Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Man Collective - Men Going Beyond Mediocre

Alex Linsley, founder of the Man Collective - Oxford, emailed me and asked for a little exposure here for his cause. Personally, I find it heartening that young men are beginning to take charge of their future and their sense of self. I am happy to give them some exposure here - if there are any American college students reading this blog, contact Alex for how to start your own Man Collective (that's my suggestion, not Alex's).

It seems they have already been getting some attention in England. This article comes from The Guardian - and I'm a little disturbed that they are seen as a problem and not part of the solutiuon.

Rise of male student support groups sparks row at British universities

• Support groups explore masculinity as a concept
• Critics claim societies a front for 'macho activities'

Male student at Oxford University

A male student at Oxford University, where he can join MC-O should he wish to explore masculinity with his male peers. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

After decades of feminism, equal rights and "women-only" support networks, a lower, deeper voice is attempting to make itself heard at some of Britain's leading universities.

Male students are "manning-up", setting up men's groups to celebrate and explore the concept of masculinity amid accusations of sexism and gender stereotyping.

Manchester University has created the first official MENS Society – Masculinity Exploring Networking and Support – despite outrage from critics who claim the existence of such a group undermines women's ability to speak out for equality.

Meanwhile, at Oxford University the formation of Man Collective – Oxford (MC-O), launched "as a response to the current state of masculinity" has been branded "reactionary and ridiculous".

Detractors allege they are just a front for macho activities and beer-drinking marathons, but supporters insist they are essential as young men struggle to cope with the pressures of being a man in the modern world.

Alex Linsley, 20, founder of MC-O, said: "There is so much conflicting information for men. There is massive confusion as to what being a man means, and how to be a good man. Should you be the sensitive all-caring, perhaps the 'feminised' man? Or should you be the hard, take no crap from anybody kind of figure?

"Neither of those are particularly useful paradigms. But there's perhaps things we could learn from both perspectives".

Men, who could feel pressured to "man-up" in a mixed gender environment, might feel less vulnerable discussing such issues in a male-only setting.

The Merton college student admits launching his organisation with the testosterone-fuelled invitation – "Have you got balls? Literally. If you have how does that make you feel?" – has drawn stinging criticism.

Given that men already dominate political and economic life, British society didn't need "much more celebration of masculinity," claimed one critic.

Kat Wall, the Oxford University's student union vice president for women, accused him of gender stereotyping but welcomed the debate and hoped he would work with the women's campaign to "facilitate a discussion forum on the issue of masculinity".

But Linsley, an economics and management student who started MC-O after being struck by the number of 18- to 25-year-old males committing suicide in Oxford, has also received positive feedback.

While self-improvement among women was common with magazines bursting with advice, there was little for men, was the message. "Do you expect men to mysteriously find their own way alone?" questioned one supporter on the Cherwell university newspaper website.

"I want to create this forum for men, so men can learn from each other and discuss these issues and make a positive step forward," said Linsley.

In Manchester, the MENS Society, which despite its name has women among its 306 members, claims it highlights not just masculinity issues, but also raises funds and awareness for men's mental health, testicular and prostate cancer as well as male rape and domestic violence issues.

Its campaign for official ratification from the student union's societies committee has provoked furious debate. Originally called the Men's Society, it has now agreed to the MENS compromise. Founder Ben Wild, 21, a politics and modern history student, said he was "relieved that the societies committee has acknowledged the importance and promising benefits of this new society, the first of it's kind in a UK university".

"Why have one? Because so little was being done on raising awareness on issues specific to men, such as male depression, which occurs because they can't live up to this very idealised traditional masculine role," he said.

Such arguments hold little sway with opponents, however.

Olivia Bailey, NUS national women's officer, said: "Discrimination against men on the basis of gender is so unusual as to be non-existent, so what exactly will a men's society do?"

"To suggest that men need a specific space to be 'men' is ludicrous, when everywhere you turn you will find male-dominated spaces," she added.

