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We need to listen to young men, even when we don’t like what they are saying.

Interview with Dr. Mahamed Hashi, MSc BSc Director, Brixton Soup Kitchen, by Dr John Barry, co-founder of the Male Psychology Network

Mahamed Hashi’s dedication to the Lambeth area of South London is not in doubt. When he tried to calm down a fight there in 2008 he was shot and almost killed. In another incident, he was brutally attacked in a knife attack as a result of an attempted robbery. Despite these ordeals and resulting PTSD, his devotion to the people of Lambeth over the years as a tutor, youth worker and councillor has been steadfast, as has been his determination to improve the mental health of the socially disadvantaged young men who drift into gangs and violence.

 

Pictured: Dr Hashi’s injury in 2008 from a bullet.

 

Drill music is a type of rap music. ‘Drill’ is slang for ‘machine gun’, and drill is known for it’s diss tracks, where gangs insult each, encouraging retaliatory violence. In part it’s easy to see why some people have blamed the genre for the rising murder rate in London, and even called for drill to be banned.

As a psychologist specialising in Male Psychology, the violence of young men is obviously an issue of concern, so when I saw Dr Hashi give a talk on gang violence at the Men & Boys Coalition (MBC) conference recently, I was all ears and keen to find out more. I invited Dr Hashi for an interview and we met at my hypnotherapy clinic in central London.

Hashi is a big man with a warm nature and infectious though earnest enthusiasm. I started the interview by following up on a couple of things he raised at the MBC conference. Firstly, did he think that unruly behaviour in boys could be remedied by having fathers in the home and more male schoolteachers? His response was that male role models per se do not magically cure anything, but having men around provides an environment in which the behaviour of boys is more understood and therefore less criticised.

Hashi: “My dad died when I was 13, and I went on to achieve things under the guidance of my mother, a single mother. However without role models around, young men can be attacked for their behaviour. For example, a young guy’s masculinity can be interpreted as aggression. It’s difficult for people who are not male to understand what it’s like to be a male”.

The question that most interested me was Dr Hashi’s contention that drill music should be seen as a potentially positive phenomenon, because it is an excellent example of men talking about their feelings rather than bottling them up. This is what many mental health campaigns have been urging men to do for years, but the response to drill has been calls to ban it outright. This situation reminds me of the irony of campaigns (such as Childline’s ‘Tough to Talk’ campaign) urging boys to speak about their feelings, when the reality is that lots of boys sense that nobody really wants to listen:

Hashi: “We have created a society where we are offended by different people expressing themselves in different ways. Unless it’s expressed in an acceptable way, within ‘guidelines of expression,’ its not acceptable. How can we ask young men to express themselves, and then criticise them? At the end of the day there is a culture, whether you call it rap or grime or drill, of young people expressing themselves in a particular way – you are supposed to listen.

One problem is that you can find whatever you are looking for [in the lyrics] – if you are looking for criminality in the music you will find it. But their reality is that criminality, their reality is that trauma, their reality is that pain. If you are offended by their reality that you need to stop listening [to drill] instead of trying to find ways of stopping them from expressing themselves. Not listening puts us in a dangerous position – when they have found a therapeutic way of expressing themselves and we try to stop that, what then?”

Barry: “Catharsis is generally considered a good thing therapeutically. I guess some people would prefer it is they could work out their feelings through Morris dancing”.

Hashi: “…or Salsa”

Barry: “… but that’s not going to do it. If you hit your thumb with a hammer you aren’t going to say ‘oh, bothersome’, you are going to need to swear properly”.

Hashi: “Where are the campaigns for mental health support for these young people? Critics are trying to shut down their method of expression, without even trying to understand it”.

Barry: “Is drill a sufficient way of dealing with these feelings?”

Hashi: “It’s not a sufficient way, but it is a good indication that these young people are trying to deal with these feelings. As a practitioner and youth worker, I listen to drill music to understand what they are going through, and put in support mechanisms for them off the back of that. Drill music is part of the solution and part of repairing themselves. If you take that away… I am really really anxious about what would happen”.

Barry: “If they are not going to do drill, they will do something else”.

Hashi: “100%. Would critics rather that they did the violence without announcing it? Or talking about where it comes from?”

Barry: “If you have an outlet… would boxing or martial arts be an alternative way of channeling-?”

Hashi: “Some people would turn around and say that’s too violent, why would we teach a gang member how to hurt someone professionally? They have arguments for everything. And for me it’s a question of asking where do you want young people to go, what direction?”

Barry: “If we parachuted in a load of counsellors… would they sit down and talk to counsellors?”

Hashi: “100%. But they need to talk to people who come from where they come from. We don’t need counsellors that are so disconnected from their experiences that they sit through their stories in awe, rather than supporting them through therapy. A lot of therapists don’t come from that background, and the young person says ‘someone chased me and shot my friend’ and the counsellor says ‘oh my gosh – does that happen regularly to you?’ I’m not a psychologist, but maybe they could be asked ‘and how did that make you feel?’

We need more mental health first aid training, we need more trauma informed practice already embedded in that person’s life, because the environment they live in is already traumatising – not just their own trauma, but the trauma of others makes the environment of fear that makes it traumatic. We have to change the environment, which means introducing adults who have had those experiences in these environments be part of their lives. But that’s the first thing that gets cut by government – youth services, youth workers – so now we have young people who don’t know the system and have nobody to intercede on their behalf, nobody to talk on their behalf, and explain why they behave in a particular way”.

Barry: “What is the key thing that psychologists can do?”

