A few people commenting on recent posts on our Facebook page have expressed some confusion, in one case even suspicion, about what we're doing "“ why we have chosen certain media articles to link to, why we took a particular position on the executions of Chan and Sukamaran, how we can say we're supporting men if we don't adopt an MRA agenda (or tactics)"¦
Some of this confusion might simply come from people's own ideas about what a men's community service provider should be doing, or what constitutes support. People's experience of other parts of the community sector might lead them to think that we should be doing something similar to what other service providers do. The absence of a thriving men's community services sector means there really isn't a lot to compare us with "“ we're not a Men's Shed, or an interest group promoting or providing advocacy related to the group's central concerns or grievances (e.g. men's health and well-being or a "˜men's rights' agenda).
When doubts or judgements or complaints about our work or our priorities arise, this is a different matter.
It's a very human tendency to see the world as if our own point of view is reality, not a point of view. There are times when we can acknowledge this, where we can see that a different way of seeing could allow us to be more productive, kinder, more creative, or allow other people to have better experiences and outcomes in their interactions with us.
However, when we feel strongly about something, when our deeper feelings or beliefs or prejudices are concerned, "˜reality' rears its head, and justifies both our attempts to correct other people's thinking to convert them to the "˜truth', and the punishments we dish out when they fail to be swayed.
Like it or not, conversations about men are highly vulnerable to this process, which can have serious implications for our community's capacity to develop responses which address issues which involve men, as agents of harmful behaviour, as people who need recognition and support for the issues that affect them, or as both.
Men's concerns, experiences and support needs are the focus of our service delivery. Our Facebook page gives us a place to explore issues which we believe are are relevant for men's understanding of who we are for ourselves and for other people. These issues are present in the lives of our service users, their partners and families, and in the broader community, locally and nationally.
So we'll post links to generate awareness and discussion which will address how men think about themselves and other people, and about how we behave, within our families and relationships, in our communities, and out in the world.
We will continue to post about gender, LGBTIQ issues, violence (as perpetrators and soon more about victims), about men in the justice system, and, at some point, when I can get some blogging from my colleagues, content related to issues which emerge from other areas of our service delivery.
There are many men who don't live above the glass ceiling, who don't have even a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder "“ men living with high and complex needs, often visible to the rest of the community only through their appearance or behaviour.
For some of these men, the pathway to inclusion is full of challenges, and many will not make it alone, if at all. There are other men, already part of the community, whose behaviour is abusive and harmful to others around them (see the article on trans abuse by police in Brazil).
Our organisation is committed to supporting men, but we will always have a particular focus on those men who are problematic for partners and family, and for community and government. This is why we work with and reach out to men who use violence, who have experienced violence and abuse, who are in the justice system, and who have mental health, intellectual disability and substance abuse issues, as well as to men who live with more everyday concerns like parenting, relationships, social isolation, problems at work, depression, anxiety and other personal concerns.
If our choice of Facebook page subjects seems confusing, perhaps that's just a reflection of the underlying complexity of the worlds that men inhabit.