Men in the United Kingdom face many difficulties, but also many opportunities. Gone are the days where men are pigeon holed into acting a certain way, due to the diversity of belief and culture on our shores. For example, it has become more socially acceptable for Dads to be stay at home parents, particularly within the predominantly white middle class, gone are the days where single stereotypes fully dominate, for example you can be a poet and a huge football fan, and long gone are the days that a majority of men open up willingly to matters of the heart, if this were ever true.
What does exist clearly are big repeated messages, such as to be masculine is to have control and power in whatever context. I was made redundant recently, and it was hard for many reasons, but the primary one was that another person had control over what happened to me. I was helpless however good I was at the job. I had no power, no control, and that challenged my own perception of masculinity. I want to provide for my family. I want to say I am successful down the pub. I want to feel like I have power in a situation. These feelings are not bad in themselves, but learning to channel and nurture them well is essential. I know my temper well enough that I must speak how I feel or the steam train comes quick. Often that steam train will be directed at those who love me mosI have many different types of male friends. Some atheists, some fire-breathing Christians, some agnostics, some lower-middle class, some very wealthy and some very middle class. Whatever label one assigns to a friend, there have always been three defining factors when considering someone a close friend or not. Openness, vulnerability and honesty. I struggle to act out these factors sometimes, and I have certainly spent swathes of my existence hidden. For example, I have always struggled with the temptations of porn, with gossip and with not believing in myself. This is a side I am very good at shoving down the sofa, even though it manifests in different ways, such as running away from a challenge, lustful thoughts and speaking ill of others. I wrote the song called ‘Can We Talk’ for the Dwell Project, which is a phenomenal charity preventing domestic violence against women. (Watch this video to hear it.)
As much as my instinct would be to give every woman a good-hearted terminator security guard, I sense that peace and transparency always wins, in every occasion, even if it comes with short-term costs. Our judicial system is set up in this way. If a murderer pleads guilty, then the charges are less. If the murderer shows signs of remorse, this is also taken into consideration. I write and ‘spit’ poetry intending to connect to the heart of an individual, and usually in the process get changed myself, as I want to be an example of a transparent heart. Here is a lyric from the single:
We know its pride when men don’t talk
We tell the world we feel cheese when we‘re just chalk
Inner voice speaks to us plus we trust thoughts
Suicide rates through the roof chimney falls off
Men must talk.
When we speak out how we feel, it breaks an inner chain of cold steel silence. The darkness wants us hidden, whereas freedom calls for us to speak out! Silence always loses; a voice always triumphs, even in the shadows. Talking to each other gives a window for us to redeem ourselves through our honesty. Here are a few more lyrics from the track:
Company will define you
Intimacy/ into me see/ come on shine through
You once desired truth/but now you hire suits
Pouring gasoline on your dreams like they fire proof
The company we keep can easily define us, and there is no worse company than only ourselves. Men are made to be connected to reality, we are designed from our core outwards to be alive to others and we were created for much more than staring at screens and smacking other beings. There is such healing in telling others what is going on in our hearts. Truth will set you free. My wife knows me better than anyone, and she knows my struggles left, right and centre, but the incredible thing is, when she sees me prevail over my inner pain she can see the work of victorious light shining through me. This in turn gives her permission to do the same, and vice versa. Final piece of lyric:
The saddest thing for me is watching all your art go
Part you, part fake, part half fast show
But I ain’t laughing at your silence as we pass bro
It’s good for men to talk so we can both pen our chart growth
It deeply saddens me that domestic violence is so prevalent in our society. I intend to never abuse or physically hurt my wife, but I know that one of the key ways this will never happen is if I allow male friends into my life. Legends are made from vulnerable men. This doesn’t mean we have to cry and cuddle, but it means I must not lie, and I must be open to what is going on in myself and share vulnerably. Fear is silencing, whereas truth is deafening. It’s time to speak to someone, as they may need to speak to someone too. Play your part in preventing domestic violence, by killing it in yourself. In an age of endless cyber connection, lets make sure our hearts are eternally connected to another, and the fruit will not be Apple’s growth, but Adam’s nourishment and flourishing.
Qi Guy is devoted to pure logic & he’s rooted deep in Western culture. 500 years ago the philosophy of Descartes crowned Reason king. The Gutenberg Printing Press was invented & Martin Luther ‘The Married Monk’ began the Protestant Reformation on the basis that through Reason all men could read the scriptures for themselves. Rationality was institutionalised in civil society as an individually masculine trait in opposition to emotion which came to be seen as inherently feminine. Over time this had a negative impact on men’s mental health – perhaps one reason why today suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.
