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MENZ Issues December 1996: Volume 1 Issue 5

Swansong

Offices and Services

Men’s Health

Families and Relationships

Boys Education

Media Image

first Men's Centre North Shore logo first Men’s Centre North Shore logo

Swansong

This may be my last newsletter though I hope that it is not. I have been with Men’s Centre North Shore for eighteen months now and hope that I have achieved something in that time.

When I joined the Men’s Centre had six members who were the survivors of a tumultuous birthing period of almost two years. When I took up the role of Co-ordinator my vision for the role was to provide a high profile resource for men who, facing some form of crisis in their lives, had no where else to turn. (Or at least felt that they did not.) For those men turning to the Men’s Centre I hoped to provide a connection with services which would support them.

I was strongly motivated not just by the desire to provide a beacon but also by the belief that by encouraging men to revisit masculinity, to consciously look at what it means to be a man that men and society would benefit. My aim was not to "fix men for women" or to make men wrong for being what they are, but to help men to re-discover those elements of masculinity submerged in their shadows by the pressures of society, to free up their true masculinity as I had begun to on my personal journey. Since I did not feel I was skilled or trained enough to provide this awakening I planned to be a catalyst, a conduit between the ‘unconscious’ men and those who have the skills to awaken them to themselves. This was seen to align with the broad stated mission of the organisation which at the time was "to recognise and respect men’s needs and issues"

Having done so, I hoped to celebrate with men what we have rediscovered. To rejoin with women who have followed a similar journey themselves and to jointly celebrate our differences and shared strengths. To rediscover the value of combining in mutually supportive and interdependent relationship. To rebuild the family, the extended family, community and society. Not rigidly to some pattern which is followed simply because it was laid down for us when needs may have been different, but from a base of true understand and flexibility, which once established is challenged, reviewed, re-educated as a process of time and new generations. This would only be allowed to happen if we had such faith in the truth of our re-discovery that we "knew" that our descendants would return to similar conclusions. A constant renewal and refreshing of the truths would occur. Each generation knowing for themselves, not just accepting through blind faith.

En route I discovered that I was perhaps a little naive. I had not prepared for the wounded egos which I would encounter. I believed that the men I would work alongside would have similar objectives and at least in this area be willing to work co-operatively to a common mission. I found that when I clung to my vision those egos were thwarted but not eliminated from influencing my world. They did not see their part in the battle but instead became spoilers who, through propaganda, undermined me with the men I sought to support.

Ironically the Men’s Centre was portrayed as a backlash, as anti-women, and, to quote one man, "to the right of Ghengis Khan"

I came to realise that on the continuum of men from a passive extreme of gender-feminist allied, male apologist through to the hyperactive reactionary, the gender-warrior, the vast majority of moderate men are totally unconscious of any need to address men’s roles in society, or any form of support system for men. (Not until they themselves face a crisis and have nowhere to turn)

A consequence of this is that those who do see the need are viewed as failures, men who have failed to cope, men who belong to an anti-social fringe, as wimps who want to make men soft victims (and deny the worth of the hard ego defenses men have developed) or as angry anti-women backlashers.

I believe that there are those of us who belong to neither camp.

Martin Lewis

Office and Services

Central premises large enough to accommodate Public Forums, meeting and course activities, book/video library, creche (for supervised access), counselling, etc will eventually be needed.

A venue of this nature should be income generating and will reduce the need to hire other venues.

The offices currently in use are more than adequate for now and suitably situated. We have equipped them and made them reasonably friendly. A couple of old lounge suites and a potplant or two could work wonders though. Any help on that front would be greatly appreciated. We also need to find some sponsored insurance for our computer, copier and other office equipment as there have been a lot of break-ins in the neighbourhood, especially the Plunket rooms next door. Our security is fairly good with a grille recently being added to the skylight and a deadbolt to the only door in the place. The only piece of equipment we are lacking is a fax machine so if anyone has an old one that they would consider donating … At present we have the ability to fax directly from the computer and receive faxes the same way. The only problem with that is that we cannot fax anything that we do not produce, for example, copies of signed documents, etc …

While we are currently a focal point from which men can be directed to the few existing man-friendly services and support groups, we are very aware of the scarcity of these services, especially outside Auckland.