Caitriona Rylance, chair of Manchester Communist Students, said that while the society now claimed to be about "self-betterment" it's original aims were "Top Gear shows, gadget fairs, beer-drinking marathons and Iron Man competitions".

Wild responded: "There has been so much false information peddled. I'm teetotal, and our first event was a sober pub crawl. And we've compromised on our beard-growing contests to make it more inclusive."

Professor Marilyn Davidson, an expert in diversity and equality at the Manchester Business School said: "It is interesting that this is happening. And there is an obvious need. One of the problems men have is that they don't have the support networks when they are under stress that women do.

"If we were talking about business and all-male clubs, they were the gatekeepers who were stopping women entering. But I don't think these groups are doing that. It's not us against them. It's just about supporting each other."

Patrick Leman, from Royal Holloway University of London, said: "In some senses it is to be welcomed, because it is good that young men reflect on who they are and what they should be doing. That sort of reflected self-awareness is not something that is particularly associated with men. But I went to Oxford, and it could, of course, just turn into another awful drinking society."

However, Martin Daubney, 39, editor of the lads' magazine Loaded, was contemptuous. "I don't think men are remotely confused about what it takes to be a man. They just get on and do it. My generation would not sit round and build a website about being confused. It's complete navel-gazing bullshit."

WOW! I thought men trying to be conscious faced an uphill battle in America - we have it easy compared to the spite and ignorance represented in this article.

I wish women could understand that they are the ones who benefit most from men getting their shit together and creating a balanced masculinity - a masculinity that is manly, but is also in touch with its feelings, that is spiritual and is spending time sweating in the gym.

This is from the Man Collective site (they also have a blog):

We believe guys should go beyond mediocrity and live the lives they dream of. Society has been tolerating mediocrity for too long – we offer guys the opportunity to connect honestly together over what is truly important to them. Through having relationships with other men that are this honest, this significant and this moving, each man involved can go out into the world and unleash his true potential and contribution.

How does that work? Guys getting real with each other and sharing themselves. This is not navel-gazing. This is called “cutting the bullsh*t”. We’ve been well-trained by society to hide ourselves, keep a lid on things, and pretend everything’s “fine”. We’ve also been trained to label this as being manly. Man Collective stands for boldly insightful relationships between men. Whether that’s shouting, joking, teasing, confronting, reasoning or inspiring, these relationships allow new levels of honesty and commitment to each other that is joyous in its own right, and sets guys on fire to go and create what they want in life.

We’re not a support group or a drinking society. We will listen with real empathy and will call a man on the bullshit he has been creating. We stand for profoundly great men making a powerful, loving impact on the world.

We hope you are inspired to join us on this journey. This is not for everyone. But we know there are those of you who are sick of putting on a brave face and keeping quiet about the status quo – in your lives, and in the world. Our planet will be a better place for it.

Our Best,

Alex Linsley & Marc Quinn

Man Collective

P.S. Ladies, yes, this is for men only. We do want to work with you to bring equality between us both. While we recognize we are equal, we do not believe our relationships are the same. We believe men need different spaces to be called into dropping the social mask, and being the best we are capable of.

P.P.S. That said, we do want to develop some co-ed work. We want women to engage in the same practice of getting real. We want you want to create this with us. Alex is actively seeking women who are inspired to be a part of this journey – email him: alex@mancollective.co.uk for more.
If you live in England, they are planning a gathering for men who want to step and make themselves better, and in doing so, make the world a better place.

Discovering, Connecting and Inspiring UK Men’s Work

Register for The Gathering on Eventbrite

: London (venue tbc)

When: 27th March, 2010

With: The Best You Can Offer (…and a mate!)

The Gathering has been established from our excitement to connect men involved in men’s work across the UK. We welcome any man committed to offering other men greater possibilities in the ways they live – through whatever means. We see great potential arising from understanding what it is we all value and the impact we aim to have. Bring your ideas, inspiration and integrity.

Check out the video below to understand why we’re curious and excited by the potential we’re experiencing.

Register for The Gathering on Eventbrite

The Gathering Invitation

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