Hashi: “Easier access, and more empathy. These kids can be quite rude, brash, brazen, but these are just defence mechanisms that often happen when they come across authority figures. These kids often come across adults that want to have dominion over them, purely because of their age, and I think that so disrespectful.” Dr Hashi adds that psychologists should, with their enhanced knowledge of non-verbal communication, be better equipped to recognise the difference between aggression and fear, thus be less intimidated by apparently threatening behaviour.”

One of the lessons of history is that a cease fire gives everyone a chance to calm down, have time to cope, allow the bereavement process to start, and let old wounds heal. However what the boys in Brixton experience is a life where they go from one trauma to another without any opportunity to deal with the pain, leaving them in a vicious cycle of acting out angry feelings. As Dr Hashi points out, these are people who need some time out, and some way of coping.

As psychologists, we need to take his suggestions seriously. Firstly, we might help facilitate more widespread mental health first aid training of people in the community. Secondly, and more challengingly for a largely white, female, and middle class profession, the BPS needs to offer better provision of suitable mental health professionals in the field. Brixton – and places like it all over the UK – needs more black male psychologists, not as part of an academic equality quota scheme, but as an urgent response to a real-world issue. For my part, I know that the newly established Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society will be putting these crucial issues on the agenda for 2019.

 

About Dr Mahamed Hashi

Dr Hashi also has an MSc in forensic science and an honorary PHD in youth and community work. Dr Hashi is the founder of the Community Champion Award winning Brixton Soup Kitchen, a service for the homeless in the Brixton area. He is also a Labour counsillor in Lambeth’s Stockwell ward in South London. Dr Hashi is involved with many other community groups including leading roles in the Lambeth Safer Neighbourhood Board, the Independent Advisory Group for Lambeth police, and the Community Network Forum. He is co-chair of the Lambeth Stop and Search Monitoring Group, a member of the Black Mental Health Commission in Lambeth, the Lambeth Community Police Consultative Group, the Pan-London Community Monitoring Network, the Independent Custody Visitors group, the Deaths in Custody Panel, and the London Probation Trust Serious Group Offending Forum. He is also involved in a number of police advisory groups including the Territorial Support Community Reference Group, the Special Select Committee for Stop and Search and the Public Order Community Reference Group.

 

Dr Hashi is a special guest speaker at the Male Psychology Conference at UCL (21st – 22nd June 2019).

Book your ticket here

 

 

Open post

Do we really need Gillette to encourage the majority of men to be what they already are?

by Dr Becci Owens

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the new Gillette advert. There are men and women who fiercely oppose the advert, and men and women very much in support of it.

The advert highlights the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment in the workplace by men, boys fighting, bullying, and sexism. The advert calls for men to be better, showing examples of them as fathers, husbands, intervening in bullying scenarios and when children are fighting, being the hero, someone to look up to. This is the best men can be, say Gillette.

At first glance, to many people, this is a nice message. It is nice, and warming, and encouraging – we should all be nice to each other. so why are so many people – myself included – taking issue with the new Gillette advert?

The underlying assumptions made in the advert are that men are inherently bad – men are violent, sexual predators who have had their way for long enough. Only through the power of encouragement and social grooming can we protect society from the menace that is toxic masculinity.

But the advert shows men in positive ways too – being good fathers and good role models. If you think about it, this is not exactly breaking news. Most of us will have known many good men in our lifetimes, who have stepped in to stop bullying and to protect women in various ways. So perhaps part of the insult is that the ad is focussing on the minority of men as if they are the majority. Why do we need to encourage men to be what the majority of men already are? Furthermore – why is it up to Gillette to do this?

Maybe a hair removal brand should promote some positive femininity too. Let’s encourage women to be good people: ets encourage women to not incite violence towards others, even towards men and children. Let’s encourage women to not use children as pawns in the breakdown of a relationship, or to make false rape allegations. Let’s encourage them not to be indirectly aggressive – bullying and berating others for their appearances or inciting gossip about the reputation of others.

What was that…? Women – the fairer sex – don’t engage in such behaviours? Oh, but they do! And for long enough now, the negative perception and reputation of men and masculinity has been demonised in the press and in society. Women are apparently untouchable!

I wonder if this shift in power imbalance is the result of the previously male-biased power imbalance. However, as I discuss in a previous blog, this male-biased power imbalance has been misconstrued. Throughout history – I am talking thousands of years – it has been a minority of men who have held the power. The majority of men have suffered – have gone to war, have been denied mating opportunities, wealth and status, all for the sake of a minority of men.

I am by no means trying to downplay the suffering of women throughout history. Women have for long enough struggled to be taken seriously, to gain the same opportunities as men before them – we often still struggle to be taken seriously and face many barriers. However, my argument here is that this is not a gendered issue. Power imbalance may, on the surface, appear, to be a gendered issue, but you scratch the surface you will see the majority of men and women are in similar situations, but in different contexts. Women have, for a long time, struggled to gain access to an education, to have a career. Men are more likely to be incarcerated, have untreated mental illnesses, and to die by suicide.

There is a gendered issue here somewhere… but it is not about showing people how to be a good person. Terrible people are all around us – I would like to  emphasise they are the minority! But You can’t presume that man in the street is any more capable of atrocious things than the woman over the road. It is not about sex or gender. It is something more complex, maybe something about the fallibility of human nature.

So in the end it seems that all Gillette have done here is jump on the man-bashing bandwagon. It is something society doesn’t need. It is something men do not need. No one benefits from the perception that ‘men are inherently bad and cannot be good unless we train them’. Let’s move beyond this please.