We intend to perform market research and record statistics on enquiries. As need is clearly established we will then either provide or lobby for the provision of appropriate services.

We need to employ full-time paid staff as well as volunteers for effective running of the office and its services. This of course, requires money.

Issues for NZ Men:

Men’s Health

The poor state of men’s health in New Zealand, especially when compared with women’s, is well documented. [See "The Health of Men (1996)" – North Health, the Northern RHA] Why are men doing nothing about it? Why, knowing this, is there no response from the public health system? Why do politicians treat men’s health as a non-issue when approached with the facts? Why is it considered politically incorrect to address the issue?

There are powerful, entrenched, well-funded and well-organised women’s and feminist lobby groups that see any extra money or effort spent on improving men’s health as direct competition for the health dollar. This is a difficult and sensitive area that must be tackled.

Some Statistics:

  • Men are represented in greater numbers than women in all 13 categories of major causes of hospitalisation and death. (Public Health Commission, 1994)
  • 94% of work fatalities, 84% of workplace injuries are men.
  • 80% of suicides are males. Greatest occurrences are in the adolescent and early adult age range (15-25yrs) and around retirement age. (55-70yrs). New Zealand has the world’s highest adolescent suicide rate and 83% are young males.
  • 70% of stress (hypertension) deaths are men.
  • Men show greater incidence of all addictions, ulcers, post-traumatic stress syndrome, homelessness, hypertension, than women. (Report on Stress Related Disorders, Department of Health, 1994)
  • 67% of lung cancer deaths. 64% of all cancer deaths are men. (’94, Department of Health report)
  • 60% of smoking related deaths, 82% of pneumonia, influenza, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema deaths are men.

Men’s Centre Achievements

  • Representation at meetings with, and written submissions to, North Health on their Men’s Health policy.
  • Two evening Men’s Health Forums.
  • A successful "Men’s Health Day" presenting a wide range of health seminars and data to health professionals and the public.
  • MCNS is a member of the Public Health Association.
  • Four MCNS members attended a pre-election meeting of the four major political parties on health policy organised by PHA at the Auckland Medical School.
  • Submissions and representations at the PHA’s 1996 Annual Conference
  • Stimulated some Media activity on health subjects.
  • Wrote to all MP’s in mid-1996 about men’s health and elicited their individual responses.

Action Plan

  • Health Days and Public Forum evenings, both locally and nationally.
  • Lobbying at the national and local levels for improved recognition by government and RHA’s of men’s health needs.
  • Contact and liaison with individuals, groups and statutory organisations that are able to advance the cause of men’s health. These are numerous but fragmented and are often unaware or unwilling to admit that there is a gender-based problem. Examples are ACC, ALAC, the Heart Foundation, OSH and the Cancer Society.
  • A media awareness campaign mounted to raise the profile of men’s health and to suggest ways in which it can be improved.

Health awareness training programmes on site at large corporations. Following approaches from two corporations, we see there is a definite need in the corporate sector for these services targeted specifically at men. Sponsorship, corporate funding and assistance from North Health and other RHA’s would ultimately make these activities self-supporting.

Families and Relationships

Children from fatherless families do significantly worse in a wide range of measures. The best way of raising children to be responsible adults is to have the biological mother and father living together in the home and working as a team. Though this is substantiated by research and social scientists are slowly becoming aware of this, the nuclear family has continued to come under relentless attack from feminist social engineers. Also, men usually take longer to come to terms with the hurt and humiliation they suffer in the loss of their children, home and relationship after divorce. Two out of three separations and divorces are initiated by women.

