MENZ Issues November 1995: Volume 1 Issue 1
All articles in this issue written by Martin Lewis.
Pro-Mag on Man (and his new invention, the breath mint).
‘To recognise and respect men’s issues and needs, and to provide support resources.’
‘Alienation is one of the faces of modern masculinity. The cure is communication and community – a sense of togetherness. By opening up to each other we reduce the pressure of being alone and exiled.’ Malidoma Some.
‘It is very dangerous when a wound is so common in a culture that hardly anyone knows there is a problem.’ Robert A Johnson.
‘Men take back their destiny when they consciously define their own boundaries and limits.’ Martin Lewis.
In September 1994 the Men’s Centre North Shore was incorporated and a new era started for men of North Shore City, Auckland and New Zealand.
Seven months later they opened their doors at 2 Rodney Road, Northcote with the support of patrons, Sir Paul Reeves, Eion Scarrow and Graham Dingle.
Four months further on a Co-ordinator was appointed to facilitate the continued movement toward the Mission that the Centre’s Management Team had set for itself.
A grand and all encompassing ambition. So grand in fact that the new Co-ordinator, Martin Lewis found it a little too big to swallow in one piece. He decided to follow some advice he had once received from a small African elder. ‘When faced with eating an elephant do so one bite at a time’
The Management Team supported him in the idea of dividing the society into Focus Groups each targeting an individual need, issue or support resource.
Now as we enter our second year our aim is to populate these groups with focussed and enthusiastic men. The system structure and achievements to date are detailed inside.
Again and already, new ground is being broken by introducing another missing link. namely the Pro-Man magazine. That’s right a magazine, or at this stage a newsletter, which recognises men’s worth and value to society and supports men in being all the positive things they can be without being anti-woman.
Men’s Centre North Shore Inc has made some subtle but significant advances in the past few weeks. As a result of the constitutional changes initiated by the AGM and communications with the IRD we should have Charitable Society and Donee status by the time you read this. In practical terms this means tax relief for us and our benefactors and lower telephone costs.
Our Mission is a very broad and all encompassing one. To bring focus to areas of concern Focus Groups have been defined. Some have already started to take shape.
Current Focus Groups include –
Media To both respond to unbalanced media activity which neglects the male perspective and needs and to actively raise the public awareness of men’s issues.
Support Groups Small closed groups of (6-8) men who want to explore their roles in society, their emotional and spiritual selves, and resolve personal issues in a safe environment. Want to start one?
Awareness Groups Larger open groups of men who want to explore the same issues on a more political level. Such a group is forming at Albany’s Massey Campus, possibly another at AIT’s Akoranga Campus. The difference between these two types of group is mainly that support groups develop very deep friendships and deal with personally sensitive matters whereas awareness groups have a flow through of men and their ideas and therefore have a high level of interchange and evolution of ideas. The former tends to be emotional exploration and the latter more intellectual.
Young Men To provide support for young men in a rapidly changing world where technology and social change makes external foundations unstable and the need for a strong internal structure even more important.
Health To address the many men’s health issues in our society. Ranging from physical manifestations such as prostate and testicular cancers to high levels of suicide and addictive behaviours like workaholism and alcoholism.
Shore Fathers A group of fathers who share practical skills and needs of fathering, and support one another in their roles as fathers whether they are full time or part-time Dads, with or without a partner, with or without custody of children.
Courses – While we do act as a conduit to the available growth courses for men we also intend to fill gaps where we detect them and to run practical skills courses. Men Moving On and Unsung Heroes, two courses for men to explore their changing roles in society, to empower men in having choice in their lives were initiated in 1995. Although Men Moving On (12 weeks) was resisted as being too long Unsung Heroes (6 weeks) was a great success and the participants would have liked it to be longer. The result, they have formed their own, ongoing support group. The next Unsung Heroes will be in Feb 1996.
Other groups that have been mooted but not yet founded include –
Elders – To support our elders in continuing their lives fully and to tap into a rich source of skills and experience.
Disabled Men – Acknowledging that these men have their own special needs that differ from those of disabled women and able bodied men.
With funding of social services and charitable activities being passed more and more to the community by government a new initiative like Men’s Centre North Shore Inc. becomes just another money hungry competitor in the eyes of many existing (and struggling) services. That is not to suggest that we do not have some supportive allies in the community network. What it does mean however is that we must search every funding nook and cranny; look under every metaphorical rock and leave no financial stone unturned when it comes to seeking our working funds. With this in mind the Men’s Centre North Shore Inc. are currently exploring the possibilities of corporate funding through the facilities of commercial fund raisers. Managed properly this process will not only raise our working funds but also our profile.
