Project 84: Why suicide is a political issue

Has a charity campaign ever carried such a powerful punch as Project 84? Indeed, one would struggle to name an artistic statement in any medium which bears such a profound weight. All of humanity’s deepest emotions – sadness, love, beauty, remorse, loss – are packaged into the 84 fully clothed male figures standing at the edges of the rooftops of the ITV building in London, as commissioned by CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably. [Read more…]

Men, women and prison: A study in gender

A couple of weeks ago, an episode of Ed Miliband’s podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful, was devoted to penal policy and prison reform. It features a fascinating interview with Nils Öberg, director general of the Swedish prison and probation service who makes a string of important observations about the Nordic approach to imprisonment. In a nutshell, in Sweden prison is only ever used as a last resort, is focused upon rehabilitation, particularly addressing social, educational, psychological and addiction problems of prisoners. The Swedish reoffending rate is around 30% after three years post-release.  In the UK it is 46% after just one year, and that is despite Swedish prisons being disproportionately filled with the most damaged, violent and recidivist offenders in their system. [Read more…]

Masculinity: the personal, the political and the economic

There’s an unusually well-balanced feature about the politics and practice of masculinity in the Independent today by Oliver Bennett. Most writing on men’s issues and masculinities takes either an individualist or a political approach. Bennett’s piece is smart enough to recognise that the issues are connected & inseparable.

The article put me in mind of something I wrote a few weeks ago, when I was speaking on a panel at the ESRC academic conference on masculinities & was asked to introduce myself with a few words to set out where I was coming from. What follows is a (hopefully) readable edit of the notes I made for that address.

———-     [Read more…]

#MeToo or #MenToo? How men can talk about abuse

Guys, gather round. I get it. I understand. You care about sexual abuse, sexual violence, sexual harassment.

In fact, you really, really care because unlike some we could mention, you care about all victims, not just the women, am I right?

You probably know the stats already. Wherever women and girls are victimised in sexual, intimate or gendered crimes, men and boys are victimised too. Pick a statistic – one in eight victims here, one in three there, one in four of this and one in ten of that.

Even on an issue like workplace sexual harassment, which is about as gender-tilted as these things get, you can still find plenty of men with their own stories of being bullied, harassed, coerced and victimised by male or female colleagues or bosses.

What’s more, the victimisation experienced by those men is not neatly isolated by gender. More often than not it will intersect with issues around sexuality or gender identity, racial stereotyping and racial fetishization, mental health and neurotypicality, social exclusion and vulnerability etc, etc.

Those issues are real. The pain and suffering of those involved must be acknowledged and we need to talk about those issues, develop solutions to help prevent it happening and to support those survivors who need help or access to justice.

If you agree with me, if you care about those men, if you want to help those men and prevent others suffering in the future, here is what we need to do right here, right now:

Support women. [Read more…]

Harvey Weinstein and the authoritarianism of violence

As the revelations about Harvey Weinstein grow ever more miserable and appalling, so too does the state of commentary on the case.

Whether firing off a 140-character tweet or 800 words of editorial, the main game in town seems to be finding someone to blame. A vast army of Twitter dullards seem determined to blame the women who are speaking out now for not speaking out sooner. Fleet Street Fox wants to blame the men. Piers Morgan, for reasons best known to himself, is determined to blame Meryl Streep. Almost no one seems to have noticed that this blizzard of finger-pointing and recrimination is doing a marvellous job of diverting responsibility and blame from where it belongs, four square on the head of Harvey Weinstein, holed up in some Alpine clinic and begging for “a second chance.”

[Read more…]

Young men’s minds: Looking beyond mood and feelings

Last week the latest UK suicide statistics reminded us of the grim reality of the depths of teenage despair. Out of every 100,000 boys aged 15 to 19, more than seven took their own lives last year. The equivalent figure for girls was less than half that, at 2.9.

With that in mind, perhaps there should be no surprise that a government-funded study into mental health in teenagers has concluded that

Policy makers should take into account the differences between boys and girls in their experiences of mental ill-health at different ages.

