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Is masculinity in crisis?

On 16 May, Diane Abbott the Shadow Health Minister gave a speech in which she suggested that men in the UK are in crisis. This has sparked a lively debate…

Ms Abbott points to research that shows that men are more likely to take their own lives than women, have lower educational attainment at all levels of the education system, are more likely to be homeless, and are less likely to access NHS services. She also notes that men work longer hours, are driven by rising sexual expectations and aren’t very good at expressing their emotions. She sees this as an identity problem with men in transition from a repressed past to an uncertain future.

Reactions have in some way been predictable. Many have picked up on her comments about the increasing role of Viagra and porn, as part of a “hyper-masculinity” for young men. Amol Rajan in the Independent notes that men no longer dominate society, and that women have increased rights. He believes, as I do, that this is something to be celebrated. He also notes wryly that a man commenting on a crisis of femininity would be unlikely to get a positive response.

GQ and the Daily Mirror see it rather differently. Tony Parsons argues that we are in a golden age for men and argues that “There is not a lot wrong with British men that couldn’t be put right by less porn, more fathers sticking around to raise their kids and enough economic growth to provide jobs."

You can also see some great contributions to the broader debate here. I was particularly struck by the comments of Peter Owen-Jones, a former advertising executive who is now a Church of England vicar, who highlights the importance of the relationship between fathers and sons:

“There is a constant battle that goes on inside every man that remains taboo. To that extent Diane Abbott is right. When it opens publicly we tend to veer to the safe ground of football and petty politics. The terrible cases of grooming and the fallout of Savile have instilled a sense of shame in every man. We recognise the power of our own sexuality. But addressing it remains taboo and socially unacceptable.

At its core, the father-and-son relationship is absolutely critical. Currently it is still framed around pints of beer, football results and career ambitions. These are the easy comfortable points of daily life that frame our current identity. But it is a narrow vision that is positively disabling and utterly inadequate. It is time we address the vulnerabilities of the male identity and take responsibility for the motivations behind many of these crimes.”

— Peter Owen-Jones —

Somewhere between misogyny and political correctness there are some important issues in here. Restored though our First Man Standing campaign seeks to develop a positive response that celebrates masculinity and supports those men who are using their strength and talents to support healthy relationships and respect all the women in their lives.

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