One of the first things women asked for when the Women’s Movement started 30 years or so ago was that they not be treated as Sex Objects. The equivalent in the Men’s Movement is to ask not to be treated as an Income or Work Object. The result is that when men start to explore their roles it is usually suggested that they avoid discussion of what they do for a living. Ironically a spinoff of this is that the rich skills resource that the MCNS could have, remains unknown to the Co-ordinator and the Management Team. Another spinoff related to the first is that often men (especially those hurt by the effects of redundancy, loss of a business or an avaricious ex-wife) do not want to be a work object of the society either. So I ask. If you are willing to be a resource, please advise the Co-ordinator of any skills, talents, interests, your occupation, etc … We will add you to our database and one day when we find we need a Zookeeper, … we’ll call!
Stage one of our development is to raise the public awareness of Men’s needs, to help men and women recognise that men do have needs and issues and these are not just those issues that affect women. To do this, and to provide a platform from which to enrol members into the focus groups, we will be running Public Forums every month or so through 1996. Our trial run on Wednesday 18th October went very well with the public staying to converse over coffee despite the later than advertised finish.
What is it that we as a men’s centre want to communicate to our community? There seems to be so much that needs to be addressed and so little consciousness of men’s needs in society. One of the major issues is the deliberate systematic misrepresentation of men by a small but politically powerful group of gender feminists whose propaganda is steadily affecting our society. This subtly changes beliefs and attitudes without foundation. (The reaction to that statement alone will be an indicator) Those attitudes and beliefs in turn change educational, legal, medical, and political systems. The infrastructures being created frequently resemble those which preceded past fascist states. What we want to do is ensure that all sides of every question are looked at and balance attained in decisions affecting men, women and children. We believe that this is what most women want too, especially those known as equity feminists. The alternatives serve neither men nor women in the long term so reasonable people need to wake up and act now before it is too late.
Part of our mission is to recognise men’s needs and issues. Most often (but not exclusively) these are identified by men who have faced a personal crisis. Relationship breakup, redundancy, business failure, health crisis, loss of family, mid-life, etc.
In an odd way these men are lucky. As they move past the thresholds of pain, guilt and anger, if they are able to forgive and accept (whether they have turned these feelings in on themselves or out toward others) they enter a new consciousness. An awakening to the fact that what we are trained, conditioned and raised to be, to desire, to accept, may not be what is best for us. That so often in life our choices have not been our own. This is a time to review. Immediately we as individual men are faced with the challenge ‘If this is true how do I know what is me and what is not?’ As Malidoma Some says (see page 3) ‘By opening up to each other we reduce the pressure of being alone and exiled.’ By sharing our feelings, doubts, discoveries, and fears with others in a time and place set aside for that purpose. A time and place made safe by a contract of commitment to one another in acceptance and confidentiality, in mutual trust and support. By taking this brave step we learn that although each of us is unique we share many ideas, feelings and experiences with one another. We do not have to be alone and exiled. When we take that conscious step to look inside, to share what is found, to deliberately define ourselves by setting our own boundaries and limits, we take back our destiny. Despite the pain that it often takes to start us on our journey the new awareness we awaken to is far better than the numbness of our earlier unconsciousness. Ask yourself, ‘Where is my life taking me? What is my destination, my destiny?’ If your answer is uncertain or undesirable consider the statement ‘Where there is no path, one appears as many walk together toward the same destiny’ Consider how you might help Men’s Centre to help you.
As we group together in our pain and anger to discover ourselves we are faced with a universal trap. One which many before us have fallen prey to. Can we learn from their mistakes and avoid it? Human nature being what it is we seek the alliance of those around us. As a group forms with a common experience we tend to support one another in validating the experience. Where the commonality is that of painful experience of women and where this is not yet forgiven, there is a danger of misogyny. A danger of finding some target outside the group to blame and shame. This is what seems to have happened with gender feminists. This misandry is causing innocent men and society increasing pain. This is one of many reasons that the Centre has come into existence. To fall into the same trap and become gender masculists is not a solution but a continuation of the spiral toward gender war. Our intention is to actively avoid this pitfall; to become equity masculists; to ultimately join with equity feminists in promoting a celebration of individual strengths and differences. Not to apologise for our masculinity but to define and choose it for ourselves and then to celebrate it. To celebrate it and femininity in the mutual support and company of women.