As the charity that is only able to host the UK’s National Conference For Men and Boys in the UK thanks the huge generosity of volunteers organize the event; the speakers and facilitators who give their time for free an the delegates who travel from all over the country (many at their own expense; we were both delighted (and a bit jealous) to hear that the German government is hosting a men’s conference!
It would be ungracious not to mention that our own city council in Brighton & Hove has helped us by part-funding this year’s national conference and who knows how soon it will be before the UK Government takes after its colleagues in Germany and funds a national conference for men and boys in the future.
The key in Germany seems – in part at least – to be the forthright support of Kristina Schröder, the country’s 32 year old Family Minister who has publicly challenged German feminists in her book “Danke, emanzipiert sind wir selber!” or “We’re emancipated on our own, thank you very much.” In it she writes: “Never were women in Germany as free as they are today, but in the ideological trenches of the 1970s sit all manner of dogmatists who publicly pass judgment on the results of this freedom.” One chapter is called: “The world has changed — the feminist worldview has not.”
In an open letter published in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in the spring of 2011. “We have become so used the monopolistic claims of women’s rights activists on issues relating to gender equality that the idea of including boys and men to a greater degree in the debate has, in the best case, been ignored and in the worst case been branded as a betrayal of the goals pursued by the women’s rights movement.”
As Family Minister Schröder’s has pledged to focus more attention on issues affecting men and boys and started by establishing a German Boys’ Day last spring.
Against this backdrop Schröder opened a two-day conference today focusing on issues specific to men as society strives to achieve gender equality. Called “Men’s Policies: Contributions to a Gender Equitable Society,” the gathering is the first such high-level conference ever held on men’s issues in the German-speaking world.
From the perspective of The Men’s Network, our approach has always been to make the case for tackling the inequalities that men face in addition to – rather than in opposition to tackling the inequalities that women face and it’s interesting to see the approach taken in different countries to working on behalf of men and boys.
According to a report on the German men’s conference at Spiegel Online, some of the key men’s issues identified include support for fathers, boy’s educational underachievement and men’s short life expectancy.
We’re glad to say that – even though not Government funded – the UK’s Second National Conference for Men and Boys addresses a much broader range of men’s issues including male suicide, the isolation of older; men as victims of violence; mentoring and rites of passage; working with gay, bisexual and transgender men an much, much more.
What’s also interesting about this development in Germany is learning about some of the men’s groups and campaigners working across Europe. According to Spiegel Online there’s:
- The Austrian Labor Ministry which has created a ministry devoted specifically to the subject. In 2004, the ministry held the first ever European fatherhood conference.
- There’s Thomas Gesterkamp, the author of several books on men’s issues, including “The New Fathers between Child and Career.
- There’s Markus Theunert, president of maenner.ch, an organization that unites all men’s and father’s groups in Switzerland
- Andreas Goosses, spokesman of Forum Männer, a Germany-wide group which focuses on men’s issues
As we build our global links through International Men’s Day and other activities, we look forward to learning more about how different nations are approaching the challenging issues of working for men and boys.
Thanks to Tony Stott of Healing Men for bringing this to our attention via Michael Buchanan.