Or, what we do in our meetings and why we do it.
There is a reason why we changed our name from “Men Confronting Patriarchy” to “Men Against Patriarchy”. There is a reason why you don’t hear of us going around telling other people they are sexist bastards. It’s because we are not a group of perfect feminist men in shining armour, here to show others how to be better men. Doing so would make us hypocrites. As Paul Kivil discovered back in 1979:
“…But the old methods of lecture and slide presentation were hard to let go. They made
us the “good” men with the “right” ideas and allowed us to feel powerful by attacking
and berating other men. We became the best liberated men on the block, and that be
came another way of winning women’s approval and attention. It also allowed us to feel
self-righteous toward other men”
Kivil and his comrades found that there is little point going around pointing out the sexism and patriarchy in other people when you have not addressed it in your self first. There is little point in shouting about how patriarchy affects other people when you are yet to analyze how if affects yourself.
Society and patriarchy itself says that men can not talk about their emotions and any problems we have. We are told that to do so is “feminine”, “girly” and “weak”. For us to understand our role within patriarchy we need to analyse how our socialisation as men affects us as much as we need to analyse how they affect others. The two are inextricably linked. This was the primary reason this group was formed, not as some sort of pro-feminist militia but as a support group for men who want to sort their shit out.
For this reason all our Men’s meetings start with a “check in”. We go around the circle asking each other how we are and how life has been since we met last. This creates an open, confidential and supportive environment where we are able to talk openly about our feelings while shedding the emotionless shell we are socialised to wear. Over time, this experience gets easier, we get use to sharing our feelings but also just as importantly, we practice listening to others. We are then more able to apply these talking, listening and supportive skills outside of the meeting environment so we can break down the idea that sharing emotions and listening is the role of women.
We have no time scale for this part of the meeting and if someone needs all the session to get things off their chest and for us to provide the time and support they need then we do that.
Once we are done we go around again asking for examples of how he have used or experienced patriarchy recently. We encourage people to look inwardly again, we want people to get practice in realising that we as men are constantly benefiting from patriarchy. People can talk about these examples in a safe and confidential environment. We work together to call out our own and each others problematic behaviors and views in a positive and productive way. We put time into getting ourselves use to identifying and calling out sexism in other people, whether they be our peers or strangers and we have all recognised we are getting better at this, but first and foremost we recognise we must first challenge the patriarchy inherent in ourselves.
Often this section brings up interesting topics which we choose to explore for the rest of the meeting or even roll over the the next one. If this doesn’t happen however we usually have a topic of conversation ready which we decided on at the previous meeting. Occasionally there is some small amount of reading or research to do and we have also watched films. We have covered a range of topics including providing emotional support, objectification, street harassment, people trafficking, gender roles, sexism in activism, sex work, power dynamic, consent,calling people out and accountability. These discussion allow us the share skills, explore our ideas, challenge misconceptions and generally become more aware of the many ways we are socialised to behave and how patriarchy works to both our advantage and disadvantage.
Having Men only meetings allows us to work out stuff for ourselves without relying on women to provide all the answers. Our mixed meetings are intended to provide space for women to provide input on the topics we cover on their own terms.
We are a smallish group but we try to organise public mixed gender meetings as often as we can. This allows us to open up up the discussion on patriarchy and sexism to a wider audience. And frankly, it is necessary to have discussions on these subjects that are open to everyone, so we are able to listen and share a larger range of opinion and experience of a given subject. So far our mixed gender meetings and events have been well attended and really worth while, allowing us to form links and share ideas and opinions.
We always have a suggestion list at our events to allow anybody to make suggestions on what they feel we should talk about in our men’s group meetings. This has been a good way of getting ideas we may not have considered otherwise.
Although we are primarily a support and discussion group we do stand in solidarity with those who take action against patriarchy. We will be marching in solidarity with the Reclaim the Night march on November 7th and we look forward to supporting more and more feminist and anti-patriarchy actions, demos and initiatives in the future. We may even initiate a few ourselves, hopefully in conjunction with other relevant groups, so keep your eyes peeled!
Our Men’s group meetings are held on the first Wednesday of every month at 7pm in hydra Bookshop and Old Market in Bristol and we are open to all folk who identify as men, just come along and say hi. We can be e-mailed at BristolMAP@noflag.org.uk, contacted on this blog or reached at our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/menagainstpatriarchy.bristoluk