However, whilst Moran claims to have the wellbeing of men in sharp focus, the very fact that she is setting out the blueprint for the issue and offering some solutions is, in itself, an offence to many – especially some men – who have suggested she isn’t the person to lead the charge. They imagine the shoe on the other foot: a man telling women what their problems are and how to deal with them. We have been there (for too many years) and we don’t want to go back. No: the problem with men is one men must also be active in solving.
And some men are.
In his book, Of Boys and Men, Richard Reeves highlights many of the same issues as Moran offering statistical and empirical data to support his claims. He is dedicated to the issue and recently founded the American Institute for Boys and Men to help address the urgent need in research and policy making. But it was also through his research that Reeves noted that, in order to change, men need to be taught how to be men. Masculinity needs to be created, unlike femininity which happens often as an impulse response, masculinity is more often developed through such moments as a rite of passage or is passed down father to son (master to apprentice, Jedi to Padawan).
This all seems to make sense, and perhaps we could just stop there – with the instruction for men to teach other men how to man. But the problem is deeper than that because many men are incapable of teaching others for the inescapable reason that they just haven’t learnt themselves. Their own version of masculinity has been warped by selfish impulses, or after generations of poor role models, as well as a breakdown in communities and shared values. The adage ‘you can’t teach what you don’t know’ has never rung more true. Add to this the fact that you might not know anyone to teach and the problem deepens…..Meanwhile, the masculinity crisis rages on.
At the same time, men are also increasingly isolated, so much so there are many who claim men are in a friendship recession.
Max Dickens reflects on his own experiences of loneliness in his book Billy No Mates . Dickens was planning his wedding when his suddenly occurred to him that he couldn’t select a best man….because he had no mates! But before you men reading this think ‘how pathetic’, ask yourself, how many close friends do you have? Who would you ask to be your best man? How well does that guy know you? Apparently, you are increasingly unique if you have more than three very close friends.
Men are lonely.
So, it seems 50% of the population are in real trouble. But there is hope. Having spent thousands of hours discussing these issues with thousands of men I think we have found a path. It is a narrow route suspended between extremes. It’s the way of purpose, balance and responsibility. It is wide enough to contain all men but narrow enough to be individual to each man. It is the way of the Authentic Man.