 

About the author

Dr Becci Owens is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland, a Chartered Psychologist, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is an evolutionary psychologist with a research focus on male psychology and mental health, sex differences in mating behaviours and mating strategies, and body image and modifications.
Email: rebecca.owens@sunderland.ac.uk ; Twitter: @DrBecciOwens

 

 

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Is there an alternative to the new APA guidelines for working with men and boys?

by Dr John Barry

The APA’s Division 51 (Men and Masculinities) recently released their guidelines for working with men and boys. While guidelines on this topic are much needed, the APA’s contribution leaves room for improvement. In this article I will outline issues with two of their 10 guidelines:

Guideline 1 of the APA guidelines suggests that “masculinities are constructed based on social, cultural and contextual norms”. However although it is true that masculinity is, in part, constructed, it is also partly innate.

What is the evidence that masculinity is, in part, innate? Well, sex differences in cognition and behaviour  are found worldwide, and their universality suggests something that transcends culture. Moreover, most of these clearly map onto masculinity. For example, the tendency to being more competitive, aggressive (physically), and interested in sports than women maps onto the male gender script of being a fighter and winner. The tendency to working longer hours, working in male-typical occupations, exploring the environment, more willing to take risks, maps onto the male gender script of being provider and protector.The tendency to show less fear, less crying, more inclined to substance abuse (self-medication) maps onto the male gender script of having mastery & control of one’s emotions.

The crucial point for therapy is that because some aspects of masculinity are innate, changing them is not a simple case of cognitive restructuring or behaviour change, any more than changing other deeply-held aspects of gender identity or sexual identity is straightforward or even desirable.

However we live in a culture steeped in the ‘gender similarities hypothesis’, telling us that there are ‘more similarities than differences’ between men and women. Of course this idea is not wholly untrue, but it typically deflects our attention away from the fact that it is the differences between men and women that ‘make all the difference’. Thus in many ways we are not encouraged to notice sex differences, and we might even experience cognitive dissonance if we are asked to focus on sex differences and consider the implications for, to take one example, treatment approaches in psychology.

Guideline 3 states that “in the aggregate, males experience a greater degree of social and economic power than girls and women in a patriarchal society”. This statement is an example of what we have identified as gamma bias in psychology, a type of cognitive distortion in which examples of male privilege are magnified and female privilege is ignored or explained away. Examples of male disadvantage are boys’ educational achievement and the high rates of male suicide. Examples of female advantage lighter prison sentences and gender quotas in science jobs. In fact recent evidence has found that men are disadvantaged in many countries worldwide, especially those with medium to high levels of development.

Therapists who believe that guideline 3 is true of their male clients might understandably struggle to find much empathy for them, and a male client might struggle to believe they will find much empathy from such therapists too.

As an alternative to guidelines 1 and 3, I would suggest that we recognise that masculinity is to some degree innate and potentially positive for mental health, and the vulnerabilities of male clients are more important to us, as therapists, than any hypothesised patriarchal power. We shouldn’t presume that the bad behaviour of the minority of men are representative of some underlying aspect of men in general, and we should recognise that negative views of men are a barrier to an appropriate level of therapeutic empathy.

I would encourage Division 51 to revise their guidelines to bring them in line with research evidence and common sense. I would also urge authors of any other guidelines relating to male mental health to make similar revisions. After all, men seek therapy less than women do even when suicidal, so we need to do what we can to make therapy more male-friendly.

Is there an alternative to the new APA guidelines for working with men and boys? Well the forthcoming Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health offers practical advice to therapists and a more positive theoretical perspective on men’s mental health and male psychology in general. Guidelines based on this handbook will be issued soon, and I hope the 32 chapters offer therapists and academics a realistic and useful way of understanding and working with men.

 

About the author

Dr John Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is one of the editors of, and contributors to, The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health

 

The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health will be released in April 2019.

From the back cover:

“This handbook brings together experts from across the world to discuss men’s mental health, from prenatal development, through childhood, adolescence, and fatherhood. Men and masculinity are explored from multiple perspectives including evolutionary, cross-cultural, cognitive, biological, developmental, and existential viewpoints, with a focus on practical suggestions and demonstrations of successful clinical work with men”.

https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

 

 

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The yin of being looked at and the yang of looking

The “#MeToo” campaign, which was very prominent in 2018 and became a platform for women to complain about male behaviour, also reflects the tendency of society to polarise opposites and set them up in “boxing” mode against each other.  It also chooses to ignore the fact that women can also be abusive of men.  When I lived in Doncaster, South Yorkshire for example, I used to witness the effect of unwanted sexual advances on male friends of mine who were approached by female prostitutes who got into their cars at traffic lights. This kind of casual reverse sexist discrimination is what has inspired me to write a chapter for the new Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology (2019).

I think we should be celebrating male and female difference rather than setting up men and women in competition against one another. My belief is that the male and female are designed very differently because, as we have developed as humans, we have needed to take on different tasks to survive.  The male has been designed to “look”, not only at the female, but to “look out” for prey, for danger, and for ways to protect his family unit.  The woman, much to the surprise of some, still likes being “looked at” by the male, and will in fact go out of her way to make sure she is seen, unless of course, she dislikes the particular male who is “doing the looking”.

The unprecedented rise in the use of cosmetics and surgical enhancements proves that women feel the need to look good for as long as possible.  The use of botox is no longer confined to the ageing female – it is now used by young women in their 20s, and the number of women between 19 and 34 using botox has risen by 41% since 2011.  This is because the need to look good is “hard wired” into female genes.  It is rooted in mating behaviours which we see also in the animal kingdom.  In the avian kingdom, it is usually the males that display for the females, but for mammals, it is always the other way around.

The eastern concept of Yin and Yang is, I believe, a sensible way to view male and female complementarity.  The ancient Chinese world believed that the interlocking building blocks of the universe were Yin (the feminine) and Yang (masculine). “Yin” is negative, dark and feminine, and “yang” is positive, bright and masculine. Yin needs Yang and vice versa, and the two need to be in perfect balance for health and harmony in the body.

