The time has come for men to go beyond simply surviving. The time has come to go beyond simply being good. I know lots of good men; men who want to do the best they can for themselves and their families; men who want to do good things in their professions. The problem is in finding the right path to meet these aspirations.

To help men thrive, we first need to understand the cause of their troubles
What it is that makes us men? Who are we? Why are we the way we are? How is it that we are now in a time of trouble, despite modern medical technology and sophisticated psychological therapies? Why are we struggling with ourselves and our relationships? What is it that drives us to suicide more frequently than women?

We need help to get unstuck
Our First World physical and mental health statistics are deplorable. Men continue to be reluctant to ask for help. We persist in wearing psychological and social masks that are unquestionably counter-productive. Despite years of robust critique from both women and men, the masculine stereotype and patriarchy remains stuck in a 50 year old time warp. Why? What is it that has stopped men from changing?

Same but different
The men I see in my practise are unusual only in one way. They are looking for something better, greater and healthier. Unsure of what exactly they are seeking, they often lose themselves in addictions like work or sport – or, worse, alcohol, drugs and/or gambling. Often urged on by their partners, or by other men who have seen me, they have taken a step that most men are still reluctant to consider. They have come to ask for assistance.

What’s it all about?
Aside from feelings of anxiety, depression and pain from relationships gone bad, most are in an existential crisis. That’s where we confront the very meaning of our life. It is, for many, a distressing time. Who am I? What’s it all about? Do I want to do what I do? Does it matter in any way?

From birth we are taught to think in ‘masculine’ terms. Once marinaded in our maleness, we come to relate to ourselves through the lens of what we do. ‘I’m a tradie’ or ‘I’m a surgeon.’ Another reference point of who I am, is where I belong. This could be through my ethnicity, my religion, my profession – even my sporting team. But what happens when these points of reference become ambiguous, or our role in such groups are challenged?

As a member of the digital age, I looked to the internet. It seemed like a good place to begin a cursory overview. I started with looking at what is said about feminism. I found a rich exposition of ideas from many different academic schools. Most Universities have encouraged a culture of scholarship with respect to women’s issues and feminism. When I looked at ‘Masculinity,’ I was disappointed.

It’s different for boys!
The ‘male’ content lacked the depth of the entries for feminism. When I extended my search to tertiary education centres, I found a lack of courses on the subject of masculinity, and how we study men to understand their nature. It became clear that much of the work is based on men’s deficits, symptoms or disorders. Keywords were ‘damaged,’ ‘aggression’, ‘violence’, and ‘sport’ (always sport!).

‘What is it, to be a ‘man?’ or ‘What is a good man?’ are not new questions. However, today, the more common question posed is ‘What is wrong with men?’ This question has shaped research and conversations around the issue of masculinity. Currently, there are two predominant areas of study.

1. Men’s issues are investigated from a pathologised point of view. Here, men’s lack of well-being is seen to be caused by some pathological process that is either genetically based or has its roots in the individual’s psycho-pathology. In other words, the man who suffers is mentally ill.

2. A socio-political examination of how men have failed to share equally amongst themselves, or with women. It focuses on the problems this causes for those who are marginalised.

We need to rethink masculinity
My view is that both of these positions are inadequate. We need to rethink masculinity from the ground up. We must create an organising framework to pursue a fuller understanding of what it means to be a man. It must go beyond ‘what ails men’ and how damaging or damaged we are. Our enquiry needs to span a spectrum of history, anthropology, sociology, psychology and the biological sciences. This is necessary to bring about a better understanding of men and masculinity, to help men evolve from a way of being that is costing us far too much. And for that, we need to ask the question ‘What is a Great Man?’

The birth of Masculinism?
Unlike ‘feminism’, there is no ‘Masculinism’. No place to go to get the lowdown on being a man, let alone a great one! No emerging tradition of scholarly enquiry, no history of social struggle, no philosophy of masculinity, nor sociology, nor indeed a masculine psychology.

There are few political movements that are not rooted in some form of misogyny. Now, before you grumble that it was men who were in charge of the whole show anyway, I want to clarify. We all now appreciate that in the past, philosophy, politics, history, science and business were all about men. All of the thinking was underpinned by flawed assumptions about the innate capacities of both men and women. It was both exclusive and divisive. Women had to step into radical action in response. They had to create a dialogue that allowed for change. Being recognised legally as individuals (as opposed to extensions of men), to be able to vote, to enter formerly-closed professions and become economically independent are rights that women fought for.

The balance of power has shifted – perhaps too far?
Although the ‘feminism’ project is not complete, these social changes have shifted the balance of power and control within our societies. Men have not kept up. We have not re-examined ourselves in light of this new status quo. We now need to pay the ultimate compliment to the feminist movement. Men need to follow in their footsteps. However – and I mean this most emphatically – it does not mean we should become like women. That won’t work.

Androgyny is a flawed idea that has been dismissed for good reasons. We need to stay true to the differences that make us essentially men. We need to understand it, and we need to honour it. This is a project that calls for men from all walks of life to participate. No one ideological position can be allowed to drive this. It will cross over disciplines, cultures and communities, just as feminism did in the task of re-examining issues of equality, property, sexuality and violence.

It is the time we men joined with women in a global movement to better humanity as a whole

Another Making Good Men Great Mentoring Group will start soon. For more information please call Rebecca on 02 9999 0429 or email