I recently joined a Facebook group where it consists of only females. It’s really quite nice since I get to expand my social circle, and I get to also see and learn how women can empower or help each other. It’s a nice thing to have when you’re still settling into a foreign country, especially in these times (winter is coming, too!).
Then it got me thinking about how there are all sorts of online groups that are made into safe spaces. We see spaces for hobbyists, for young adults, for the LGBT community, and for many different causes and groups. It may just be me personally, I haven’t seen one for men. I’m not talking about a gentlemen’s club where men just hang out and be… men (I do support it when men need “guy time” – think mancave). I’m talking about one where men can turn to and seek help, or just talk about things, and be vulnerable.
Go ahead and try it. Search “safe spaces for men” vs “safe spaces for women”. When I ran the search for men, it’s mostly articles about how men should have a safe space, while the search for women yielded results of actual sites where women can sign up for. But wait, why would men need such spaces?
Here’s a personal example: I have a male friend who, at one point in his life, received abuse from his ex-wife. He went through it all, physical abuse, mental abuse, he’s been kicked out of the house, he even went through a period of time when she froze his financial capabilities. Before jumping into the conclusion of “well, he must have done something wrong in the first place”, I should clarify that his ex-wife suffers from borderline personality disorder. Blames should not be assigned, and help should be given. Unfortunately, nobody around them helped the right way. He told me that he felt that the way the society works is that, women are always in the right, and men should always back down.
“I didn’t know who to turn to”.
In an ideal world, both men and women, rich and poor, young and old should have equal treatment. Unfortunately, such an ideal world is not yet in reach. It’s sad to see that this friend of mine, along with plenty other men in such situation, feeling this way, and to have the law system, usually working against their favor. It’s also frustrating to hear the sentence “I didn’t know who to turn to”.
Another example: my brother in law recently suffered from post-natal depression. Being aware that it affects men, and not just women, I advised him to seek help, which he did. But again, the words came back; “I didn’t know who to turn to”.
Put in a different perspective, I understand why such spaces are not available as abundantly for men like they are for other societal groups. Men are more likely to keep things to themselves, for different reasons (mostly in relation to evolutionary theories, masculinity and social roles) while women are more likely to talk about things. Going back to the basics of economy, there won’t be a supply if there is no demand. But this should not be the reason for the lack of safe spaces for men.
Before I end this post, I would like to iterate on the fact that I’m talking about the need for social support for men. By no means, am I talking about anti-feminism, or (toxic) masculinity. This is my view on how gender equality can be furthered. Of course, there are people out there who would abuse the system and create a hateful group where they claim that feminism is abusing their masculinity. In an ideal situation, those groups should be banned from the realms of the world wide web and be replaced with actual support group for men. But then, that’s suppression of the freedom of speech.
Everyone needs support. Be it in bad times, difficult times, good times even (who do you share your good times with if it’s not with the people who support you?). It’s not even just for people who need support, but also for people to explore a different side of things, like their uniqueness. Amazing things can happen when we just support each other.
*Here are a couple of interesting articles on this topic, besides the ones that I have attached in the form of links above.
Gendered Manifestations of Depression and Help Seeking Among Men
I really enjoyed this! You note something that I think everyone has noticed before, and put it into a very well-worded post. Though I myself am not part of any of these online-groups, I can totally understand that people want to be part of it. They seem to be very inspiring places. You talk about safe places and men, something which I noticed can bring up quite a bit of tremor. A quick story: I took a class last year, in which we talked about the male gaze and social roles etc. When I noted that dudes don’t seem to be allowed to be vulnerable, it got dismissed immediately. Now, the class was all women, so I had not expected a dude to voice an opinion. But it really felt like safe spaces for men are just not ‘meant to be’ and quickly became a talk about male domination etc. I wonder if that had been different, if there had been a bigger awareness of safe spaces for men, if it had been more prevalent (in) online (discussions).
thank you for creating a post onthis topic. Nowadays the Feminist activities are booming in areas all over the world, one interesting fact is that while the female is attracting attention, people are having a deeper understanding of the gender “male” as well. The stereotype of women being vulnerable is also compatible with the stereotype of men (should) not being vulnerable, therefore, when we fight with this bias towards women, we are in fact bringing the need of men to the public sight, too. I also know some helpless men, whose (so-called) masculine friends can’t understand him when he shows his vulnerability, so he sometimes has to turn to his female friends to ask for help. But I do think men are supposed to construct communal safe spaces, being more sensitive can be regarded as a good thing.
Such a great blog!
Your narrative with the mix of a peronal story and other theories and insights was very compelling.
I believe that it can´t be bad for anyone if all people have a safe space. While or even because the focus (and I think rightly so) lies on inequalities females experience, it is also important to work on the identification of men and their “masculinity”, to alter the situation in the society as a whole.
Thank you for treating this difficult topic!