Keep Men Alive, By Talking

International Women’s Day has just passed, and it was beautiful. Somewhere, in the middle of their hectic schedules, my friends sat down and celebrated one another. Labour women, regardless of age, regardless of where they sat in the party, spoke about what they admired and saw in one another.

They praised each other as people and as symbols. The young, militant activists, the elder, restrained stateswomen of the movement and everyone in between. The students, the execs, the working mums, the cool aunts, the charity workers. The display of love was palpable, emotional and genuinely touching.

Which is why I now ask this question: Men, why do we hide from that?

Sure, we pat one another on the backs and shout “good shot,” “well played,” and (most boringly) “nice” but we never actually engage beyond that. No man has ever pointedly praised me, unprompted, for something I’ve done. Whilst this may just mean I’m unimpressive, I’ve honestly never seen it happen for any man.

“The media tells us that men must be strong and resilient”

We are taught from birth that we are in competition, that everything is a race. Our media tells us that we must be strong, resilient, hewn from granite. Slabs of stone hoping to be carved with the highest numbers and designed to stand in perpetuity, unchanging, unflappable. Is it any wonder we don’t support one another?

Whilst this may seem flippant it truly isn’t. Not complimenting one another is the tip of a tragic iceberg, a tiny piece of a societal construct that is killing us. Men are imprisoned deep below their surface and forced to conform, forced to tow the line, to fit a mold. A mold that most of us don’t really fit, that forces us to betray our true selves.

It starts with a lack of compliments and it drifts into suppressing all emotion. Emotion is feminine, it’s vulnerability, it’s weakness. It’s incompatible with what we should be and so we live hollow, empty lives. For a little while anyway, then the toll of suppressing emotions becomes too much. Failing to engage with our emotions, with our feelings, with our true selves ,poisons us. It stunts out growth and someday, it kills us.

“A sense of community is something our society makes difficult for men”

Men don’t have a high suicide rate because women are punishing us. We have a high suicide rate because we won’t let ourselves be saved. Asking for help, admitting vulnerability, and sharing emotions undermine the identity we are taught we need, and when faced with few choices and no hope, it kills us.

Watching my female friends express solidarity as they did made me happy, but it also made me jealous. The show of strength through community, through reliance on one another, is something that our society makes difficult for men. It’s our fault too, we need to change. So, here’s my challenge to you, it’s a simple one really.


Ask your friend if they’re alright, ask him if something’s wrong, ask him why he looks sad, ask him where he’s been the last few weeks, ask him what he’s hiding, ask him to let you help.

It’s that simple, keep men alive through talking.

Tom Roberts

image: sprout_labs via Flickr. License here.

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