A new website is looking to “reappraise” the definition of masculinity and broach issues like mental health, loneliness and suicide.
Launched by former Shortlist and NME Editor, Martin Robinson, The Book of Man is a move away from the stereotypical image of manliness so many other media outlets reinforce.
The Daily Slog speaks to Martin about the damage being done by the “male ideal” and how open discussion between the sexes is needed if we are to engage men in the battle for workplace gender equality.
What is The Book of Man and what are you trying to achieve with it?
It’s an online support network for men, which aims to give advice on some of the problems they’re facing in the modern world – particularly mental health issues, changing careers, relationships in a post-MeToo world and physical anxieties.
If men are taught from a young age that they shouldn’t be emotional, shouldn’t cry, should be brave and ‘man up’, then they become disconnected from their emotions
You’ve written that an “old school male dominated society is not just damaging to women, it’s damaging to men too” – can you explain how that mentality has impacted men?
Because the male ideal, as set out in male dominated society, is that of the impenetrable male, the strong and stoic male who shows no weakness, and is successful, accomplished, and free of doubt and fear. The James Bond ideal, which is of course impossible for most men to live up to.
If men are taught from a young age that they shouldn’t be emotional, shouldn’t cry, should be brave and ‘man up’, then they become disconnected from their emotions, and their own experiences. Hence the alarming stats in the UK, where depression and stress figures are soaring and suicide is the number one killer of men under 45.
What is ‘modern masculinity’ as The Book of Man sees it?
A masculinity in flux. One where the old values have gone stale, but new values have yet to be established. There’s much anxiety and self-questioning in modern masculinity. We want to move into a New Masculinity which values emotions, personal responsibility, and connection between people. Not a competitive march for money and status.
How can women get their male co-workers attention about issues such as mansplaining, or the importance of gender balance in management, instead of just talking about these issues between ourselves?
By forming active committees with men to discuss these issues. We’re being asked to go in to talk to men in different workplaces about such issues, so there’s an element of bringing outsiders in to address these issues. But fundamentally it needs to be a discussion between the sexes, in those environments – and the management of those places need to ensure that the right environment is created to do that.
Gender balance is difficult in management because men don’t want to let go of their jobs – so this will be a long process of change. But it’s important to start it, and to ask those questions. Men need to get their head around it, and support it.