I attended only day one. It was a nice day out in the big city for a country bumpkin. My thoughts / recollections for what they are worth below. Any inaccuracy is my fault though not intentional, my note taking is crap.
Jane Powell (CALM) opened. The main thing I took from this talk was confirmation that it is false to claim that men (in this case suicidal men) do not seek help. She confirmed that men do use the help line, and are more than willing to talk at length. I believe I have read her words asserting this previously. It is not that men do not talk, the problem is that no one is listening. Society at large is not geared up to be receptive to needy males. This was not exactly a revelation to me, but it is good to have it confirmed (again). She also noted the lack of interest in male suicide amongst journalists and other people of influence. “It’s not feminists, it’s senior men doing the blocking”, she said (though I paraphrase). Hmm, yes, I can well believe that it’s men who decline to be interested, but that does not exclude feminists or the all-pervasive influence of feminism. Some data I’d not seen before were the survey results on suicidal thoughts – which revealed no significant difference between the sexes, remarkably. So why do far more men then go on to actually do it? Jane Powell admitted she had no idea. The trouble with suicide, of course, is that you cannot ask people afterwards why they killed themselves. She mentioned the relationship between employment and men’s self-worth as potentially relevant, something which does not apply (at least anything like so strongly) to women. I don’t think she mentioned the connection of male suicide with partnership break-up. I should have asked – darn – though others did mention it (Belinda Brown, for one).
Questioners asked about the relevance of sexuality and fatherlessness on male suicide. The reply was that no data was collected.
I did find it irritating – perhaps this is just me – that Jane Powell constantly used the term “guys”. I detest that word. Isn’t it the male equivalent of “chick” (or “dolls”, to be even more old fashioned)?
Next up were Martin Seager and Michael Walton from Samaritans, who did a double act. They also confirmed the key fact that men do seek help – 50% of their helpline callers are male. Work they had done in prisons also confirmed that men are, in fact, very keen to talk about their problems. One disconcerting issue as regards the Samaritans ‘phone line was the disproportionate number of very short calls from men. Apparently this was identified as being due to the (generally unfounded) suspicion that many were sex callers. Subsequently, training events with the volunteers had ameliorated this problem. Attempting to get men to focus on their feelings had been identified as counterproductive. Martin observed that whilst men are reluctant to speak about emotional issues, men do commonly sing intensely emotional songs. But he noted that they did so in high voices – not a manly baritone – as if taking on a female voice legitimises a female role. Hmm, a novel idea, but then sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Next was Richard(?) Hadley talking about the impact on older men of not having had children. This was his PhD work based on interviews. Unsurprisingly the responses were overwhelmingly regretful. There were too many quotes for me to note. The only one I recall was from a married man whose childlessness would appear to have been by choice – the choice of his wife, that is. She said, “I never thought he was responsible enough to have children”. “That”, said the man, “was when I started drinking seriously”. Actually this issue struck a chord. No, not with me personally. I have two adult sons (well, nominally adult). But I had been at my father-in-law’s funeral the previous day. My wife had observed that all her Dad’s living relatives, bar one, were there – and, in fact, everyone there was his child or grandchild or their partner. All his own generation of friends and relations were predeceased. So, had he not had children there would have been no one at his funeral.
Next up was Belinda Brown giving us an anthropological slant on men’s issues. I think she managed to smuggle in the bulk of MRA issues somewhere, starting with deconstructing hegemonic masculinity and then standing it on its head. Music to my ears, of course, but I’m not exactly unbiased. She used the book “Island of Menstruating Men” (Ian Hogbin) to illustrate her thesis that, in truth, it is the traditional female role which is the high status role. This is regarded as a no-brainer in ‘anthropological’ societies, the role of headman notwithstanding. In the case of the menstruating men, their wince-inducing penis bleeding is an attempt to emulate women. More generally, men&