Because the male is “hard wired” to respond initially to what he can see visually, this is not something that he can “turn off” to avoid offending the modern female.  The female on the other hand, in a biological sense is designed to be especially attuned to touch because of regular reproductive cycles and physically nurturing the young from conception.  She therefore has tended, in an evolutionary sense to have a more internal frame of reference, but also needs to “be noticed” so that her primeval instincts can be satisfied.

The male will always need “to look” at the female and the female will always need “to be seen” by the male – even if she continues to re-define exactly how she is looked at and what she wants the male to see.

Looking and being looked at can be thought of as opposite forces interacting to form a dynamic system, in which the whole is greater than the parts.

 

About the author

Jennie Cummings-Knight, MA, MBACP, PGCE, FHEA

www.goldenleafcounselling.com

Jennie is an experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor of individuals and couples. She works privately near Cromer, Norfolk, as well as lecturing in London and online as a part time Associate of the Existential Academy.  She also runs regular workshops for counsellors in Norwich.  She has a particular interest in Male Psychology.

Jennie explores the topic of ‘the gaze’ in her chapter ‘The Gaze: The Male Need to Look vs the Female Need to Be Seen—An Evolutionary Perspective’, in the Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (2019)  available for purchase here https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030043834#aboutBook  DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

 

 

 

 

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Negative attitudes towards men and masculinity in Spain

by Daniel Jiménez

In the second of our occasional blogs on the theme of Male Psychology and masculinity around the world, Daniel Jiménez describes the surprisingly high levels of prejudice against men in Spain in the past 20 years. The implications for men’s mental health are concerning.

 

In recent times the United States has been witness to a devaluation of masculinity in the public discourse. From academia to mass media and gradually pouring into popular culture, masculinity has been blamed for a range of social illness: mass shootings, intimate partner violence, sex crimes… to the point where some claim that there is no toxic masculinity, but rather masculinity itself is toxic. Male creativity, contributions and achievements are, on the other hand, attributed to individual traits or to a position of privilege. The so-called “masculinity crisis” has been a hotly debated topic, as the State gradually appropriates the role of provider and protector that men held, and modern economy facilitates women becoming financially independent.

From the Unites States it would be easy to perceive these developments as particular to the Anglo-Saxon world, and perhaps Nordic European countries such as Sweden. On the other hand Spain, like most of Southern Europe, tends to be regarded as a place where traditional notions of masculinity remain strong. This is the country the world associates with Don Juan Tenorio, brave bullfighters and the term machismo. Most Americans are surprised to find that a negative perception of masculinity not too dissimilar to that of the United States has developed in Spain, and that its devaluation has been taken even further.

The catalyst that triggered the change was the killing of Ana Orantes in 1997. Domestic violence was starting to be discussed openly in the Spanish media, and Orantes appeared on national television to tell her story. She was burned alive by her husband the next day, and this brutal killing shocked public opinion. This wasn’t the death of an unknown person, but a familiar face that people could recognize and a story they empathized with. Over the following years domestic violence killings (when committed by a man) became treated not as the isolated actions of evil or unstable individuals, but were rather understood according to gender theory postulates. Domestic violence was explained as a manifestation of male oppression, and the dismantling of structures and socio-cultural practices that made this oppression possible was said to be the only way to eradicate it, because domestic violence emanated from the imbalance of power.

In 2004 the view of domestic violence as a gendered phenomenon materialized into the Organic Act on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence. The adoption of the term “gender violence”, instead of alternatives such as “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence”, framed the conversation in terms of violence against women by their male romantic partner or ex-partner. The law would impose higher penalties to these men in a subset of domestic violence crimes, as shown in Title IV. The act would include, among other measures, special courts designed only for these crimes: the juzgados de violencia sobre la mujer, which presently number over a 100. To my knowledge Spain is the only country that has courts exclusively focused on male crimes (as gender violence is defined), making the U.S. Violence Against Women Act seem soft in comparison. The law has also been weaponized during divorce processes, as accusations often activate a protective order against the male and give automatic custody of the children to the accuser until the accusation is resolved. Depending on the circumstances and the region, making an accusation – regardless of the outcome – can confer other benefits such as a small stipend, free college tuition, job placement or the granting of permanent residency in the case of immigrants.

The complexity of the 2004 law would merit a separate article, but what needs to be pointed out is that it marked a turning point in Spain. Gradually, mass media, education at all levels and public policies came to be interpreted through the lense of gender theory, cementing a discourse that fuels a sex war where the male sex is widely portrayed as a problem in need of fixing.

While the United States has also fed on ideas about masculinity based on gender theory, having lived in both countries I would assert that the negative perception about masculinity is more pronounced in Spain. In fact, the Spanish media has not only created expressions such as “violencia machista” to replace the less explicit term “gender violence”, but has shown itself eager to adopt terms that originated in the United States as well. Aside from expressions like toxic masculinity (mascunilidad tóxica), neologisms such as manspreading, mansplaining and manterrupting have either been borrowed or translated by the Spanish media, with machoexplicación (the translation of mansplaining) becoming candidate for word of the year by Fundeu (Fundación del Español Urgente).

Masculinity, and men in general, have become an acceptable punching bag for the media and public officials. While there are many examples, I will only mention some of the most recent. On one occasion a journalist declared on national television that celebrating Men’s Day would be akin to celebrating “The day of the terrorist”. There is also the case of a judge specialized in gender violence that described males as “acorn-fed animals.” And not long ago, in a regional government-run campaign against gender violence, male bystanders were accused of sexist attitudes or even domestic abuse by an actor who introduced himself as “your (inner) machismo.” [1]  In the political arena, the 2017 State Pact Against Gender Violence included in its congressional discussion terms such as “patriarchal justice,” “patriarchal domination,” “male domination,” “structural machismo,” “patriarchal violence” or “privileged-oppressed relationship.”

