Posts Tagged ‘social inclusion’

Is it OK to tell boys to “be a man”? Time Magazine 13th Jan 2014

Jan 30 2014

Time Magazine has the world’s largest circulation for a weekly of about 3.3 million. So it is a big event when it leads with a major article ‘Masculinity Is More Than a Mask.

The article looks at the old-school brutalising messages US adolescent boys still receive about how to be a man – “Toughen up”, “Don’t cry”, “Stop with the emotions”, “Man up” – and the long-term harmful effects of these aggressive messages. A new documentary to be released later this year The Mask You Live In has sparked the debate. And it is BIG: the YouTube preview has already had in excess of 1.5 million views!  mqdefault

 Read the’s good! It is also well worth looking through the 100 or so comments (so far) at the end of it. There’s arguments on both sides, supportive and against, and some complaining that there is a ‘feminist anti-man’ thing going on, although I would guess the full blown raging conspiracy guys have been moderated out.

 What’s the place of older men in the debate? MB50 has a clear answer. The role of older men on this issue is to give voice, be present, listen and be heard, and help us rethink and move beyond hard “Yes/No” divisions. Let’s do it!


Meet, Talk… (Part 1):

Apr 26 2013

“What we want are real (not virtual) social networks!”

Meet, Talk… : Our vision has always been to make Men Beyond 50 a true network, and we feel the time is now right to take the next steps to make this a reality. The main message from the MB50 Questionnaire which we circulated in January and February couldn’t have be clearer – you want more opportunities and different ways for us to meet and talk. So we are putting that into action!

London MB50 Group: this began last month co-hosted MenSpeak .  If you are interested in starting a MB50 local group, and would like help and support, contact

– MB50 Events for Spring/Summer 2013: for listing go to EVENTS PAGE

– MB50 ‘Steering Group’: we are holding a series of evening open meetings over the next few months to explore in greater depth the gifts and issues for older men, and one of our hopes is that this will lead to the creation of a ‘Steering Group’. Contact to find out more, and if you would like to attend and take part.

MB50 Questionnaire Results (January/February 2013)

Meet, Talk… Support… and Help: We are really very grateful to the 12 responders to the MB50 Questionnaire! You gave us some very clear messages:

1. Build real (not virtual) social networks

2. Support ways we can contribute to our communities

3. Help us realise our full potentials as older men

Click here to read the full results of the questionnaire


Research Backs Meeting Face to Face!

Meet, Talk… Be happy: “People are happier and laugh 50% more when talking face-to-face”. So wrote the Daily Mail (11 April 2013)

I began by feeling suitably “sniffy” about the D Mail article, but the main points from the research were interesting – especially in the light of the results of the recent MB50 Questionnaire.

(1. Talking on phone does not make people feel as good as sharing a smile

2. Quality not quantity of communication is more important

3. Most satisfying relationships “come from a handful of close friends”

I am a scribbler (writes Max), and I love writing for the MB50 website, and I have also enjoyed creating a MB50 social media presence, but of course I value and need real face-to-face meetings more. There is now some research showing that the connections we make through a website blog or Facebook are “weak ties” compared to real meetings (or even Skype when we can at least see each other), and that websites don’t appear to help people make true friendships .

The research has been done by Dr Sam Roberts, senior lecturer at the University of Chester and you can follow him talking about it here Based on two questionnaires, his research found there was no link between Facebook use and people with larger groups of friends and more emotionally rich relationships. The research also suggested that even talking on the phone and texting does not make people feel as good as sharing a smile. People find the most satisfying relationships come from a handful of close friends, with an outer ‘ring’ of 10 significant others, and by contrast building up a large number of Facebook ‘friends’ produces a poor level of intimacy. In another related study ((Available in free full text ) Dr Roberts compared Skyping with interacting via phone, instant messaging, text messages or social network sites. People interacting face-to-face or on Skype were 50 per cent more likely to laugh, and they rated themselves as significantly happier.

Of course there is plenty of other research suggesting other things – (thanks to my good friend Dr James Hawkins for this bit) – but some scientific evidence supporting too. If you are interested, try:

Helliwell, J. F. and H. Huang (2013). “Comparing the happiness effects of real and on-line friends.” National Bureau of Economic Research NBER Working Papers 18690.  This is a very recent large (5,000 people) Canadian survey of 5,000 people that compared real-time and on-line social networks as sources of subjective well-being. There are three key results. First, the number of real-life friends is positively correlated with subjective well-being (SWB) even after controlling for income, demographic variables and personality differences. Doubling the number of friends in real life has an equivalent effect on well-being as a 50% increase in income. Second, the size of online networks is largely uncorrelated with subjective well-being. Third, we find that real-life friends are much more important for people who are single, divorced, separated or widowed than they are for people who are married or living with a partner. Findings from large international surveys (the European Social Surveys 2002-2008) are used to confirm the importance of real-life social networks to SWB; they also indicate a significantly smaller value of social networks to married or partnered couples.

van der Horst, M. and H. Coffé (2012). “How friendship network characteristics influence subjective well-being.” Social Indicators Research 107(3): 509-529.  (Available in free full text) This article explored how friendship network characteristics influence subjective well-being (SWB). Using data from the 2003 General Social Survey of Canada, three components of the friendship network were differentiated: number of friends, frequency of contact, and heterogeneity of friends… etc, etc!