And so say all of us. The only issue is that the very same recommendation continues like this:

Policy makers should take into account the differences between boys and girls in their experiences of mental ill-health at different ages. The report shows that between the ages of 11 and 14 girls are significantly more likely than boys to experience poor mental health.    [Read more…]

Male victims, the CPS and the latest chapter in the saga

[The first few hundred words here are something of a recap, feel free to jump ahead if you know the story!]


Just a little over two years ago, the Crown Prosecution Service published their annual review of their performance in prosecuting crimes of violence against women and girls for the year 2014/15.

According to the press release, dutifully reprinted by pretty much all mainstream media, there had been over 107,000 violent crimes against women and girls that year, including rape, domestic violence, child abuse and modern slavery.

Buried in the small print, however, was a curious detail. Around one in six of these victims were neither women nor girls. They were men and boys. Somewhere around 17,000 male survivors of sexual and intimate crimes were being officially designated by the UK authorities as “women and girls.”

To cut a long story short, I phoned a few friends and between us we corralled around 30 charity leaders, writers, academics and activists and we co-signed a letter to the Guardian calling on the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders,

“…and all public bodies to affirm their commitment to addressing and eliminating intimate violence against human beings of any gender and to take care not to compromise the dignity and public understanding of any survivors.”

[Read more…]

Can men stop being violent? Uncoupling masculinity from the massacres.

On March 22nd 2017, Khalid Masood drove a car on to the pavement of Westminster Bridge, killing four people and injuring 50 more, then fatally stabbing a police officer outside the Palace of Westminster before being himself shot and killed.

Exactly two months later on May 22nd, Salman Abedi walked up to the entrance of Manchester Arena just as a pop concert ended and exploded the bomb in his backpack, killing himself and 22 others.

June 3rd, Khuram Butt and two accomplices drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before randomly attacking members of the public with kitchen knives. By the time they were shot dead by police, they had killed eight people and wounded 48 more.

June 19th. Shortly after midnight, Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd of Muslims outside Finsbury Park mosque before being restrained by worshippers. When emergency services arrived, one person lay dead, 11 injured.

On the morning after the Finsbury Park attack, the Twitter account @WomenDefyHate asked a question that always echoes in one form or another in the aftershock of such atrocities:

“Seriously, for fucks sake, can men stop being violent? I’m no prissy, no feminazi type. But men have to stop this violence. Men.” [Read more…]

It is time to end this wilful, harmful gender blindness on prison suicides

Prisons need a profound culture change if they are to address the appalling escalation in suicides, two charities have claimed this week.

The arguments put forward by the Howard League and the Centre for Mental Health are compelling and correct. Prison suicides have soared in recent years and last year a record 119 prisoners took their own lives. In an era of chronic overcrowding and staff shortages, prisoners’ mental health needs are going unacknowledged and unaddressed; acts of self-harm and even suicide attempts are commonly considered to be manipulative rather than symptoms of distress and emotional crisis; a ‘toxic’ and violent prison culture sees staff struggling to maintain their own psychological health, never mind that of the prisoners.   [Read more…]

Gender equality? Meh

Those with the patience to read through the comments on this blog might have come upon an interesting exchange towards the bottom of my last blog thread.

Some of our regulars were taking issue with me over the issue of equality and my habit of saying “Meh” to demands for equal treatment of men and women. I thought it would be worth a thread of its own to set out what I mean.

I’ve written before that there is a commonly held fallacy that the way you achieve social equality is to treat everyone equally. The problem is that if you start from a position of inequality, to treat everyone equally is to sustain and conserve that inequality and it can even serve to widen inequalities (consider the effect of a flat poll tax on economic inequalities, for example.)  There’s also the analogy that if a 5’ tall person is standing up to their neck in water and a 6’ person is standing alongside up to their waist in water, and you add another six inches of water to the barrel, you are treating them equally  – but not fairly. [Read more…]