Psychologist Martin Seager is undertaking research on the ancient rules of masculinity in an attempt to put these rules into words. Martin, a pioneer of male psychology in the UK, is hosting a male psychology conference in 2014 and has been campaigning for several years for the British Psychological Society to approve a Male Psychology Section.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this week Martin said there are three ancient rules of masculinity which we’ve been which add up to a male script:
Men should be fighters and winners
Men should be protectors and providers
Men should retain mastery and control
Seager says these are shame rules which means that when a man is unable to remain control or to provide or be a winner he may sit on those feelings which can make him more vulnerable to suicide for example.
Glen Poole of the National Conference for Men and Boys organising committee offers a personal opinion on our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys.
This week, the Metropolitan Police Service has apologised “unreservedly” for the “excessive and unlawful force” that killed a man at the G20 protests in London in 2009.
Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old newspaper seller, was caught up in the demonstrations in the City of London as he walked home in April 2009. He was attacked with a baton from behind by Police Constable Simon Harwood, collapsed minutes later and died of internal bleeding.
Harwood was found not guilty of manslaughter but was later sacked by the Met Police for gross misconduct.
An inquest jury found Ian Tomlinson was the victim of an unlawful killing, but what nobody seems to be saying is that Mr Tomlinson was also the victim of violence against men and boys.
Every year, all over the world, men and boys are four times more likely to die a violent death. According to the World Health Organisation, men and boys account for 81% of the people who die violently each year. In total nearly half a million (455,000) men are boys are killed violently every year at a rate of one man dying of violence every minute of every day.
We are, it seems, more tolerant of violence against men—that’s all of us, men and women, together we have a greater collective tolerance of violence against men.
For every woman who is killed violently, four men are killed and there are no global campaigns to end violence against men and boys, yet there are global UN-sponsored campaigns to end violence against women and girls.
Women account for 19% of violent deaths and the international community has decided we need a global campaign to end violence against women and girls, but no campaign to help men and boys—and this is symptomatic of the fact that all over the world men and women are more tolerant of violence against men.
Can we say without doubt that the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson was because he was a man?
Tomlinson was a separated father who had struggled with alcoholism and was living in a homeless shelter. He was working casually selling the Evening Standard newspaper and got caught up in the G20 riots while trying to take his normal route home from work—by all accounts he just wanted to get back to his homeless shelter and his way home was blocked by police—and as the film footage clearly shows, one of them attacked him from behind.
Did this happen because he was a man?
As a man we can certainly say he was at far more likely to be separated from his children, have alcohol problems and be homeless—as a man we can also say he was far more likely to be the victim of violence on the street and it seems reasonable to speculate that if the police had attacked and killed a female passer-by that day, that our reaction would have been different because we are collectively more tolerant of violence against men and boys.
I saw this collective tolerance in action whilst watching a video of an anti-fracking protest in a nearby village in Sussex this week. Men and women joined arms to form a barricade put the police broke it up by inflicting pain on two of the protestors—it was a level of pain that would no doubt be deemed as “reasonable force”, but it is notable that the pain wasn’t inflicted on two women, or even a man or woman, but on two men.
Why as men, if we go on a demonstration, are we more likely to have pain inflicted on us than any women we go with? Why as men are we more likely to be hit by a baton and die? Why as men are we more likely to be killed in the street by a stranger? Why as men are we four times more likely to die a violent death.
Is it simply because of our gender? Did being a man make Ian Tomlinson more likely to be killed when he got mixed up in the G20 protests. Is it because we tolerate violence against men more than we tolerate violence against women?
We certainly seem to tolerate men’s disposability more—whether it’s male soldiers dying in combat, male suicide, men dying at work, men like Ian Tomlinson being separated from his children, becoming homeless, becoming alcoholic, being killed by the police.
Readers in the UK and USA will be familiar with the names of Stephen Lawrence and Trayvon Martin—young black teenagers killed probably because they were black and definitely because they were men.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission in the UK tells us that black men are twice as likely as black women to be the victims of race hate crimes and gay men are twice as likely to be the victims of homophobic hate crimes. Because they are men—because we are more tolerant of violence against men —gay men and black men are at greater risk of violence than their female counterparts.
I grew up not in the Seventies and Eighties when it was deemed acceptable for male and female teachers—even the terrifying dinner ladies who paraded the playgrounds—to physically assault children. Though in reality it was the boys who took the bulk of the physical punishment. The last assault I was on the receiving end of personally was from a male teacher in 1985 — he grabbed me by the hair and shook me shortly before I took one of my O Levels—not the best preparation for an exam!
I often saw boys pulled about by the hair by adults in school—but never girls—because we are more tolerant of violence against men and boys.
