WHAT ABOUT MEN?

A colleague works with women on peri-natal issues. This is a lot more than worries about a pregnancy. It includes miscarriages, relationship breakdown, intimate partner violence, parenting challenges, stillbirth, terminations, dealing with the medical establishment… the list goes on and on. All of life and death is here.

I am constantly amazed by her capacity to manage the demands of this work and her ability to not only offer thoughtful expertise and intervention, but to connect compassionately with her female clients. She achieves—every day—that delicate balance between professional skill and approachable humanity that characterises what I consider best in therapy.

But there is a cost. A few weeks ago she arrived home and slumped onto a kitchen chair. 

“How was your week?” her partner asked.

“So many dead babies,” was all she could manage.

This week she mentioned a psychologist’s social media group that strayed into the vexed area of feminism. Why vexed? Surely it is about equality and education and progress? Maybe some of the male psychologists were confused too. Several, my colleague said, reached for the petrol-pouring response, “What about men?”

What about men?

It is a confounding question. As a privileged, white, first-world male brought up in the Sixties, my psyche is polluted with the cultural debris of rampant sexism and, at a personal level, the emotional scars of male domestic violence. 

And there is more. Working in the helping professions for thirty years has reinforced how ubiquitous male privilege is, its impact varying from near invisible subtlety to systemic oppression. So in all likelihood my world view is tinted. Tainted, even. But here’s what I came up with. 

When should we ask ‘What about men?’?

When nurturance, connection and safety are as important as martial power, war, and territory…

When children see a model of mutual respect and compassionate communication between their parents…

When a week goes by without a woman being murdered by her intimate partner *…

When statistics show that violence by women towards men exceeds the reverse…

When everyone shudders at reports of rape and sexual violence…

When gender differences are considered a cause for celebration rather than a basis for discrimination…

When stereotypes of women (and men, for that matter) cease skewing everything from healthcare to employment options…

When girls no longer need to fear their sexuality is dangerous…

When sensitive boys need not feel shame about who they are…

When women do not need to embrace ‘alpha male’ behaviours to gain power and ‘respect’…

When centuries of controlling patriarchy are exposed for what they continue to be…

When the misogyny and manipulation of religion wither to dust…

When manufactured ‘ideals’ of female appearance no longer bring misery and despair…

When the designations ‘person’ and ‘human being’ are enough…

When this reflects everyday life across the world, then will be the time to ask, ‘What about men?’

By then, of course, the question will be redundant. 

Amen.

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* This figure is for Australia. The UN (cited in marie claire, Nov 2018) estimates that worldwide, the figure is six women per hour. A woman is killed by someone they know every ten minutes. Think about that.

EVE

There’s an orange pumpkin-shaped bucket next to the front door, full of sweets to bribe wide-eyed children in pointy hats and surly teens daubed in fake blood to go away without hurting us. The candy is individually wrapped. Halloween OH&S Department won’t allow any touching of naked treats. Must protect the junior ghouls from germs.

I usually feel angry about the ritual. Take this American crap away from us, it’s not ours! More commercialism, more meaningless expenditure. Don’t think, don’t reflect, just buy the sugar.

Yesterday I had blood taken for the annual tests. My pathology collector was very efficient and if I’d remembered it was almost Halloween I’d have tried a vampire joke. Instead I went to buy croissants as a reward for fasting overnight. What deprivation. Yet I deemed the delay of breakfast a suitable excuse for indulging. How soft we’ve become. 

The supermarket had a front line of seasonal lollies and other Halloween paraphernalia fully five yards long. I wondered if they had the individually wrapped eyeballs. I like those. Many cyclopses died in their creation. A young mum with two kids in tow stopped in front of me, a look of dismay on her face. Running the sugar gauntlet to get bread and milk. I left her to it.

It’s another appropriation of a pagan festival, of course. This time Celtic New Year, once the first of November. In this country it was taken over by a horse race, first Tuesday in November, but I don’t join in the holiday. I’ll be working, powered by the leftover sweets from the pumpkin bucket. Maybe the candy eye-balls will give me extra insight.

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