While discontent (and disconnect) about men’s negative portrayal in the media and public institutions is growing among the Spanish population, the negativity doesn’t seem to be waning. And while it’s true that ideas from the United States have had an influence on the perception of masculinity in Spain, if the latter country were to be considered its student, it would no doubt have surpassed its master.

 

[1] Machismo in the Spanish sense of the word, which implies a sexist sense of superiority over women and even a sense of entitlement over them in more recent uses of the term.

 

About the author

Daniel Jiménez is a Spanish Language and Culture Instructor for the U.S. Defense Language Institute. Raised in Spain, he has been living in the United States since 2006. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of any agency of the U.S. government

 

 

 

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Light at the end of a long dark tunnel for male victims of domestic violence?

by Dr John Barry

Picture: outside the European Union (EU) Parliament in Brussels. L-R Dr John Barry, Marta Iglesias Julios, Prof Joaquim Soares, Prof Nicola Graham-Kevan, Eduardo Zugasti.

Many of us will have found that when we try to discuss men’s mental health issues we are met with disinterest or even derision. It has even been suggested that men in general are so privileged that they don’t need any male-specific help.

It could be that there is especially little sympathy for male victims of domestic violence, even amongst male victims themselves. There are lots of reasons for this. In general, neither men nor women want to see men as victims. Also, the domestic violence industry is focused almost exclusively on female victims, and any sign that funding will be diverted to male victims is not welcomed with open arms. Campaigners such as Erin Pizzey and researchers such as Prof Murray Strauss have experienced threats and abuse, and it is true to say that the decades since the 1970s have been bleak times for people sympathetic to male victims of domestic violence.

But now in 2018, perhaps we are seeing the first green shoots of fresh thinking about domestic violence:

Since September 2018 we have seen Mark Brooks and the Mankind Initiative in the UK feature prominently in the mainstream media, including the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC1  They – especially Mark himself – are to be congratulated for the determination and professionalism.

27th November 2018 saw Dr Liz Bates (University of Cumbria, UK) be honoured with an award for her research on male victims of domestic violence as one of the ‘UK’s Best Breakthroughs’ in academia this year.

4th December 2018 saw a meeting in the EU parliament in Brussels, focusing on research evidence of the extent of domestic violence against men worldwide, compiled by Professor Joaquim Soares (Mid Sweden University). In the same meeting, Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan (University of Central Lancashire, UK) discussed research into the sometimes devastating impact on children of witnessing domestic violence. Marta Iglesias Julios, a PhD candidate from Portugal, gave a very thought-provoking presentation on the potentially far-reaching harm caused by non-physical violence (e.g. spreading malicious rumours) of the type that women tend to engage in more than men do on average. The forum was organised by MEP Teresa Giménez Barbat and Euromind, and was very positively received. For me it was a very pleasant surprise that support for male victims of domestic violence is alive and healthy in Europe.

So it appears that this topic is moving from the hinterlands and breaking into mainstream consciousness. What we need to see is this progress continuing in a sustainable manner. To facilitate this process, it would be helpful if the following developments were to occur:

1/ We need for the mainstream media – especially the BBC who we pay a tax for –  to tell the people of the UK the truth about domestic violence, not distortions of the truth. Failure to devote proportionate time to male victims should be condemned as a breach of the BBC code of impartiality.

2/ Greater recognition of the lack of services for male victims is needed. For example, male-specific treatment programmes – not the widely discredited Duluth model –  and other types of male-friendly support are urgently needed.

3/ We need greater recognition of the huge sacrifices made by people working in the field of male victims of domestic violence. Many people are doing incredible work voluntarily, or survive on a shoestring, in their efforts to help male victims.

Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, this tunnel is filled with obstacles. Funding to help male victims is still almost unheard of. Even the excellent MankindInitiative charity recently almost had to shut down due to lack of funding. Ironically, because of the recent heightened awareness of male victims, the domestic violence industry – after years of focusing only on helping women – are apparently now keen to apply for funding so that they can extend their services to men. This isn’t a solution, mainly because the domestic violence industry has a reputation for treating men as perpetrators rather than victims, and because most women (and probably many men) will not be happy with having mixed-sex shelters and other facilities in this highly sensitive field.

So is there room for optimism when it comes to male victims of domestic violence? My answer is that we should be realistic and recognise the gains that are being made, strive to build upon them, and be prepared to have to work hard to finally reach the light.

 

About the author

John is one of the founders of the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. After completing his PhD in psychological aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome, he joined University College London’s Institute for Women’s Health at the UCL Medical School in 2011. Since then he has published some 60 papers in various peer-reviewed journals, including in international-standard journals in gynaecology, cardiology and ophthalmology. Prompted by the considerable suicide rates among men and the establishment’s inertia in dealing with men’s mental health problems, in 2011 John led an independent research programme investigating the mental health needs of men and boys. John specialises in research methods (especially surveys and questionnaire development) and statistical analysis (e.g. meta-analysis, meta-regression), currently practices clinical hypnosis on a part-time basis and is an honorary lecturer with the Dept of Psychology, University College London.  John is an advisor to the Royal Foundation for issues around men’s mental health.