Men’s Group Ground Rules

Feb 19 2013

(courtesy of Kenny D’Cruz, Menspeak)


Traditionally ‘what is said in this room stays in this room’, though we usually agree that we may discuss our own process and even refer to something that may be helpful to someone out of the group as ‘something I saw on TV’, or ‘my friend said’, etc. The important thing is that no one can be identified!



Respect in this group means to listen to others when they speak, and be aware of how you are behaving. Treat others in a way you would expect to be treated by them. Respect of other people naturally follows on from self-respect, as lack of self-respect will reflect in lack of respect for others. Respect our own truth, boundaries, feelings, instincts and intuition.



It would be better to authentically and honestly say “Pass” than to lie, perform, get into automatic-pilot banter, go into our heads and out of touch with ourselves. Telling the truth and sharing our selves gives everyone else in the room safety and permission to do the same.



Be honest to ourselves – about our feelings as well as our words – because that way we can own our feelings and work things through, rather than quietly internalise and carry it until we find an opportunity to dump it on someone else, within / outside the group.


(v) OWN IT

Use “I” statements, rather than “you”, “one” or “we”. What is being said by you may not be true for all present. Depersonalising is often a way of avoiding ownership of a feeling, an experience, opinion, or issue.



Neither aggressive, nor passive-aggressive bullying is an option here. No one’s safety is to be compromised. This is a space where people can learn how to challenge, or disagree with another person, clearly, honestly, honourably and with respect.



When someone is telling their story, give them the space to express it from their experience, without projecting how good, bad or ugly it is; without jumping into / steering / boosting their drama; without upstaging them with a more dramatic story, so they can listen to their own words and choose how to work it through.



You may be known as a joker, peacemaker, shy, confident, introvert, extrovert, whatever personalities your circles are used to. This space encourages us to experiment with allowing some of the quiet parts inside to come out and see how authentic they feel; with the option of asking for feedback.



If something said by another, or something comes up that may feel uncomfortable, bring up anger, sadness, etc. it would probably be better to work this through with the group – or at least name it, instead of quietly holding on to it – rather than taking it away with you and allowing its power to overshadow you for however long it may take hold.



Playing small to ‘be good’ in the group would be less valuable than playing big and growing within the group. That’s not to say ‘break the rules’ but it is to say play big enough that you may be challenged and we may all grow in awareness and life choices from our time together.


Disclaimer: All activities are undertaken entirely at the participant risk and no responsibility can be taken for any physical, mental or emotional injury suffered by any participant. By taking part each participant accepts full responsibility for his safety and well-being. If in doubt, please seek professional advice before participating.

Why join a Men’s group?

Feb 19 2013

One of the best answers we have found to this question was written by Irvin Yallom, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy . The first edition came out in 1970, and the 5th new and updated in 2005. It details the positive results from the all the best research studies, and has analysed in depth the experience of participating in groups. Yallom identified 12 positive factors, through which groups impact on our “mature adaptation” (increased well-being, happiness and health benefits):

  1. Feeling of having problems similar to others, not alone (= ‘Universality’)
  2. Helping and supporting each other (= ‘Altruism’)
  3. Encouragement that positive change is possible (= ‘Hope’)
  4. Nurturing support and assisting each other ( = ‘Guidance’)
  5. Being given new information and sharing this critically ( = ‘Learning (input)’)
  6. Finding out about ourselves and others (= ‘Learning (output)’)
  7. Feeling of belonging and valuing the group (= ‘Cohesion’)
  8. Opportunities to express and release emotions (= ‘Catharsis’)
  9. Explore life and death realities (= ‘Existential’)
  10. Identifying and changing dysfunctional roles from early life (= ‘Family re-enactment’)
  11. Imitating effective skills and modelling on others in the group (= ‘Identification’)
  12. Gaining insights and wisdom from the group experience (= ‘Self-understanding’)

However, the most important thing is that being in men’s group is GOOD FUN! As Kenny D’Cruz writes of the men’s groups activities he has run in London for the last 10 years, it is about being able to “listen to ourselves and one another, get real, hang out, and have a laugh”.

Hanging out as men together, openly and honestly, going deeper at times and developing trust – are there any additional or particular features that distinguish Men Beyond 50 groups? Exploring life and death realities (see 9. above) may have more edge and meaning for us as we encounter ageing and look at our own mortality. As older men we may also want to explore aspects of our invisible position in society and to challenge stereotypes such as ‘grumpy old men’. We may want to engage in specific person-centred planning, looking more deeply at what we want to do to give back to others, for example through mentoring or voluntary support work. We may want to look at our role in community, including how older men can inspire leadership and empowerment, work with the disadvantaged and mobilise support. And we may want to explore spiritual dimensions of ageing, including for instance elderhood and rites of passage, challenging taboos and speaking out against the silence.

However, there is no specific ‘one size fits all’ model for an older men’s group. Not for or against anything, the men present in each group will create their own unique supportive environment, and find out for themselves along the way what they want to make it.


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

Nov 27 2012

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!