Second UK Men’s and Boys’ Conference, November 2012 – MB50 review!

Not so much a movement, more a bunch of tribes and nomads

This one-day conference in Brighton was so vivid and varied that it feels risky to offer an overview in one blog post – but here goes!

There were lots of illuminating surprises for me at this conference.  One was learning about the extent of systematic disadvantage men face in several areas.  For example, there are a lot more support resources for women coming out of prison than men: but 95% of the prison population is male.

My impression, confirmed by this conference, is that there isn’t really a men’s movement in the UK: not in the sense of a sizeable, active, coherent group pursuing specific agendas.  A fairer description, coined by Glen Poole, the prime organiser of this conference, is a loose network of tribes and nomads.

Even the term network overstates things, but that may be changing.  Glen and others from Brighton have set up the UK Men’s Network: currently it doesn’t quite merit that description, but they are expanding their website, starting a list of UK men’s organisations, and planning an e-newsletter.

For International Men’s Day, November 19, the UK Men’s Network produced a useful list giving their view of the top ten issues for men and boys in the UK currently.  We have now posted this on the Men Beyond 50 Network, and it is on the Network website.

Another surprise about this conference was that around 20% of the 140 people attending were women.  The aim of the event was to bring together a wide range of organisations working with men and boys, and it’s understandable that some of the people doing this work are women.  I was glad to see that women delegates were joining in discussions, and made some of the presentations: there was no sense that they felt inhibited by a male-focussed event.

It was less of a surprise, more of a relief, to see the emphasis so many speakers placed on improving rights, funding, services for men without disadvantaging or attacking women.  As someone said, you can be pro-men without being anti-women.

I was surprised, excited and inspired by the diversity, vitality, and inventiveness of the organisations represented at the conference.  When someone in a plenary discussion bemoaned the impact of The Cuts, others pointed out that there were many organisations serving men which have started in the past three years, and the reductions in statutory services have stimulated low-budget, bootstrap initiatives to meet the needs.

One of the organisations which impressed me especially is CALM: A small Merseyside charity helping young men at risk of suicide.  CALM stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably.  They produce small cards, which are too cool to mention suicide, with a brightly coloured message and a list of private sector sponsors.  The card says ‘For over 10 years, CALM has been helping lads on Merseyside to get their heads sorted out.’  It gives examples of what might be ‘stressing you out’, and a freephone helpline and website.

The CALM approach is one that Max and I want to learn from for the MB50 Network.  We believe men are more likely to use a service that approaches them with style, cool, and a touch of humour.  So we intend to get serious about lightening up!

 

 

 

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