Last Saturday (the 25th) Juliette, her beau and I went to the third Being A Man Festival at the Southbank Centre. It was an interesting day, that made me question myself plenty. Here are five things I learnt whilst I was there, and a few photos of the day.
At some stage in our upbringing we become uncomfortable with touching and complimenting other men.
It was on a panel about Male Body Image that this was brought to light by the poet Andrew McMillan, and it struck me just how true that is. I can’t remember ever being taught that, but at some point you stop showering with the other boys after sports, and you start shaking hands with rather than hugging your friends. As McMillan also pointed out, that contact is then replaced with violence - often acceptably so, in the form of contact sports.
Sexism is about power.
It came up again and again. Men belittle women because men are in a position of power, and women threaten that. Basically, men are scared of losing power, and are now clinging to it desperately; and it’s coming out in the form of vile sexism and abuse.
Men aren't physically stronger than women.
Okay, in terms of upper body strength, yes, on average men are stronger. But I learnt that women are born predisposed to survival - on average more women are born, they live longer, recover more quickly from colds, and would have in years passed survived where an injury would have killed a man.
I want to hear more Finnish Shouting Choirs.
We only caught the final two performance pieces from the Finnish Shouting Choir - Rule Britannia, and an Article of the European Convention on Human Rights - and they were both exhilarating, loud, masculine and fun.
We should all talk more about everything.
Men don’t talk much about their feelings. And always, as mentioned at the root of that is power, but even further down the root is shame. Shame is the big block that sits in most of our chests and stops us from saying what we want. I feel it, and it holds me back. So personally I’m going to try and not let my shame stop me from saying what I want to say - even if it means I’ll be going through a few conversations sweaty and blushing; I’ll survive them, and I’ll be able to talk.