Why when the Home Office tells us that six out of 10 people killed by someone they know and nine out of 10 people killed by a stranger are men and boys do we have a national strategy to end violence against women and girls, but no strategy to help men and boys?
Who is looking out for the boys around the world who are beaten and bullied at school, the men and boys sent to war, the men and boys subjected to rape and sexual abuse and domestic violence who find it far harder than their female equivalents to access help and support?
Why on earth is there no law to stop people cutting off parts of a boy’s genitals without an anaesthetic for no medical reason, when there are laws to prevent lesser procedures on girls (like piercing or nicking). When it happens to girls we call it violence against women and girls. When we hear that a baby boy bleeds to death from the end of his penis in the UK in the 21st Century there not a single MP prepared to stand up in parliament and say this must end—and no-one dares to call it violence against men and boys.
So where are the feminists who claim to be fighting for gender equality in all of this? If women were four times more likely to die a violent death than men it would be a gender equality matter—so why not when it’s men?
Maybe that isn’t feminism’s job. If not, then where are the men’s rights activists? Why haven’t they created a global campaign to help the men and boys of the world be free from violence and abuse?
Part of the challenge is that to acknowledge our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys, men’s rights’ activists would also have to acknowledge that the majority of (not all) violence against men is perpetrated by men—they couldn’t credibly blame feminism or women for the majority of violence against men and boys—though some would try.
And because of this—because of the tendency of men’s rights advocates to see the world through the filter “men have problems and women and feminism are the problem”—focussing on stopping all violence against men and boys detracts from highlighting cases where men are victims of women’s bad behaviour.
As a result, it is currently pro-feminists who seem to be more likely to highlight the issue—or at least part of the issue of our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys. There is a growing “patriarchy hurts men too” narrative evolving that is mostly pro-feminist and is shifting the narrative on violence from “women have problems, men are problems” to “women and some men have problems and it’s men and patriarchy who are the problem”.
What pro-feminists struggle with is acknowledging that men are far more likely to be victims of violence than women —because this takes focus away from female victims— and they also struggle to acknowledge the violence that women do to men and boys—the mothers who beat and abuse their children, the women who beat their partners and husbands, the women involved in elder abuse.
And so between them, between the men’s rights activists and the feminists who all proclaim to be for “true equality”—no group is standing up to end our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys.
Only when we take a gender inclusive approach that acknowledges men and women as both perpetrators and victims will we ever create a world free from violence and abuse for everyone.
Men are four times more likely to die a violent death than women. The Met Police didn’t kill a genderless passer-by in 2009, they killed a man—our collective tolerance of violence against men and boys makes it more likely that there will be more deaths like his in future.
IF YOU HAVE EXPERTISE IN REDUCING VIOLENCE THEN COME AND JOIN US AT THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR MEN AND BOYS. BUY YOUR TICKET HERE NOW.
“To many, the very notion of “men’s issues” or men’s rights seems laughable” says Young but “men’s advocacy raises important and worthy issues that often draw unfair ridicule”.
“Unfortunately,” adds Young the men’s rights movement “is also prone to toxic rhetoric that subverts its valid points and alienates potential supporters.”
“Perhaps what the 21st century needs is not a women’s movement or a men’s movement, but a gender equality movement,” she concludes.
Here are ten of the key men’s issues Young thinks a gender equality movement would need to address:
If women were dying in 90 percent of workplace fatalities and three out of four suicides, would we not see such numbers as troubling—and as legitimate women’s issues? Yet, reversed, the disparities go unnoticed
Unlike racial profiling of minorities, the disproportionate targeting of males by law enforcement gets no attention
Women account for more than a third of illegal drug use but fewer than 15 percent of arrests
While men are often presumed dangerous to children, actual female molesters tend to get lenient treatment.
There is virtually no recognition of ways in which current policies treat paternity as a public resource. Men coerced into unwilling fatherhood must still pay child support. On the flip side, divorced fathers often feel they are treated more as wallets than as parents.
When imbalances that disadvantage men or boys — such as male academic underachievement — become the subject of concern, such concerns are often viewed with suspicion as potential attacks on women.
With a few exceptions, feminists have balked at any pro-equality advocacy that would support men in male-female disputes, acknowledge that women can mistreat men, or undermine female advantage.
While the push for gender-neutral laws in the 1970s helped dismantle the formal presumption of maternal custody, actual efforts by fathers to get sole or joint custody brought on a swift backlash from the women’s movement.
When the campaign for tough domestic violence policies netted more female perpetrators, women’s groups pressed for anti-male double standards, promoting the myth that nearly all female violence is in self-defense.
Laudable feminist efforts to secure justice for rape victims have often turned into calls for a presumption of male guilt.
