Why is there a need for Men’s Groups?
Constantly talking about and reading about gender and relating to the notion of womanhood myself, I find my self wondering about and asking questions to the men in my life about how they relate to what it means to be who they are, what it means to be a man in general, and how they see the future for men. This interest led me to focus on gender and masculinity theories in undergrad and now as my masters thesis making a documentary film trying to come closer to the current state of men.
It seems easier to access the issue in a situation of crisis, which is most often times the point of departure for men being part of a so-called men’s group. Also a point that led my interest to men doing so-called men’s work, is my own father’s sudden expressed need for going on leave from both family and work and went traveling for some time all by himself. This made me realize that a lot of men might go around and feel disintegrated or unhappy and have no or few ways to turn for help.
Men are influencing what is meant by terms like masculinity and manhood. How society treat and expects men to behave is a back and forth process made from actions and reactions. After the women’s liberation movement the role of women have changed and women is now perceived to be in an equal position to men on all levels of life. This development influences the role of the man, since his originally privileged position on the job market and at home is being challenged, and the man is faced with a redefining of his position as a man in society.
The young generations of a democratic Western society like the US or Denmark is more or less born into a gender equal society and boys are not being treated differently from girls throughout their social sphere. There is a tendency that men in their 40-50’s come to a point in their life where they are asking questions about the essence of their identity, and feel a need to get deeper into themselves. A lot of men seek other men who feel a similar need and they join together in small groups meeting up on a weekly basis. This phenomenon is called a Men’s Group.
Some men believe that all men would benefit from being part of a Men’s Group anytime anywhere, and that the younger generation also at one point in their life will come to this realization despite of what they immediately think. It takes a certain amount of life experience to reach the point in life it seems. Still Men’s Groups are for men exclusively, suggesting that not the time in history but the man himself is essential. At the same time, the phenomenon of Men’s Groups can also be related to the growing movement of globalization, sustainability and mindfulness.
Suggesting that men today are in increasing numbers seeking a deeper connectedness to themselves and their surroundings, I am especially interested in why this is happening to men more than women and why there is a need for an institutionalized group phenomenon.
We can talk about a general feeling of displacement of men in the Western democratic society, and what I am looking to find out is how men realize and respond to this. It turns out that a lot of men in fact engage in processes of improving their life in various ways. Beginning with their individual position they continue to help other men to experience a positive development as they have done through whatever personal work they have engaged in.
Men who actively work with notions of manhood and who work to improve the future for boys and men is very much needed in our society where not only men feel disintegrated at an older age, but boys fail to complete a degree and level with the girls.
The education system is slowly recognizing the need for incorporating other strategies of learning to improve boys’ opportunities in primary and middle school. At the same time organizations like Boys to Men advocate for men to be better role modeling fathers. The need for men to take part in the reevaluating process of coming closer to how we on all levels of society can meet the boys and men with more secure opportunities is more and more apparent.
Therefore I am optimistic to learn about the many groups of men who faced with the challenge of coming closer to manhood actively take responsibility. While working with their individual self, they see the importance of reaching out to other men.
The more focus we can put on men’s positive developing processes and spreading the word about the possibility for other men to engage in similar ways, the more we help to secure a better integrated man.
The men of the group in Idaho that I am filming, is confronting the inner core of themselves of trying to get more in touch with their essence. This group of men and their specific way of getting in touch with their inner self is contributing to the broader discussion on what it means to be a man today. This group is the example that I am putting forth for other people to realize the importance of taking seriously the less favorable position men in our society is taking. Hopefully we will learn how to better deal with being a man and understanding a man.