One of the ways International Mens Day was celebrated, on Tuesday 19 November 2013, wasby holding a Men and Fathers’ Strategic Roundtable at Parliament House, Canberra. Thirty-three delegates from many parts of the men and fathers’ movement actively participated. Three of the delegates were indigenous, seven were women and a few others came as observers.
During the lunchbreak Carolyn Managh from M&C Saatchi released The Modern [Aussie] Man Whitepaper in front of Channel 9, 7 and the ABC. Reports on the release were featured in the Financial Review and in NineMSN in a relatively positive way. One feminist writer wrote a great article in the Women’s Agenda in anticipation of the white paper release but radical feminist writers in the Daily Life and the Chifley blog site tore into the Modern [Aussie] Man whitepaper making mince meat of Australian men in the process. The attacks on the whitepaper findings prove that the concept ‘all men are bastards’ is still alive and well in Australia’s newsrooms. I told an ABC journalist who was rather disparaging of the Modern Aussie Man,
“That it is nice to be shown some kindness in the media after 40 years of vilification of manhood and all things masculine by a complicit media”.
This quote from the Modern [Aussie] Man whitepaper’s report on the ‘Nurturing Knight’ or the fathers of Australia rang a deep chord with me.
“Being a Knight in Shining Armour for his children is the ambition that supersedes all others for Australian fathers. Like many ambitions, desire is often different to the reality, but the emotional intent to engage, protect and nurture is stronger than anything Modern [Aussie] Man has ever felt in his life, It is a compelling motivation to be ‘the best man he can be’.Australian fathers feel torn between work and fatherhood commitments, but will ultimately put children first if they have to choose.
Their mantra is ‘If you’re going to fail at building something, fail at building the next iPad or a brick wall. Don’t fail at building great children or building the best opportunities for them to succeed in life.’”
Many of the commentators attacked the white paper because it has been done by a marketing company but that should give us encouragement as opposed to trepidation. You see marketing companies like M&C Saatchi only get paid for being right. When they get things wrong, businesses go broke and people get the sack. Marketing companies cannot afford to get it wrong. Academic studies and government studies can get it wrong endlessly, as they have done when it comes to men for 40 years, but marketing companies have to get their research right or heads will roll.
Normally marketing companies keep their research to themselves for pecuniary reasons but in this case they have decided to share their research with the world to help address some of the challenges that men face and give men both an ear and a voice in the modern world. M&C Saatchi deserves credit for this.
As someone who has been active in the men’s movement for 30 years, I have yet to see a more accurate description of Aussie men. Although it has its limitations it is essentially a self description or
“Aussie men in their own words”.
The report is too kind for that reason because it deals with our aspirations as men, and not necessarily our actions.
All in all it is an extremely accurate description of the heart of the average Australian man. What it shows is that Aussie men are deeply committed to their families and endeavour to practise that commitment as the best they can.
Herein lies the challenge. We are now living in the fallout from a fatherless generation. How can you be a father to your children or stay married to a woman if you have never seen it modelled for you in real time? Is it any wonder we as men struggle so much?
What has really surprised me is the vitriolic attack on The Modern Aussie Man from our Feminist friends in the academic and media world. You see every time they attack this white paperthey are actually attacking modern Aussie men and the heartfelt aspirations of the average Aussie man. One of those aspirations as shown by the white paper is gender equality. How quaint?
It seems that equality is only skin deep for those who express their hate for manhood so voraciously. Their hypocrisy can be seen by all, as famous Australian feminist Germaine Greer was wont to say,
“Testosterone is a poison.”
One of the reasons the Men and Fathers Strategic Roundtable was held in Parliament House, Canberra,besides the release of the white paper, is the desperate need for government action on positive male policies that will benefit the whole community men, women and children. We have an epidemic of male suicide in our country and little is being done to address it. Men are killing themselves at the rate of four to one compared with women.
Perhaps the area of male health that for all of us is an absolute national and international disgrace is in the area of our indigenous brothers. The average white man dies 3.4 years earlier than the average white woman. Aboriginal men die 14 years earlier than the average white woman. Aboriginal men in the Northern territory die at the average age of 63.4 which is approximately 20 years earlier than the average white woman (83.1).
Unfortunately this was brought into sharp focus by one of the indigenous delegates at the Men and Fathers Strategic Roundtable from Dubbo Frank Doolan or “Riverbank Frank”as he likes to be known. He was home only 24 hours from Canberra and this is the text I received from by my Aboriginal friend and verbatim I will quote him:
“Another mate took himself out last night. No reason, family man, good bloke. Wasn’t young either (70s). Fair Dinkum! Here we go again.2 bear with unbearable sorrow, 2 run where the brave do not go… it’s what I do. Hope u r well, Riverbank Frank”.
The philosopher Thoreau said,
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Thankfully someone has broken into that desperation albeit with a touch of humour; to do that they had to do a lot of listening. As Leo Buscaglia said about caring and listening,
“Too often we underestimate the power of… a listening ear… which has the potential to turn a life around.”
“The Modern (Aussie) Man white paper is proof that Carolyn Managh and the team at M&C Saatchi did a lot of listening and in doing so eased some of that desperation in the modern Aussie man and perhaps saved a few men’s lives in the process. What more could we ask for?