Some statistics (US sourced)

Children from fatherless homes are more likely to:

  • suicide. 500%
  • run away. 3200%
  • have behavioural problems. 2000%
  • drop out of school. 900%
  • rape. 1400%
  • abuse drugs. 1000%
  • be institutionalised. 900%
  • be imprisoned. 2000%

Statistics on being abused and abusing, rates of divorce, extramarital birth, teenage pregnancy, poverty, violence and criminal behaviour are all higher with fatherlessness.

Men’s Centre Achievements

To promote fathers in families MCNS has taken a fledgling organisation, Shore Fathers, under its umbrella. Shore Fathers is a North Shore fathers’ support group assisting men who are anywhere along the continuum from prospective father to grandfather.

Through Shore Fathers’ affiliation we have:

  • established a relationship with North Shore Playcentre Assoc.
  • participated in a father and children’s sports day.
  • supported a "Fathering with Confidence" course.

MCNS has also:

  • run two "human dynamics" courses for men.
  • stimulated media activity on Domestic Violence.
  • advertised a helpline for men who watched the movie "Men Don’t Tell", a true story of a woman who beat her husband, his arrest and persecution by authorities, shown on TV2. This resulted in 150 men in similar circumstances calling MCNS.

Action Plan

  • Research, evaluate and implement programmes which support families.
  • Establish pre-marital training emphasising the duties and skills involved in child-rearing.
  • Establish relationship training and conflict resolution in schools and continuing education.
  • Establish couples support groups, to address spousal violence, which treat the violence as a relationship dynamic.
  • Establish male-friendly services offering guidance and support to functioning relationships, ideally run by couples who are happily married themselves.
  • Expand ante-natal courses to recognise fathers’ needs in pregnancy, birth and early child-rearing. Deal with relationship issues around the addition of children to the family.
  • Establish relationship counselling and mediation that is not antagonistic toward men as the first steps taken in any domestic dispute that comes to the attention of the authorities. This could be useful even if divorce is the ultimate outcome, particularly when shared child-rearing needs to be arranged.
  • Address the relativity of the Domestic Purposes Benefit (and its supplementary benefits, grants, etc) to single earner, two parent, family incomes and make tax/welfare regime changes that remove disincentives to staying married. For example, the total benefits available to a couple who split up should be significantly less than that available to an intact family. Government should not be a substitute father or husband.
  • Encourage Family Courts to operate in a gender-neutral manner, scrutinised by a suitable authority and accountable to the public. Standards of proof concerning criminal allegations need to be increased and a satisfactory appeal process devised.
  • Establish automatic joint custody and financial responsibility for separating parents, unless the child is at risk of abuse or neglect or both parents freely agree to vary custody and support. Uncorroborated accusations should not be taken as evidence of risk. Require courts to enforce the rights of both parents to have equitable access to the child. Not allowing a parent to move with the child to another city, preventing regular contact.
  • Actively discourage parents from using unfounded accusations of sexual abuse or domestic violence as a weapon. If accusations are made, an investigation should occur immediately and the charge resolved by the courts as a matter of high priority – ideally within one month. Parents who make false accusations should face the same penalties as the accused would face if convicted.

Boys‘ Education

Boys are doing poorly in schools compared with girls. [NZ Schools 1995 – Ministry of Education 1996 publication.] The line taken at Colleges of Education, by the teacher unions, and influential feminist educators however is to claim that girls are disadvantaged by our education system, that they are in fact, cheated by it. Precisely the opposite is true.

The soon to be released outcome of a broad-based 18 year longitudinal study headed by Professor David Fergusson at Christchurch Medical School supports the view that in terms of:

  • leaving with lower academic qualifications
  • detentions, suspensions, expulsions, truancy, early drop-out
  • involvement in accidents and injuries, drugs and alcohol
  • remedial classes, learning difficulties, being in "special classes"

…boys are clearly in trouble.

Much that passes for health and life skills education taught in our schools is thinly disguised radical feminist propaganda, especially in such areas as date rape, sexual harassment and anti-violence. We believe this is devastating the self-esteem of many boys, and is making them ashamed of growing up male.