2. Call of Duty Dude
Call of Duty Dude is marked by an addiction to the ideas of danger, espionage & physique. This dude’s not new – he’s been around for a while. 200 years ago John Le Marchant set up the world’s first military academy at Sandhurst in Britain. George Washington set up West Point in the US & Napoleon followed suit. These were the first national armies set up to train ‘gentlemen cadets’. Masculinity based on chivalry, honour & violence became institutionalised through the world’s professional militaries.
3. Downton Gent
In the First World War most British officers were recruited from the Gentry – a class of hereditary landowners who controlled British politics up until 1924 when for the first time the son of a farmer & housemaid became Prime Minister. The Gentry institutionalised a masculinity which gave men the prerogative to have secret sexual affairs with lower class women whilst consigning their wives to unfaithful marriages to keep family honour & avoid scandal. Downton traces the story of the rise of Women’s Rights. Yet in 2014 the UK (23%) & US (18%) had fewer female MPs holding seats than in Afghanistan (28%).
4. Forbes Fellow
Forbes Fellow is driven by innovation, trade & people-management. The era of Empire-building fuelled by the Industrial Revolution saw men become explorers, colonisers & sea-traders. The industrialists institutionalised men in charge of the work houses & factories. Over time these small industrial economies grew into global business economies mostly managed by men. In 2014 just 15% FTSE 250 company board members were women.
5. Relational Men
Where do some blokes get the idea that we’re entitled to rational control, physical or political power, sexual or economic control over women? You don’t need to look back far into history to see where this ideology comes from. You don’t need to look hard today to see domestic violence against women is a global epidemic suffered by 1 in 3 women.
But there’s a growing tide of men committed to unlearning the lies we’ve been sold by history about being a man. There’s a growing tide of men who’re open to vulnerability. There’s a growing tide of men who put the adventure of healthy relationships above work, above honour, above power. Will you join us?
The Brazilian World Cup is just around the corner & plenty of us are inventing bizarre rituals to bring luck to the England side. My dad’s a life-long West Ham fan, which is where I get my innate sense of underdog moral authority. He often refuses to watch the very games he obsesses over because of bad omens over Upton Park his viewing brings.
Talking about his own footballing superstitions Arsenal fan Nick Hornby writes, “I have tried ‘smoking’ goals in & eating cheese-&-onion crisps at certain points in the 1st half; I have tried not setting the video for live games. I have tried lucky socks, lucky shirts, lucky hats & lucky friends, & have attempted to exclude others who I feel bring with them nothing but trouble for the team”.
Why do we create these comedy sports rituals?
Hornby goes on to write, “What else can we do when we’re so weak? We invest hours each day, months each year, years each lifetime in something over which we have no control; is it any wonder then, that we are reduced to creating ingenious but bizarre liturgies designed to give us the illusion that we are powerful after all?”
World Cup research has revealed domestic violence in Britain increases by up to 38% after England games
Why is this? In the Hillsborough disaster alcohol was infamously blamed as part of the cover up. Blaming alcohol alone is often a pat answer to a complex question. In a game where we’ve invested so much energy as fans for 90 minutes we have no control over the players. No control over the managers’ or referees’ decisions. No control over the results. This can be unbearable if we think we’re entitled to control. There needs to be some relief. A loss engulfs us in self pity.
Ad men exploit this unhappy tension in a well-known chocolate bar World Cup advert. I enjoy watching England more when I ignore the ads & ditch illusions of control. Unless we men become aware that there are many things in life (more than we like to admit) over which we have no control then domestic violence against women will never end.
As Christian & Muslim football fans our faith teaches us that we find strength in weakness. Recognising our weaknesses as men is not easy but is really good for us. It makes us more honest, more true to ourselves & therefore better at relationships with women. Over the past 10 years in Britain football fan culture & the FA have been largely successful in tackling racism, which is good news. 2014 is the time for fans + FIFA to eradicate sexism + domestic violence against women & to save football as the beautiful game.
Finn’s father is fixated on teaching his son not to mix up his Lego playsets. Finn’s dad a.k.a. The Man Upstairs decides to Krazy Glue his ideal Lego constructions together. Finn’s natural creativity is being quashed. This is the conundrum that must be solved in The Lego Movie.
A conundrum that’s reflected in men’s actual lives. Do we live according to the Krazy Glued ideals of being a man or according to our natural desire for something more creative? Because you can’t live life according to both.
The Krazy Glued ideal of being a man is that sense of entitlement to power & control.
Many Christian & Muslim men in Britain have power & control in society, in our churches & mosques, politically & economically – & some men do not.
