The Global Campaign for Men and Boys
Men support equality for women but are terrified of speaking out about gender issues for fear of being branded sexist, says the advertising giant Saatchi.
M&C Saatchi in Australia spent 8 months undertaking in depth interviews with 140 men and has come to the conclusion that men have been rendered voiceless by the media, by big brands and by feminism.
According to the advertising agency’s Australian CEO, James Leggett: “men have never lacked gender privilege or rights, but they still have the right to a voice an opinion….there is no denying that sexist, domineering and ignorant individual men exist. They are the minority, yet are often positioned as representative of the majority. This is a massive injustice to the millions of good men in Australia.”
What the researchers found when they gave Australian men a chance to voice their opinions is that “men feel like the sacrificial lambs used by women to blame for everything that is wrong in their lives and the world. Women, apparently, are never wrong.”
The changing nature of gender roles have “created an affronting challenge to Modern [Aussie] Man’s instincts about who women expect him to be and how they want him to act”, says the report. “He is supportive and encouraging of the opportunities this brings to women and understands that it will always be a juggle for both genders.”
The Modern [Aussie] Man is somewhat bemused by stories in the media telling him that ‘women want to have it all, just like men’.
“He is disappointed that his wife/partner believes he has a ‘much easier life’ because he gets to go out to work while she bears the main responsibility of raising the children.’ He’s not sure why women assume he’s having so much ‘fun’ at work,” say the researchers.
In terms of media representations, Saatchi’s report contrasts the way “Hollywood celebrates Australian men as the ultimate in raw, rugged masculinity, frequently casting them as warriors, Gods and super heroes” with the way brands market their products by consistently depicting the Aussie man as “a beer swilling, relatively incapable, outdoorsy Neanderthal.”
In reality, say the report’s authors, “Australian men acknowledge imperfections, but display evolution. They perceive an abundance of inaccurate, feminised and out dated narratives used by brands to engage men and masculinity, which they attribute to lack of insight on how to talk to men in the 21st century.”
The report credits feminism with giving the Modern [Aussie] Man’s permission to be an intimate father and become part of the first generation of men since the industrial revolution to move away from detached, authoritarian fatherhood and become emotionally aware, engaged and connected.
“Modern [Aussie] Man is an underground feminist”, says the report, “yet the feminist narrative plays to the assumption that men are automatically wrong.”
One of the most revealing passages of the study is the exploration of how heterosexual men relate both to the women in their lives and gender issues.
The Modern [Aussie] Man is unsure of what more he needs to do to “support women’s equality yet still retain his own sense of purpose and laidback disposition without offending women’s sensibilities”, says the report. He is “cautious about saying the right words and behaving ‘correctly’ around women. He feels like he’s landed in a world where he has the guilt of every ignorant and sexist man on his shoulders, landing him on the wrong side of the argument most of the time.”
According to the researchers, the “Modern [Aussie] Man believes that women are taking the (much respected) fight for equality into their personal relationships. He feels that women are resetting the gender imbalance in the outside world by subconsciously asserting a reverse gender imbalance in the home/relationships, singularly taking control of a myriad of everyday decisions.”
The report warns that the Modern [Aussie] Man is responding with silence as this seems to him like the only practical thing to do. “He’s silently closing down his voice and opinion and not sharing or making a song and dance about the things that hurt him, his insecurities or concerns. What is being lost, however, is his voice in meaningful discussion, for fear that dissent, action and comment around any gender topic (male or female) will be construed as sexist,” say the authors.
Ultimately, he would love women to remember that “his words, behaviours and mistakes are sometimes just stupid rather than sexist, and that NOT ALL MEN ARE BASTARDS.”
The researchers conclude that: “the Modern [Aussie] Man believes the home and personal relationships should be the heart and champion of mutual respect and equality. In his mind, this should work both ways, but currently it favours women. As a result, Modern [Aussie] Man has gender issue laryngitis. He walks on eggshells trying to avoid saying or doing something wrong, while everything his wife/partner says and does seems to be always right. Gender eggshells haven’t made him emasculated or less manly; he’s simply trying to make his wife/partner happy and keep the peace.”
In summarizing their findings the advertising agency claim that: “contradictory to the picture that many headlines, feminists and brands are painting, the majority of Australian men interviewed for the Modern [Aussie] Man study are highly respectful of women, advocates for gender equality, deeply integrated into family life and emotionally intuitive with their self reflections and raw honesty.”
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