Men’s Centre Achievements

  • Some media activity has been stimulated on the topics of boys’ behavioural problems and the use of drugs such as Ritalin.
  • Negotiating to set up and run night classes on men’s issues at a local secondary school.

boy at desk

Action Plan

  • Undertake a public education campaign through the media to highlight what is happening to boys in our schools.
  • MCNS urges educational institutions, the Ministry of Education and politicians, to develop and implement policies that are gender-balanced, and which take into account the differences in learning styles between boys and girls.
  • Produce and distribute teaching material that is fair to males and females alike, not bashing men and boys. Review existing materials. In extreme cases challenge them and have them withdrawn from circulation.
  • Men are rapidly leaving the teaching profession. At least 85% of health educators are female. Boys are increasingly short of male role models. Encourage more men into teaching at all levels (child care through primary and secondary). Encourage fathers and other groups of aware men to visit schools and to take part in school activities. Also to discuss with students, especially boys, what it is to be a man, a father, a husband, a male in the work place, and a friend. Greater numbers of male teachers and more male-friendly school environments will help to achieve this goal.
  • In recognition of the fact that this type of education is vastly overdue we plan to develop and offer Community Evening Education courses targeting parents’ awareness of boys’ needs in education.
  • Vocational preparation for boys must recognise the changing employment market. Men’s traditional jobs are declining. Prepare men to fill the generally safer, cleaner gender non-specific roles that are increasingly dominated by women. Increase opportunities for men in the tertiary and service sectors, which largely employ women.

Media Image

The constant denigration of men in news media advertising and entertainment is undermining men in the minds of men, women and, worst of all, our children. Can young men become healthy citizens if they cannot respect themselves? Can young women become healthy citizens if they cannot respect men? How can such men and women develop healthy relationships? We must identify and promoted positive role models through the media. Subtle erosion of respect for healthy masculinity must be challenged.

Today we are subjected to a constant media barrage of anti-male innuendo masquerading as news and documentaries emanating from lobby groups who wish to change men. Much is also subtly insinuated in television drama and comedy programmes. Many men indiscriminately subjected to this barrage feel overwhelmed or attacked. A sense of helplessness or injustice prevails. Often feelings of guilt, embarrassment, unease or discomfort about being a man arise without apparent cause. Men’s self esteem is whittled away. Women’s respect for men is equally eroded.

There are avenues such as the Advertising Standards Complaints Authority and the Broadcasting Standards Authority through which this assault can be addressed. Unfortunately, however, there is a clear double standard being exercised. Stated criteria of such self-regulating organisations frequently lack impartiality. Anti-discrimination rules are applied vigorously and sometimes unreasonably as a result of pressure from a small but vociferous group of women. This is due to a concept of reverse discrimination that promotes the portrayal of men in ways which are deemed totally unacceptable for women, and the lack of a united male lobby against this concept. This results in reasonable requests for the equal application of basic rules being treated as having come from a lunatic fringe.

Men’s Centre Achievements

  • An important function of MCNS has been its links with the media. The coordinator and other spokesmen have appeared on television, on national and local radio and have contributed articles and letters through the press, nationally and locally. As a result the MCNS is often contacted for comment on issues affecting men, and we are keen for this to continue and expand.
  • We have made complaints to the Advertising and Broadcasting authorities when we have identified stereotyping of men, or men as a gender have been treated unfairly or unjustly, in the press or advertising.
  • Part of this media function is to proactively disseminate information. Another is to respond to the worst excesses of feminist writers and commentators on current events which affect men. This is typically in areas of family violence, family law, education and health.

Action Plan

  • Involvement in the media must increase which will require additional funding. We are also trying to establish a weekly magazine column on men’s issues.
  • Initiate and sustain a concerted programme of responses to stereotyping and falsehoods both through complaints to statutory bodies and by press release. When wilful and dishonest avoidance occurs or when offered unsatisfactory reverse discrimination explanations, these decisions must be publicised and appealed. Press clipping services and subscriptions to a range of newspapers, journals and magazines will be needed.

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