Joe Paternoster continues his investigation into whether the University of Nottingham’s SU should introduce a part-time Men’s Officer. Contrary to the first part of his article, which largely focused on reasons against the introduction of such a role, this second half of the discussion outlines some of the arguments supporting the creation of a Men’s Officer.
So far, then, a compelling case has been made against the idea of a Part-Time Men’s Officer. Historically, men have not been underrepresented or oppressed in the Western world, or certainly not to the extent of the other groups currently represented by the PTO’s. Therefore, they don’t need to be ‘liberated’ in the ways other groups might have to be.
In which case, what actually is the case for having a Part-Time Men’s Officer?
Earlier, I made the comparison between a Part-Time Men’s Officer with an equivalent white or straight PTO. Why? Because together they mark the intersection of those who have seemingly benefitted most from our society’s patriarchal structures.
That’s because white people haven’t suffered any negative social effects as a consequence of their ethnicity. That’s because straight people haven’t suffered any negative social effects as a consequence of their sexuality.
And, whilst it might be true that men haven’t suffered any negative social effects as a consequence of their gender in the past, campaigns like Movember spotlight issues that may make one wonder whether that is still the case today.
You can certainly argue that it isn’t.
Men are more likely to be victims of homicide than women, and of violent crime as a whole
The prevalence of male suicide is well-known, men accounting for 78% of all suicides as of 2018. There is an academic attainment gap between men and women, both at a school level and a higher education level.
Over the past 10 years, men have accounted for roughly 80% of the prison population in the UK. Men are more likely to be victims of homicide than women, and of violent crime as a whole.
97% of deaths at work last year were men. Most homeless people are men, and men are more likely to have a dependence on drugs and alcohol. In the UK, on average, men die about 3.5 years earlier than women.
I could go on, but I feel the statistics here are damning enough – men suffer a number of detrimental social effects, seemingly exclusive to their gender, that have knock on effects to their physical and mental health.
Some of them are genetic, some of them are socially driven, and some are undoubtedly and ironically consequences of the patriarchal institutions that men themselves made.
But that’s not their fault – the men of today didn’t make the institutions that detriment others, themselves included, and shouldn’t feel guilty for that.
And yet some men do. There is an undercurrent of collective social guilt for men who feel their sex is responsible for this inhibiting patriarchy, and the further social pressure that if they don’t confess to its existence, or even act actively against it, they are complicit and part of the oppressive force in this patriarchy.
Then you have terms like ‘toxic masculinity’ becoming apart of mainstream culture, alongside words like manspreading, mansplaining and manterrupting entering our lexicon in recent years.
Men are encouraged today to be more open in their emotions and conscious of their mental health. This is something that I agree is wholeheartedly a good thing – Movember is all about men opening up, after all
The severity of these issues can be debated, but all imply a negative association with manliness and masculinity that that one can argue has a detrimental effect on men’s mental health.
It’s worth noting, too, that modern men exist at a time when the definition of masculinity is radically and rapidly changing. Men being chivalrous and breadwinners, to many people, is symptomatic of an oppressive and patriarchal past.
Men are encouraged today to be more open in their emotions and conscious of their mental health. This is something that I agree is wholeheartedly a good thing – Movember is all about men opening up, after all.
But many men, young men in particular, lack role models of this particular new type of masculinity. Their fathers and grandfathers grew up in entirely different eras, and the pressure is on these youngsters to embody this new type of masculinity and become those role models themselves.
We exist in a strange microcosm where a ‘lad culture’ is seen as normal, juxtaposed with a University-wide progressiveness where compassion, inclusiveness and openness are encouraged at every turn
And this is no easy task – I was seeing if there’s evidence to support this, and Googled ‘Are young men disenfranchised?’. I encourage you to do the same and see the myriad of articles pointing to the disenfranchisement of young men, all indicative of a major problem.
I feel this tension between breadwinning past and more emotionally conscious present is also extremely relevant to university life. We exist in a strange microcosm where a ‘lad culture’ is seen as normal, juxtaposed with a University-wide progressiveness where compassion, inclusiveness and openness are encouraged at every turn.
And, it’s this tension which I feel may be a reason why the idea of a Men’s Officer may be so scarcely brought up. Many ‘lads’ don’t feel such an officer is necessary, as they are bound by ideas of men being strong at all costs.
And then those men that may benefit from such an officer, those more aware of their emotions and with a need for guidance or representation, may feel they could be the subject of social ridicule if they dare bring the topic to light.
Men are struggling in many areas of modern life, and I feel exploring every possible avenue by which we can counter these struggles is a duty, if not a necessity
My position is one where my passions don’t really lie on either side. I’m acutely aware that the Part-Time Officers fundamental purpose is representation, and there are undoubtedly groups in need of that and liberation from societal oppression.
However, as demonstrated by the points made in this article, men are struggling in many areas of modern life, and I feel exploring every possible avenue by which we can counter these struggles is a duty, if not a necessity.
A Part-Time Men’s Officer is one such avenue, and I hope this article has offered a balanced assessment of why this would and would not work.
So, I decided to contact Emily Coleman, the SU’s Welfare and Wellbeing Officer, to see what facilities the welfare teams at the University offer men
So, I decided to contact Emily Coleman, the SU’s Welfare and Wellbeing Officer, to see what facilities the welfare teams at the University offer men.
She made me aware of Men’s Health Active, a sports-related initiative the University are offering, although all activities have been cancelled at the moment.
She highlighted the Movember website and the charity CALM as two amazing sites to signpost to people.
Emily did note that the SU, itself, has no services specifically for men, though did highlight for me the mental health support page and the digital welfare guide (which does mention the PTO’s as being part of the welfare set-up). I encourage everyone to visit these sites in these particularly testing times.
But, don’t let December the 1st mark the end of such care and consideration. Keep up that same drive, that same passion and energy, to aid men in many of the struggles that they face
More than anything, though, let’s look out for each other at the moment. Men are notorious for keeping stuff in, for trying to act strong when things are really going wrong.
Reach out to your male friends. Check-in and see if all is well. Movember is a time to talk, to have taboo conversations, and to ensure that your male mates are doing okay.
But, don’t let December the 1st mark the end of such care and consideration. Keep up that same drive, that same passion and energy, to aid men in many of the struggles that they face.
And, of course, to my fellow men out there, let’s support each other, aid one another, and aid too everyone else in the struggles that they face in their day-to-day lives.
COVID is tough, everyone. The only way we’re getting through this is together.
Please support Movember via their website: https://uk.movember.com/
Please support the University of Nottingham’s phenomenal effort so far via their own fundraising page: https://uk.movember.com/mospace/network/view/id/49097
Featured image courtesy of Marcus via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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