To read more on the current debate on whether the world needs a men’s movement see the following articles:
The mental health of men and boys is a topic that comes every year at the National Conference for Men and Boys.
One of the many great organisations to attend the event last year—Men’s Minds Matter—have published a list of 7 reasons why we need to give this issue more attention.
If you want to meet a fantastic range of professionals committed to improving the lives of men and boys then do come along this year’s conference—you can buy your tickets online now.
According to Men’s Minds Matter, there is a lack of information available about the physical and mental health of men and boys, but we do know that:
Men are three times more likely to take their own lives through suicide (NIMHE, 2008; ONS, 2013)
Across the lifespan men are at greater risk from nearly all major illnesses and injury (O‟Brien & White, 2003; Courtenay, 2009; Coalition on Men & Boys, 2009)
Men engage in many more behaviours that are a risk to their health (Courtenay, 2000)
Men make up the vast majority of the prison population and it is estimated that 90% of prisoners have mental health problems (Prison Reform Trust, 2005)
94% of young offenders are male and 80-90% are believed to have mental health problems
The majority of those who are homeless are men (Gill, Meltzer, Hinds & Pettcrew, 1994)
Men suffer more substance abuse and dependence (Kessler et al. 2005)
Men’s Minds Matter aims to address the mental health of men and boys through actively campaigning to address inequalities where they exist, conducting high quality research, providing training and development, and working closely with interested parties and partner organisations.
Men’s Minds Matter explores the mental health of men and boys from a scientific psychological perspective. They say that: “Mental illness in men affects not only individuals themselves but also others, including women, children and other men. It is imperative that we address the mental health of men and boys to improve the mental health of all people.”
One British soldier dies by suicide every week, more than are killed fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan according to a BBC investigation.
The British government does not record the suicide rate among ex-soldiers, but researchers at the BBC’s Panorama programme have discovered that 21 serving soldiers killed themselves last year, along with 29 veterans.
This total of 50 male suicides is greater than the number of British soldiers who died in Afghanistan where 44 were killed in the same period (40 of whom 40 died in action).
Male suicide is one of the key issues addressed at the Third National Conference for Men and Boys so BUY YOUR TICKET TODAY to take part in this event.
The pattern is repeated in the US where the government has be tracking suicides since 2001. The figure reached a high of 349 suicides last year compared to 311 war zone deaths.
While the Ministry of Defence in the UK hasn’t kept records on suicides, it has begun a statistical PR battle following negative press about the mental wellbeing of service men.
In recent years the South Atlantic Medal Association, which represents and helps Falklands veterans – has claimed that more veterans (264) have killed themselves than died on active service (255).
In March 2013 the King’s Centre for Military Health Research revealed that servicemen are at great risk of committing a violent crime, with those under 30 being three times more like to have a conviction for violent offending than the general population.
The MoD has hit back with research claiming suicides amongst Falklands veterans was lower than claimed and responded to the Panorama investigation by saying that rates of suicide within the serving military were lower than comparative rates in the civilian population.
In referencing only “serving military” the MoD fails to address what happens to men once they leave the military. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, you men leaving the military are at 2-3 times greater risk of suicide.
According to Colonel Stuart Tootal, a former commander of 3 Para: “the evidence suggests there’s more of a problem than the government and the MoD are admitting to.”
The former head of the British army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, also says he wants the suicide rate among veterans to be monitored.
“It’s pretty clear to me that it should be happening because once you have some statistics you can start to do something about it,” he told the BBC.
An Open Invitation From The 3rd National Conference for Men and Boys
Do you think differently about men and boys? Have you been drawn to the recent debate about “masculinity in crisis”?
If so we’d like to invite you to take part in the Thinking Men conference in Brighton this September.
The event is part of the Third National Conference for Men and Boys and will bring together some of the UK’s leading thinkers on men’s issues to explore what we have in common, how we think differently and what difference we can make by working together more effectively in the future.
We’re inviting a broad spectrum of academics, policy experts, political thinkers, media commentators, charity leaders, public sector bosses and campaigners on men’s issues to get together to think differently about men and boys.
And if there are people you think should be taking part in this conversation then we’d like you to send us your suggestions.
The day has four key elements:
A meeting of minds where you get the opportunity to connect with people who think about men’s issues in a similar way to you (eg people who have the same political perspective or values)
An opportunity to exchange ideas and information on key men’s issues such as boys’ in education, men’s health, male suicide, men and violence, fatherhood etc
Creative sessions where you can explore new solutions to old problems such as the changing role of men, engaging men in gender issues, making men’s issues a political issue etc
A time to reflect on the day, consider new opportunities and commit to take action.
We’d love you to get involved in this event so if you’d like to take part in the Thinking Men conference on Thursday 26th September 2013 then why not take action now by: