Editorial - Remodelling masculinity

The last few months have seen significant debate on two of the hottest "men's issues" in Australia: men's health and boys' education.

The Department of Health has released its draft Men's Health Policy, and a national body representing all State education departments has developed a draft Gender Equity policy. Interestingly, these two apparently disparate documents have a lot in common. Both conclude that the biggest threat to boys and men is "masculinity". To fix the problems, say the Health and Education gurus, we need to deconstruct masculinity and start again.

This radical approach can be seen as very bad or very good news for males. It depends on what particular vision of "masculinity" the social engineers have in mind. I agree that some aspects of the popular notion of masculinity are some of our biggest problems. The proof of this is that so many males are in trouble in one way or another. The big questions for me are:

  • Who will decide what form the "new" masculinity should take?
  • What aspects of masculinity do we like and want to preserve and enhance?
  • Which aspects do we want to leave behind?

So far, only feminists have had much to say about gender, so it comes as no surprise that the underlying premises of both the education and health policies are feminist. While feminism may be fine for understanding women's place in society, it does not incorporate a good enough understanding of men's experiences to serve as a foundation for men's policies. Also, some feminists have a very jaundiced view of masculinity, dwelling on the negatives and ignoring the positives. There is a real risk that unless we provide some pro-male balance, the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater. f we sit back and let these policies develop without men having their say, or if we limit our input to complaining and negativity, I fear the policies will be little more than a prescription for what the feminist policy-makers would like men to be.

From a practical viewpoint as well, it is essential that a broad social spectrum of men be included in the process. Without popular support, any resulting policies will be doomed to failure.

Australian men have been presented with a great opportunity. Let's seize it positively and get involved with enthusiasm. Redefining masculinity is a "real man's job".

In his book "Manhood" Steve Biddulph does some "Future Dreaming" about what men of the future might be like. Part of his vision is reproduced on the back cover of this issue of Certified Male. If you have some ideas about what you would discard and what you would keep in the proposed rejigging of masculinity, please share them with other Certified Male readers.

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