 

 

 

Open post

Domestic abuse is a public health issue that impacts men too.

by Teresa Giménez Barbat [1][2]

In April 2018, I presented a written question to the European Commission on male victims of domestic abuse, in light of the scarce attention they met in the European Programmes of assistance and prevention. In her response, the European Commissioner of Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Ms Vera Jourova, recognized that “men and women can also be victims of gender violence”, but justified the current bias in European policies with the fact that “the immense majority of victims of gender violence are women and girls”.

The explanation did not satisfy me. On one hand, it is problematic that the Commissioner founded the EU official position on a survey that deals with violence against one sex only. On the other hand, it contrasts with available scientific evidence, according to which, men, and of course boys and adolescents, also suffer domestic abuse –including sexual abuse– in a way that is far from trivial.

Since the 1970’s, several studies and meta-analyses (studies of studies) consistently show that there are male victims and female aggressors in the domestic sphere. This work is based on confidential and anonymous surveys administered to different population groups, including students, clinical and community samples. Using this methodology, researchers try to minimize the bias of police and hospital records, which usually –according to experts– tend to underestimate male victimization. This methodology, of course, has its own limitations (such as the danger of underestimating the prevalence of aggressions), but some basic conclusions are stronger year after year, and decade after decade: women tend to use physical violence against their partners in a similar proportion to men, according to the summary by Medeiros and Strauss (2016). Men are not exempt from severe aggression, though it is clear that more women are killed by their intimate partners than men are.

These basic conclusions converge with a new international study that I presented in the European Parliament last week –it will be soon be published online in the Forum Euromind website, about the intimate-partner violence impact on men and children. This study is authored by Joaquim Soares, Emeritus Professor of Mid Sweden University, and Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan, expert in forensic psychology in the University of Central Lancashire. Both researchers have an important academic curriculum in relation to domestic abuse, including research projects financed by the European Commission, like DOVE. The research of Professor Soares, based on the evaluation of 153 studies from 54 countries about victims, and 151 studies from 44 countries about perpetrators (both men and women), support previous evidence, showing only modest sex differences in average perpetration and victimization associated with intimate-partner violence. This general symmetry in aggression holds, according to the same study, across the different “world regions” analysed: Africa, Europe/Caucasus, Asia/Pacific, Latin-America/Caribbean, Middle East and English-speaking industrialized countries. More research is needed to refine our understanding of these findings, but to achieve this goal there is a need to remove unnecessary obstacles to research, and an increase in financial resources.

As regard to the impact of intimate-partner violence on children, studied by Professor Graham-Kevan, and based on results of 14 studies from 2009 to 2018, the conclusion is that both boys and girls are adversely affected, through different health dimensions, irrespective of the abuser’s gender. This is inconsistent with the current EU and UN focus on “women & girls”. The same author notes the lack of empirical studies on domestic abuse specifically committed by mothers against fathers, a constraint that, maybe, is hiding the real impact of this type of aggression on children.

Another participant in the EU Parliament’s event was the young researcher Marta Iglesias, an expert in female aggression, post-doctoral fellow in Lisbon and active science commentator (she is also the first Spanish author to be published in the digital magazine Quillette). Iglesias lectured on the evolutionary basis behind female aggression, a more indirect type of aggression compared to that of males, but far from “non-existent or harmless”. The fact that a significant part of violence against women is committed by other women, like harassment in school or in the workplace, should be of more concern to us as a legitimate subject of study than it currently is, according to Iglesias.

It is time to deal with domestic abuse between the sexes as a public health issue, with scientific evidence as the basis. Listening to researchers, and not only recognizing the complex and multifactorial nature of the issues –something that the Spanish programmes to detect “homicide risk” in gender-based crimes are beginning to take into account– but also promoting participation and dialogue between all stakeholders in society, is what is needed.

It is also time to expand our empathy toward men and boys. Particularly in a world where male suffering is harder to appreciate, and where most of people naturally tend to “favour policies that benefit women”, as social psychologist Tania Reynolds recently has explained. These evolutionary-based predispositions are maintained across different cultures and could be a “human universal”, but they could also constitute what evolutionary psychologists call a “mismatch” between our ancient, less socially complex, and evolved traits and the new global societies that celebrate equality and cooperation.

Taking into consideration female aggression and male victimization does not harm women’s rights and does not pose a genuine threat to gender equality. Quite the opposite. Male and female violence are more often intertwined in the domestic sphere, including its unfortunate impact on children’s wellbeing.

We need a policy based on evidence, not ideology. With a more compassionate, collaborative and efficient approach to protect our wellbeing, health and security. We owe that to our families, friends and citizens.

 

[1] Originally published in Spanish in “El Mundo”

[2] Teresa Giménez Barbat is a Member of the European Parliament, anthropologist and writer.

 

 

 

 

The first BPS Male Psychology Section Committee

The Male Psychology Section is British Psychological Society (BPS) branch of the Male Psychology Section. The BPS is the professional body for psychologists in the British Isles. A vote at the BPS Annual General Meeting in Leicester on 29th Nov 2018 decided the members of the first BPS Male Psychology Section Committee.

The Committee members are:

Chair: Martin Seager, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section

 

Secretary: Dr John Barry, Chartered Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section

 

Treasurer: Dr Kevin Wright, Fellow of the BPS and counselling psychologist.

 

Committee member: Dr Roger Kingerlee, Consultant clinical psychologist, with special interests in male psychologies and Veteran psychological health

 

 

 

 

 

Committee member: Louise Liddon, Trainee Health Psychologist, and Research Assistant with the Male Psychology Network

 

Committee member: Dr Eli Joubert, Clinical Psychologist, Psycho-Sexologist, and Teaching Fellow (Clinical).

 

Committee member: Professor Gijsbert Stoet, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Essex.

 

Committee member: Dr Rebecca Owens, Lecturer in Psychology, Sunderland University.