For those who embody positions of power, life can become centred on maintaining that power. For those of us who do not have equal access to privilege, life can become centred on protest until we achieve the same power we feel entitled to.
But for most men life is not that simple. We might hold to the masculine ideal of power & control but our actual lives often don’t match up to it, or we cannot maintain the control we desire. It is because of these mismatches & tensions that some men choose to abuse women in the home.
Christian & Muslim men believe it is not in our nature to be violent against women – God did not create us that way.
As I heard Michael Kaufman say recently at Being A Man Festival, “To say men are violent against women by nature is much too low a view of men”.
So why did we face such a flood of men abusing women last year? 1.1 million women survived domestic violence in Britain in 2013, predominantly at the hands of men. Why do we blokes tolerate the fact that5 million British women or 30% of the female population have experienced domestic violence since the age of 16?
Surely a sense of entitlement to power & control over women is at war with the heart of man. We must let go of this false ideal, this ideal often concealed by crude comedy. Let go bro!
Because it’s a tragedy when you watch the man who thinks ‘control’s my middle name’ but it’s Jon.
Join us as we regenerate a way of being men free from power & control over women & free from hidden abuse in the home.
Dr Watson’s return to London is peppered with nightmares & flashbacks. He’s back from combat in Afghanistan a lost & lonely soul. Lost & lonely, that is, until he meets the world’s only consulting detective – Sherlock Holmes!
Sherlock Holmes’ obsessive devotion to scientific deduction works to his personal detriment – he has no friends! No friends, until Dr John Watson becomes a 221B Baker Street flatmate.
And so beneath the surface of the detective story begins the story of the greatest friendship ever. But because it’s a male friendship it’s simply never talked about – unless there’s a best man’s speech to give. And in last week’s BBC episode ‘The Sign of Three’ Sherlock became exactly that – best man at Watson’s wedding. Sherlock delivers one of the most entertainingly awkward & tenderly touching speeches, “I will solve your murder but it takes John Watson to save your life. Trust me on that I should know he’s saved mine so many times & in so many ways”
Last week I too had the honour of being asked to be best man at my friend’s wedding. What can I learn from Sherlock & Watson? Both characters need friendship to temper the humdrum predictability of everyday life seen through the lens of uncompromising applications of logic & an addiction to adventure. But their friendship goes far beyond the functionality of sharing a common mission. The secret to Sherlock & Watson’s friendship, I believe, is honesty. Because a friendship without honesty is no friendship at all.
Surely a sense of entitlement to power & control over women is at war with the heart of man.
Most blokes don’t commit domestic violence against women, but most men do have an influence on the culture of masculinity that allows other men to become abusive husbands, boyfriends, or exes. By making our friendships with other men more honest we can change this culture.
Tonight’s final episode of Sherlock centres on the terrifying villain Charles Augustus Magnussen – the master blackmailer. How will Sherlock & Watson’s friendship fare? The power of blackmail lays in unrevealed secrets. Real friendships scratch beneath the surface of the false self –that Facebook version of ourselves we’re all tempted to project. The Enemy will try to blackmail us into silence because – to varying degrees – we’re all complicit in this culture of control that’s allowed other men to abuse women.
If your mate’s using tactics to control his wife, girlfriend, or ex are you prepared to challenge him? If you notice signs of abuse of power & control over women in your own behaviour are you prepared to get help? It’s time to break the silence on domestic violence through male friendships. The only shame is in staying silent.
“Men who go to Church don’t commit domestic violence!” A recent Christianity Magazine survey revealed over ½ respondents – mostly women & regular church goers - had suffered domestic abuse. Up to 10% evangelical Christians in UK experienced physical abuse in 2012. Read more
“It’s culture that causes Muslim men to abuse women!”Ideas of honour & shame are often used to justify violence, but so-called ‘honour’ does not cause or excuse domestic violence. There’s no honour in violence against women. Domestic violence is a choice made by the perpetrator alone. Read more
“Men suffer domestic violence the same as women!” A vast majority of perpetrators of violence are men & the nature of violence used by men is more severe than that used by women against men. Read more
“If men get involved in women’s campaigns, women’s voices will get pushed to the edges!” There are very few examples of this happening. A greater danger is a lack of men’s involvement in ending violence against women altogether. Read more
“Christian & Muslim men’s abuse of women is rooted in Christianity & Islam!” Religion & scripture have often been used to justify men’s power & control over women. But today more than ever Christian & Muslim men believe it’s our God-given mission – our dawah – to help end violence against wives, mums, daughters & sisters. Read more on Imams Against Domestic Abuse & Restored Alliance.