#YesAllMen must take responsibility for the darker side of masculinity
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#YesAllMen must take responsibility for the darker side of masculinity

Issues/Men's Health , Stories/367
SBS, Artarmon NSW 2064, Australia
18th Oct 2018
#YesAllMen must take responsibility for the darker side of masculinity
Want to see men actively tackling some of the problems associated with toxic masculinity? Watch Marty Smiley's new documentary, #YesAllMen.

As humans, we all have the capacity to obfuscate blame and deny accountability for things that we feel are not our responsibility. Both the anti-racist and feminist movements are often met with this sentiment, especially in the form of the increasingly popular "not all" catchcry.

Earlier this week, Pauline Hanson's "it's ok to be white" motion was supported by the Morrison Government, before this support was blamed on a rather mysterious administrative error. With clear alt-right and white supremacist undertones, "it's ok to be white" seems to suggest that critiques of white privilege and systemic racism put whiteness and by default, white people, on precarious ground.

In a similar vein, Melbourne's March for Men, held in August of this year and organised by conservative commentator Sydney Watson, claimed that the feminist movement demonises all men. According to the Australian-based Men's Rights Agency, men are met with hostility, assumed to be perpetrators of violence and suffer severe mental health issues as a result.

Pictured: Marty Smiley at Melbourne's March for Men.
Pictured: Marty Smiley at Melbourne's March for Men.

When it comes to the statistics, the evidence is overwhelming and does not bode well for the Men's Rights Movement. The Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2016 report on Personal Safety in Australia found that women are nearly three times more likely to experience domestic violence from an intimate partner than men. While it is not all men who engage in violence or abuse, even the most upstanding man has within him the potential for violence because of socialisation and the way certain behaviours are normalised through patriarchy.

Given that the vast majority of violence is carried out by men, where are the men asking what they can do to break the cycle? Marty Smiley is the face of a new SBS documentary, #YesAllMen, that asks whether change is possible and if all men should be involved in the process. Beyond his role as a journalist and TV presenter at VICELAND, he has worked as a youth worker at Reach Foundation and as a youth consultant at Black Dog Institute.

Through his experience running workshops with young men exploring masculinity, self-esteem and leadership, Marty was made more aware of the unwritten rules of masculinity and how they can negatively impact men of all ages.

"For 6 years, I witnessed the ability for young men to change the way they were thinking about what it means to be a man. To rewrite the rules and make healthier ones that don't create an unrealistic expectation", he says.

Pictured: Marty Smiley and Chris Fitzpatrick.
Pictured: Marty Smiley and Chris Fitzpatrick.

Marty is out to rethink the way we talk about masculinity. In #YesAllMen, he interviews four Australian men who offer unique insights into experiences of masculinity in contemporary Australia. Michael Riley, a Relationships Australia Facilitator, grew up in a family with domestic violence and now works directly with perpetrators through a behavioural change program.

"Although I still hold a great level of disdain towards a lot of the things that [my father] has done, I see the level of change that men make. It's not just the skills and the strategies but more, I want to be a better man. For myself, and as a consequence, for my family", he says.

According to Michael, the motive behind abusive behaviour is a desire for control. While individuals of any sex can engage in abusive behaviour, it is "predominantly male and predominantly gendered", Michael explains.

Pictured: Relationships Australia Facilitator Michael Riley.
Pictured: Relationships Australia Facilitator Michael Riley.

During the course of filming, Marty met two men who were participants in the behavioural change program. He was moved by their desire to identify their own controlling behaviours and use their stories as a form of advocacy.

"As I've learned, we all have behaviours, some unknown to us, that seek to dominate and control others. Especially men. That's where the spectrum of abuse starts", he says.

Beyond domestic violence, Australian men are also overrepresented in suicide statistics. Everyday, four men take their own life. Men account for 75 per cent for the deaths caused by suicide in this country, and while it may be tempting to blame external factors, it is more prudent to start by examining the way the expectations of conventional masculinity can negatively impact upon mental health.

In #YesAllMen, Marty interviews his friend Chris Fitzpatrick, a 28-year-old suicide survivor from Melbourne who is adamant that choosing to be stoic can worsen a man's mental health. He believes that it is crucial for men to start talking more candidly about suicide.

"It's a scary topic, I've lived it, but if we continue to do the same thing nothing will change. Men will continue to die and it doesn't have to be like that", he says.

Pictured: Chris Fitzpatrick.
Pictured: Chris Fitzpatrick.

For Marty, more constructive behaviours and attitudes towards self-care need to be taught at a young age. Boys should be encouraged to take care of their emotional state in the same way they are taught to take care of their physical safety.

"We spend time teaching men to take care crossing the road, maybe we should also teach them to take care of their own wellbeing?", he asks.

It is heartening to see a documentary where men actively tackle some of the problems associated with toxic masculinity. While all men do not actively engage in these problematic behaviours, it is the responsibility of all men who benefit from patriarchy to seek to change them.

As Relationships Australia Facilitator Michael Riley tells Marty when he identifies some behavioural areas that could be adjusted, "It's not to say you're a bad man. Good men will do bad things."

Pictured: Marty Smiley.
Pictured: Marty Smiley.

#YesAllMen is currently available to stream on SBS on Demand here.

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