Recently we made time to sit down and do some deep thinking about our theory of change and why we do the work we do which was really valuable. One of the questions that felt particularly useful was this: what are the barriers that prevent men from engaging in this work?
On the one hand, it's an obvious question, with a potentially obvious answer: patriarchy. But it was interesting to dig deeper and break down the problem into its constituent parts.
We believe that all of us - men, women and non-binary people - are socialised to varying degrees into a patriarchal culture, which encourages us to 'obey' the unwritten rules of gender and not to cross these cultural norms. We might be punished for not fitting into the boxes of masculinity and femininity which have been established before we were born - the work we do, what we wear, the hair we grow or remove, how we relate to our bodies, how we have sex, the way we sit or stand, the way we dance, the way we speak, smile, and engage with others. All of these things are gendered.
We also believe that feminism opens a new door, one where we can see more clearly the restrictions of masculinity and femininity and find a different path that creates choice and freedom. In this way, men have so much to gain from seeing beyond the limitations of normative masculinity, or 'the Man Box' as it's often been called. But a peer-enforced culture of patriarchy still punishes men for stepping outside of the Man Box, and prevents them from engaging deeply in feminism. What are some of the impacts of this?
In no particular order, this means that:
- Men are put off by the word feminism
- Men think that these spaces are not for them
- Men are worried about their masculinity being called into question by engaging with feminism
- Men are worried about being told off or told they’re doing something wrong if they enter these spaces
- Men cannot perceive male privilege
- Men cannot see the problem
- Men are not motivated to fix the issue
- Men exist in a culture that does not hold them to account for their behaviour
- Men don't think that these conversations apply to them
This leads to:
not understanding their liberation in this work
These are the challenges that we have to overcome, and although we come across many men who are really passionate about and invested in this work, we know that there are many more who could contribute to this movement.
We would love to hear your thoughts. What has your experience been? What are other barriers that prevent men from engaging?
Do get in touch with us to find out more about how our work engages men in feminism, helping to eliminate gender-based violence, create awareness about harmful gender norms, and create happier men.