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Men Meeting Because We're Men

First printed in Perspective Magazine
published by Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG)

By Peter Davison

I'd heard the expression "Men have a lot of buddies but no real friends" long before I realized how lonely this reality actually was for me. Then I found myself holding one of fourteen candles standing between then Mayor John Savage and then Premier John Buchanan at a post Montreal Massacre vigil called for men. That, of course, was not quite the bonding ritual I needed but it was encouraging to stand in the bitter cold with other men who felt ashamed of Marc Lepine's act against all women. As I attended follow up meetings, I came to appreciate the chance to share more feelings unique to men. Unlocking common experiences around sexual initiation or son's relationships with fathers, as examples, proved to be far more insightful to my personal growth than exchanging hockey opinions or stock market success.

There have been men's groups for several years, especially in the United States within the New Age movement. These are characterized as mytho-poetic because they explore the hidden male through art and expression. There was a sudden growth of pro-feminist men's groups around Canada because men were shocked into organizing a response to the killings at Ecole Polytechnique. The following is an outline of the work our group has done in the three years since it formed after the Montreal Massacre.

History: Men for Change is a local men's group formed in the aftermath of the tragic killing of women engineering students in Montreal in 1989 by a man who singled out his victims because of his perception of them as "a bunch of feminists". The group has been meeting regularly since then with the aim of better understanding the confusion and violence that all too often characterizes male-female relationships in our society. From its inception the group has focused on political accountability and consciousness raising amongst members about the dynamics of traditional "male culture", and on how the assumptions and values of this limited version of masculinity adversely affect the lives of all men.

The Personal: Weekly and monthly small group reflection meetings offer an opportunity for men to go beyond the taboo that exists in our culture against sharing our feelings with each other about issues such as relationships, commitment, sexism, anger, competition, male role models, fatherhood and so on. We are exploring the various ways men have been conditioned to deny and suppress any sense of vulnerability or fear, and how we feel compelled to perform the expectation to be "a real man". Because men universally experience, and hide, feelings of inadequacy we live with a burden of inner doubt and conflict. Paradoxically, male violence seems to originate in feelings of fear and powerlessness and an inability to communicate these feelings in a healthy way.

The Political: Since silence is a form of violence, Men for Change works in solidarity and action by speaking out to oppose violence and sexism. Our political action and education initiatives are some ways to encourage men to join women in taking responsibility for ending men's violence towards women. Our activities to date have included a variety of opportunities:

bulletHosting a monthly film and discussion series with the National Film Board that addressed a variety of gender justice issues.
bulletParticipating in a three part series with the Halifax City Regional Library entitled, "Changing Men".
bulletLobbying for funding to Project New Start, and other programs that counsel men who batter women.
bulletSpeaking out in the media with our perspective on violence and sexism.
bulletSharing our struggle and vision with others in public schools, universities, community organizations and at public events.
bulletDeveloping anti-violence curriculum for Junior High in cooperation with the Halifax-Bedford County School Board.
bulletCompiling and sharing literature and audio-visual resources for individual and public reference.

We believe that by encouraging men to share more of their experience with each other we will end our silence and the roots of aggressive male behavior will ultimately be revealed and reduced, and that men and women together will become freer to fully live and express themselves sexually, socially and emotionally.

The members of Men for Change welcome new members as well as the opportunity to share our ideas with others. Please contact us for more information:

By Peter Davison

Men For Change: PO Box 33005, Quinpool postal Outlet, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3l 4T6


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