 

Committee member: Dr Deborah Powney, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Central Lancashire.

 

Committee member: Simon Vearnals, Consultant Psychologist

 

Committee member: Dr Caroline Flurey. Senior Lecturer in Public Health, University of the West of England.

 

 

Open post

Can we discuss gender issues rationally? Yes, if we can stop gamma bias.

Martin Seager and Dr John Barry

Consider this:

1/ The careers and achievements of women in science, politics, business and education are publicly celebrated and promoted in the media, politics and academia.

2/ Boys have been falling behind girls in education since the 1980s. Today, for every 13 girls who enter university, only 10 boys do, but this is not the subject of public concern, media awareness or political action.

Some readers at this point will be experiencing “cognitive dissonance”, the uncomfortable feeling of trying to hold in one’s mind two incompatible ideas. In this case the incompatible ideas are:

1/ There is evidence that women are disadvantaged compared to men

2/ There is evidence that men are disadvantaged compared to women

 

Psychologists know that it’s common for people to harbour all sorts of conflicts, biases and distortions in their thinking. In relation to gender, psychologists have identified alpha bias (exaggerating or magnifying gender differences) and beta bias (ignoring or minimising gender differences). Seager & Barry (2019) have now developed a hypothesis relating to a third cognitive gender bias – gamma bias – which represents a combination of alpha and beta bias. Gamma bias occurs when one gender difference is minimised while simultaneously another is magnified.

The gamma bias phenomenon can be conceptualised as a symmetrical 2*2 matrix of cognitive distortions, the gender distortion matrix. The matrix below describes examples of gamma bias, where perceptions of men and women are differentially magnified (capital letters underlined) or minimised (lower case letters in italics).

 

  GOOD HARM

DO

(active mode) 

FEMALE male

(celebration)

MALE female

(perpetration)

RECEIVE

(passive mode)

MALE female

(privilege)

FEMALE male

(victimhood)

 

Within the “celebration” cell, for example, the positive achievements of women are routinely celebrated as a gender issue. Within the same cell in the table, the positive actions and achievements of men are not similarly celebrated or gendered. For example, when a group of boys was recently rescued from dangerous underwater caves in Thailand, it was not reported as a gender issue or as a positive example of masculinity, despite the fact that all the rescuers were male.

In the “victimhood” cell, domestic violence against women, for example, is highlighted as a gender issue, whereas domestic violence against men is played down or completely ignored, despite the substantial numbers of male victims. When men make up the majority of victims (e.g. suicide, rough sleeping, deaths at work, addiction), the issues are not highlighted or portrayed as gender issues.

Within the “privilege” cell, male privileges are magnified in our media and politics as “patriarchy” whereas female privileges (for example relating to children and family life) are played down or ignored as gender issues.

The overall impact of gamma bias therefore, according to this hypothesis, is that masculinity is made to look significantly worse than it really is whilst simultaneously femininity is made to look significantly better than it really is.

What are the implications of the routine magnifying of the worst of men and minimising the worst of women? Well, for a start we might need to reconceptualise the ‘crisis of masculinity’ as a crisis in our attitudes towards men and masculinity.

Let’s make 2019 the year we wake up to the need to explore our conscious and unconscious biases against men. We hope that the concept of gamma bias and the gender distortion matrix will help people to think more clearly about gender issues.

 

Gamma bias is discussed at length in Seager & Barry’s forthcoming book chapter: Seager M and Barry JA (in press). Cognitive distortion in thinking about gender issues: Gamma bias and the gender distortion matrix, in Barry JA, Kingerlee R, Seager MJ and Sullivan L (Eds.) (2019). The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. London: Palgrave Macmillan

 

About the authors

Martin Seager

Martin is one of the founders of the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is a consultant clinical psychologist and an adult psychotherapist. He is a clinician, lecturer, campaigner, broadcaster and activist on mental health issues. He has been an honorary consultant psychologist with the Central London Samaritans since 2006 and is also a member of the Mental Health Advisory Board of the College of Medicine. He did a regular slot on mental health for BBC Essex Radio (2003-2007) and BBC Radio Five Live (2007-2009). He set up an advisory group for the last Labour government on mental health issues. He has been an honorary lecturer in psychological therapies at UEL, UCL and Essex University/Tavistock Clinic and has also presented at many international, national and regional conferences on a variety of themes relating to mental health and psychological well-being. Martin is an advisor to the Royal Foundation for issues around men’s mental health.

John Barry

John is one of the founders of the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. After completing his PhD in psychological aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome, he joined University College London’s Institutefor Women’s Health at the UCL Medical School in 2011. Since then he has published over 60 papers in various peer-reviewed journals, including in international-standard journals in gynaecology, cardiology and ophthalmology. Prompted by the considerable suicide rates among men and the establishment’s inertia in dealing with men’s mental health problems, in 2011 John led an independent research programme investigating the mental health needs of men and boys. John specialises in research methods (especially surveys and questionnaire development) and statistical analysis (e.g. meta-analysis, meta-regression), currently practices clinical hypnosis on a part-time basis and is an honorary lecturer with the Dept of Psychology, University College London.  John is an advisor to the Royal Foundation for issues around men’s mental health.

 

 

 

 

Open post

Men Bereaved by Abortion

by author and journalist John Waters

One of the more commonplace arguments that crops up in relation to abortion is that it is a matter on which only women should have a voice. Even if we are to take this argument on its own reductive “gender” terms, an obvious question arises: may anyone speak on behalf of the male 50 per cent of those human creatures whose existences are snuffed out by abortion?

