Masculinity, Equality, Mental Health and Purpose for the 21st Century Man

This blog has been eating away at me for some time, as they always do. I am signposted before I blog and fed material that only pushes me to offer my perspective. A year or two ago I had a conversation with a friend, who said that they just didn’t know what was expected of them anymore, as a man, where all they hear about is equality which is often translated as misandry. I have the benefit of a strong female network, some identify strongly as feminists, others find the term offensive, and I have previously blogged about women supporting women, asking what about the men. It is now time to elaborate on that blog, and hopefully, whilst undoubtably upsetting some, offering others some much needed insight into what many women, hope, men will show up as in the 21st Century.

Firstly, I am all for equality, but I also love feminine and masculine energy, and how we differ physically and mentally in many ways. Equality is just (for me) about not being at a disadvantage, especially financially, because of your sex, or being more vulnerable because of it, just as with race, nationality, age, religion or disability. I am also passionate about women supporting women, but not because of misandry, because I believe it is our inherent tribal nature, to be more of a community and to have healthy relationships and support circles with those who are similar to us and understand our unique challenges. Men have had healthy support networks for many years, via work, social, sport, and networks that used to be male only such as the Masons. I see a lot of displeasure from men at the mention of female only business networking, and I suspect this is a little down to ego. I never witnessed such displeasure around the WI (Women’s Institute) whereby the (old) public perception was baking and fundraising, or around book clubs or knit and natter clubs, but when business networking started rolling out female only network it was offensive to many men, who feel business is their world. The focus is what women have in common, and meeting with like minded people whilst maintaining a safe space to talk about female things, sometimes. The networks I attend are very professional but if we need to talk about menstruation, ovulation, menopause, pregnancy, or indeed disadvantages such as reduced pensions or challenges as normally predominantly primary carers it is a relaxed environment to do that..

There is a lot of room for equality and we can close some of those differences, but we will always have (I hope) femininity and masculinity. I fear that with feeling misplaced many men will suffer with mental health problems due to feeling lost or unfulfilled if they feel they have lost their place in the world as providers and protectors.. but I want to make clear how I think we need men to step up as men in the 21st century, and I will attempt to do that with simple clarity and examples.. I have a few men in my network, and I refer to a few famous faces who seem to have a very healthy balance and view of masculinity, purpose, equality, femininity and so their minds appear to be strong, and they are role models for men who are lost.

Let’s look at Michael Ray, Paul O’Grady, Marcus Rashford, Professor Green and I have a couple of incredible men in my network who I know will read this who are working incredibly hard at the moment to create something for the greater good, you should know who you are..

If you are not already familiar with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, please see the image below, and embark on your own further study. A lot of work that I do is to try and ensure that people’s basic needs are met, as I know that we have limited ability to help others when we lack security and safety. Normally once our basic needs are met we can progress to form healthy relationships with others and hopefully at this stage, feel inspired to help others and increase our sense of purpose. Many people lack motivation to do this once their basic and psychological needs are met they leave others in the purple and green zones therefore never reaching the orange zone! How is this relevant to masculinity, mental health and purpose for men who only hear about equality and women supporting women? let me explain..

Due to lack of equality, many women have been and still are vulnerable to not having their basic needs met. That is why many women support women. These basic needs could easily be met, and at the moment it is mainly men who have the power to do this, at the top, by addressing the hardships that mainly come as a result of child bearing. Whether by being a stay-at-home wife and losing pension or by barriers to work in line with their skillset and salary due to challenges with childcare. We have amazing feminine bodies and we really do need to procreate, at least most of us do. This bit men can’t do, and I’m not sure they would if they experienced childbirth equivalent to 47 bone fractures and their skeletal structure being torn apart leaving 20 or 30 years of muscle definition ruined in a flash! So, we need to work on accepting that women need to survive despite facilitating life. C19 has given many male CEO’s unique insight into how you can love your family but still crave the workplace, we all enjoy that, and need that; we need people.

Many men are noble and kind, and they support themselves and their families. Look at war heroes, look at historic regulators, these men knew something was wrong, and they went above and beyond, not to only line their own pockets but to fight for the vulnerable, to fight for families who were overpaying taxes, to fight to protect the nations women, children, and men who could not fight for themselves, these men had purpose, fulfilment. We now have a safer war to fight, there is little risk to body and mind, only risk of upsetting peers. We need men to fight for our safety, we need men to fight against mysogyny, rape, trafficking, out of balance inflation, racism, homophobia, ageism, child abuse, domestic abuse, discrimination, homelessness, all things that should not be happening in the 21st Century. I see so many posts and articles across my social media channels and in the press about women fighting against these issues, setting up charities, campaigning, supporting each other, but it is less frequent to see men helping us fight this war. We have a Government, we never argue that we pay tax on everything, from birth to death, but we still bear heavy judgement and shame if we need that tax, and are often left destitute whilst out tax pays for lavish lifestyles and lunches. There is a war, but too few soldiers.

