success are equally likely to provide only false hope to men. One of the most prominent, and politically successful aims of these groups has been to push for more male teachers in primary schools. They argue that boys are being brought up to be too “girly” and this is another factor driving a wedge between them and their non custodial sons.
This is the tip of the iceberg for these groups. At the heart of their argument is that the pendulum has swung too far. Rather than being discriminated against, women now have it all in their favour and men are left out. As chriscurnow.com pointed out recently, this is partly due to the loss of identity many of these men feel as a result of the collapse of manufacturing industry throughout the western world.
But it is also typical of men to ‘find an enemy’. In these men’s eyes, women have become the enemy. This is so sad, because the only possible outcome of this view is to perpertate the problem and further alienate men.
Far from needing more blokey male role models, these men, and the boys who will become them, need to learn about relationship. Most seperated men just didn’t see it coming. They are not able to recognise the signs of a deteriorating relationship. They think that a few arguments are just normal and even if they do have an inkling that there is a problem they don’t have the skills to do anything about it.
We men are all tought to ignore relationships and rely on outward signs of success or manhood for our identity. We are all tought ‘not to cry’ – if not by our parents, we soon learn it in the schoolyard. We learn that we talk about football, fast and powerful cars, fast and powerful computers and women with big boobs. We learn that we don’t talk about how we feel.
It is not women who are our enemy it is ourselves. It is the hardest thing in the world to break out of the mould after forty or so years of conditioning and talk about how we feel but that’s just what we need to do. If only we could teach our boys to be real men. Strong men. Men who are fully men with all the emotions and characteristics of full human beings. Men who can enjoy taking a car apart and putting it back together again and at the same time can sit around with other men discussing the real beauty of the women they love and how they could love them better. These are the sorts of role models our boys need.
[For further information phone Mensline on 1300 78 99 78 or visit www.mensline.org.au]

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