But there is another unspoken category of overlooked humans here also: the might-have-been fathers of those obliterated children. It is noticeable that, when this issue is referred to at all in these discussions, it usually gets disposed of in the conventionally censorious terms our society has contrived to dispose of fathers: “Oh, he won’t be seen for dust”, etc. etc. Just as self-styled “liberals” use hard cases to bludgeon problematic principles, they also like to advance worst-case caricatures to disallow the claims of inconvenient parties whose involvement might complicate things more than liberals like (a pretty low threshold, generally speaking).

But imagine a 19 year-old boy, perhaps your son, brother or nephew, who gets his 18-year-old girlfriend pregnant. The pregnancy is unplanned, i.e. in conventional terms “unwanted”. In the culture we have constructed of recent times, the question of the child’s survival is a matter primarily for the woman. Perhaps her parents will become involved, but nowadays this is unlikely to alter the dynamic significantly. The man or his family have no right to an opinion. The culturally-allocated role of the might-be father is to offer “unconditional support”.

But let’s imagine that the woman has not quite made up her mind.  She is taking her time with the decision. This, we insist, is her prerogative entirely. The man – the putative father of the child-in-the-balance has no entitlement to speak for himself or his would-be son or daughter. He waits to hear the fate of his child.

In that period of uncertainly, what is to be his disposition? He may be about to become a father or he may not.  Indeed, in his own mind he may already be a father, but this is something he will be well advised to keep to himself.

Western societies increasingly take the following view: If his child is allowed to live, this man must be available, for the rest of his life, to love and provide for his child – emotionally, materially, psychologically, and in manifold other ways. He will be expected – by the mother, her family and friends, and by society in general – to step up to the plate and become a loving, caring and responsible father. He will also be expected to live his life thenceforth as if these days or hours of indecision and mulling-over have never occurred –  as if the idea of obliterating his child had never been considered. From the moment his child is delivered from the threat of the abortionist’s knife, he must locate in himself the qualities of love, devotion, duty and protectiveness that society feels entitled to demand from a father while implacably refusing him the legal basis from which to protect his child.

If, on the other hand, it is decided that his child is to be destroyed, he should be able to go about his life as if nothing has happened, as if he never had a child, the prospect of a child, even the thought of a child.

You do not hear or read much in the media about male bereavement by abortion, but it is nonetheless a real syndrome, documented in numerous academic studies. This research tells us that abortion causes many men to become emotionally overwhelmed, to experience disturbing thoughts, feelings of grief and loss. They react either by silence or hostility.

Reviewing how abortion impacts intimate relationships, Coleman, Rue & Spence (2007) reported that men tend to exert greater control than women over the expression of painful emotions, and so tend to intellectualize grief, and cope alone. The study also found that men are inclined to identify their primary role as providing support for their partners, even after an abortion—even if they opposed the decision. The study also revealed that men are more likely than women to experience feelings of despair long after the abortion, and are accordingly more at risk of suffering chronic grief.  Another study, (Coyle, 2007) found that men whose children have been aborted experience feelings of grief, guilt, anger, depression, anxiety, helplessness, powerlessness, and other feelings akin to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that they tend to repress these feelings rather than expressing them.  PTSD symptoms, which manifest in 40% of men implicated by abortion, can take an average of 15 years to manifest. Some studies (Coleman & Nelson, 1998; Kero & Lalos, 2000; and Lauzon et al., 2000; Mattinson, 1985) have found evidence that some men grieve more than the mother following the loss of an unborn child, giving the lie to conventional notions about the male as emotionally disconnected from his child. In fact, a great number of men experience abortion as the actual death of a child. Such feelings are frequently exacerbated by the man’s inability to understand what the woman expects of him, with many women experiencing ambivalent feelings which cause them to emit contradictory and confusing messages. Due to the relentless propaganda that attends such matters, many men assume that their role is to ‘support’ the woman even when he disagrees with the decision to abort, whereas in truth the woman may secretly wish for the father to talk her out of killing the child.

I wonder: in the event that his child is not permitted to live, at what precise moment is the father expected to extinguish in himself the love, duty, affection and devotion that would have been required to parent a living child – and demanded of the father by society, even though it simultaneously forbids him to have any say in the matter? Or, conversely, if the child is given the green light, does the father’s responsibility to ignite in himself the various qualities that are expected of a good-enough father begin from the moment of the announcement of the baby’s reprieve? Or is such a suddenly incorporated father entitled to a period of time to initiate the process of ignition in himself? If so, how long might he have to do this?

Of what do we imagine a man is made?

Does modern Western society imagine that its young males come equipped with some hidden mechanism for use when their children are annihilated – when, having been briefly invigorated with the possibility of fatherhood, they find that the emotions normally called upon in this context are not needed? Or, on the other hand, do we—collectively, I mean—believe that a man who has started in himself the process of grieving his child should be able to arrest this procedure and behave as though his child had merely had a miraculous recovery from a serious illness?

What kind of men might such a society expect to produce? Automatons with switches secreted in various regions of their bodies for turning on and off their human passions and emotions? Or – if flesh-and-blood males with real human desires, affections and capacities – what might we expect to happen to the hearts of men under such a regime? Would a society such as ours be entitled to be surprised if it ended up producing male humans who were incapable of loving, or grieving, or telling the difference between?

 

About the author

John Waters is a Permanent Research Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA. Having started his career in 1981 with the Irish Music journal Hot Press, he later wrote in The Irish Times from 1990 to 2014. His first book, Jiving at the Crossroads (1991), about Irish politics around the 1980s, became a massive best-seller. He has written a number of books and plays for stage and radio and currently writes a fortnightly essay for the American magazine of religion in the public square, First Things. His latest book – Give us Back the Bad Roads – has just been published

 

 

 

 

 

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