I friend once said to me ‘I don’t know what a woman wants me to be – If I open a car door or offer to pay for a meal I am afraid I offend, and if I don’t I go against the chivalry I understood to be right’ – my only advice was not to be who he thought he should be, but to be his true self and transparent about that so that the right woman would go to him. Personally I love chivalry and door opening, but if we sit at a desk working together all day I want the same pay cheque, and if we bring up a family as a team, I want the same pension, and same estate, and if I am to bring up a family alone, as 1 in 4 families do now, I want barriers to home, work and opportunities removed, so that we are not the ones who suffer when society permits a parent to abandon a child, financially.

So how do you fight a war when you have not been enlisted? Where do you start? Let’s look at it on a smaller scale – if you can help only six people, the world would be a better place overnight! Your children would be safer, happier, and not destitute on their death bed. I mentioned earlier Michael Ray, Paul O’Grady, Marcus Rashford and Professor Green. These men are all doing something to help others, or to help those more vulnerable. Michael fights for equality, for Dads, for his daughter, he optimises masculinity but he is not afraid to call out other men or women, he is making a difference, he therefore has purpose, self-actualisation and good mental health. He could easily just focus on his partner and his daughter but he does more than that, he is a warrior and unafraid to show his love for his family whilst promoting equality inside and outside of the home. Take a look at Michael’s website and podcast here

Then we have Paul O’Grady who – despite being a well paid celebrity, has a genuine passion for helping others – in his case, dogs (and cats) at Battersea, – here is a man who some would question his masculinity, but he is using his strength to help those who are vulnerable, what can be more masculine than that? and then we have Marcus Rashford – if you don’t know what he has been up to you must be living in a cage (and probably not reading this blog) – a very wealthy and successful football player, who used his platform to stand up for families across the UK, he put vulnerable people above his own need to be popular, and despite the hammering from his capitalist testosterone fuelled football network has used his fame for good, despite the stigma, he has seen wrong and he is fighting a war that should not exist. Read his many posts on Twitter and see how he helps people

and lastly I make reference to Professor Green aka Stephen Manderson, who talks openly about mental health and supports so many others, he could easily hide behind his music and tattoos but he has purpose, he did not lose motivation when he and his were okay, he identified his place as a man in this world and is helping to heal the wounded from this psychological war. Take a look at his blogs here. But you do not have to be rich or famous to make a difference and be a man in the 21st century. I guarantee that at least half a dozen people within your reach need your help. I read articles of men who set-up football clubs for disadvantage children and men who set up carpentry sheds for the lonely and elderly, these men have little resource or time, but they reach out and help who is within their reach, those who need them, those who cannot fight their own war.

My biggest heartbreak is seeing how little is done to protect women and children in this Country. How many men stand by and turn a blind eye to rape, abuse, trafficking. hunger, poverty and abuse towards minority groups. Men who are not motivated because they are not struggling or directly affected, and they wonder what their purpose is because they take offence at the mention of equality. From where I am standing, we need men more than ever to show that they are the protectors, and not the perpetrators. There is no in-between, you are either okay with it, or you are not. Some tribes banish men who lay with a woman against her will, they say it is not ‘their way’ – it should not be anybody’s way. We have laws in this country but we do not have enforcement. We do not have men banishing each other or setting a strong example of what is right or wrong, we have unregulated violent porn and ungoverned increase of property prices, ungoverned capitalism and ungoverned presenteeism and discrimination.

We live in a Country, where you should feel safe to walk the street at night, where you should not be vulnerable because of your age, sex, race, sexuality or religion, we live in a Country where our basic needs should be not be a lifetime of struggle to achieve, and we live in a Country where I hear all too often, that men do not know where they stand. So let me say, you may not know where you stand but stand you must. Do not be the perpetrator, the bully; be the protector. We can celebrate masculinity and femininity and support equality, where there is fear of safety, there will be fear of equality. We need community we can trust, men we can trust, men we know will be educated not to cause pain, we need Governance from the top to make sure that these crimes will not be tolerated in our society.

I am a strong and independent woman, but this is a call to action for modern masculinity, and clarity of purpose to stand up and use that testosterone for good. We can all help somebody. There is no time to be lost.

Jules x