Saturday, 18 April 2009

men's group

if you missed it this morning, kim hill's interview with john simpson is very well worth a listen. mr simpson directed the film "men's group", which is to be released in nz this thursday. the basic storyline is:

men’s group is the story of six very different men; Paul, Freddy, Cecil, Lucas, Moses and Alex . They meet once a week at Paul’s home to talk. When they begin they are complete strangers.

They soon discover that they have something in common, being male. As trust grows between them they gradually begin to share as they learn to listen to each other. They discover that they are not quite so alone in their fears as they had presumed.

It takes a tragedy for the men to finally understand that they must take responsibilities for their own lives and those of their loved ones.

it was really interesting to hear mr simpson talk about the process of making the film (which he did on a zero budget), the motivation for making the film, how he "put food on the table", and another film he chose to distribute, about human trafficking in australia.

what i found most inspiring was that he could find success in promoting films that the major studios/distributors wouldn't touch, because they believed no-one would be interested in the stories. his experience was that people are interested in the serious issues, and would engage and relate to the films he distributed.

i don't know if "men's group" will be showing in hamilton, but if anyone here ends up watching it, i'd be interested in hearing what you think.


Anonymous said...

I went to the website and saw one of the men complaining about a 'family court judge fucking up his life' or words to that effect. This doesn't sound like a very pleasant film to me. In fact it sounds sexist as all hell.

Hugh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dolan said...

Anon, I heard the interview and thought the same thing. But then Kim Hill raised this with him and asked something along the lines of "you know there is a danger here that you will end up a poster boy for disaffected family court nutters" and he agreed that was a danger and came across as though he had little sympathy for that element. The movie sounds interesting and I am curious to check it out.

Anonymous said...

I saw the flyer for this on Friday and I'm intrigued. I don't think that because a movie portrays someone criticising the family court that the movie itself is necessarily sexist.

The idea of men talking together and sharing what masculinity means to them (although they probably wouldn't use those words for it) looks like a good chance to dissect the roles that have given them meaning/problems in life.

I better go listen to that interview!

- J

Anonymous said...

Criticising the family court in itself is not sexist, but the 'they fucked my life up' just smacks of all that father's rights bullshit, where men seem to think that any implication their kids aren't their property is this egrerious blow to their human rights. Should this sort of thing be presented to movie goers as a role model?

I also notice that there are no women in this film, to judge from the cast list, and no women involved in making it either.

The problem is when men gather together to talk about masculinity they don't dissect anything, they just slag off women, gay people and those who don't fit their idea of what it means to be a 'bloke'. Remember, patriarchy is explicitly homosocial - it relies on close, intimate bonds between men. Male bonding isn't going to stop patriarchy, because it is foundation of patriarchy.

stargazer said...

anonymous, you so obviously haven't listened to the interview. please do so first, and then you'll see why this particular film appears to be very well worth viewing.

Anna said...

I think there's potentially a very positive role for men's spaces. The reason bringing the men together is all important, I think. I've never had much time for guys who demand a men's room simply because women have one, even though they feel no need for a men's room and have no intention of actually using it.

There's an initiative in my community called the 'Men's shed' - it's for guys at about retirement age who have experienced different sorts of life events (eg loss of spouse, redundancy) to get together, muck about with tools and enjoy some company. I think it's a great idea - especially in a culture where men often feel they have to battle on alone through life's bad stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anjum, no I haven't, and I don't feel I need to expose myself to everything a man has ever said before I can call him sexist. It's a sexist statement in itself, even if it's later qualified. To say 'I don't want to provide support for father's right's activists' and then say exactly the same things they are saying shows somebody who is at best very confused on gender issues, and at worst is sexist but doesn't want to appear to be sexist.

I think there's potentially a very positive role for men's spaces.Anna, maybe, but as I say, the very fact of a group of men getting together to discuss masculinity is not revolutionary. I disagree that men are expected to be alone - I'll direct you towards Heidi Hartmann's definition of patriarchy as "relations between men... [which] create interdependence and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women").

As for the men's shed, I don't want to judge it without seeing it at work, but it worries me that men feel they can't talk about losing spouses or being made redundant without excluding women. Is the idea that hearing a female perspective on these issues will somehow damage them? Seems unlikely to me, particularly since these are hardly issues that only affect men.

I'm not against men's spaces but I think they should be limited to discussion of things that directly effect men as a group more than they do women - impotence, testicular cancer, that kind of thing.

stargazer said...

To say 'I don't want to provide support for father's right's activists' and then say exactly the same things they are saying shows somebody who is at best very confused on gender issues, and at worst is sexist but doesn't want to appear to be sexist.i'm sorry, but in this case that's nonsense. that may be where this character starts, but certainly isn't where he ends. and it's the discussion in the men's group that makes him come to the realisation that he himself has been a cause of the problem, and that he needs to start taking responsibily for his own shit.

that's why i'm saying that you're making judgements without actually knowing what the film is about. and i find your presumption that men can't possibly get together to have meaninful discussions about anything other than health issues is a bit sad. they live in a society where they're not encouraged to do so, which makes it really difficult. from what i heard, i think this film deals with that issue as well.

Anna said...

Heidi Hartmann's relationships of solidarity and interdependence among men needn't be emotionally satisfying for the men involved - given they're relationships based in an oppressive structure, there's no reason why they should be. And there's plenty of feminist writing on woman as a source of emotional validation/succour/whatever for men, and men as individuals in a culture stemming from classical liberalism, which suggests not all men's emotional needs are met through relationships with other men. In an ideal world, there would be no emotional division between men and women, but we don't have an ideal world. In light of that, I think it's quite valid for a man in his sixties to turn to other men for understanding or companionship. So long as the men don't get together to slag off women, there's no reason why that companionship would necessarily lead to an outcome inimical to feminist goals.

AWicken said...

Anon 20/4 2:27-
"The problem is when men gather together to talk about masculinity they don't dissect anything, they just slag off women, gay people and those who don't fit their idea of what it means to be a 'bloke'."

Damn - I knew there were things on my patriarchal misogyny checklist I was forgetting to do. Thanks for reminding me.

Bob said...

Anon, Monday, April 20, 2009 2:27:00 AM & 1:43:00 PM - I'm going out with my mates on Thursday night to our "men's space" otherwise known as "the pub". We will probably be dicsussing the merits of various wines, overseas adventres, family, the all blacks, Brad & Ange, the Ranfurly shield, various battles of WW2, Super 14, boats, friends, helicopters, fishing and any other stuff that pops up at the time.

I'd just like to let you know that I dont want or need your approval or permission to do so.

I realy do think you need to get a life.

PS I'd invite you along but I doubt you would fit in. We tend to stay away from bigoted, narrow minded, judgemental people.

Anna said...

Bob, wearing my moderator's hat, I'll just caution you there - I sympathise with the point you're making, but you're on the verge of denigrating another commentator.

I think it's a mistake to vilify men getting together, but I think it's interesting that you chose the pub as an example. Women were excluded from men's bars until the 1970s (and had to stay in the family lounge, with or without the kids), and there is of course a connection between domestic violence and alcohol.

Of course, that doesn't mean that all pubs or alcohol consumption by men is a bad thing. I've spent many happy hours in the pub, debating everything from sport to politics to whatever with men and women alike. There are some pubs in my own neighbourhood I wouldn't feel safe going into, though (and nor would my male partner, for that matter).

I don't care at all when my partner hangs out with blokes - he'll never get a sensible conversation about rugby out of me, so that's a social need in his life I can't fulfil. But I remember my brother telling me with disgust about a job he had, during which the foreman complained at length that his wife's vagina wasn't as tight since she had kids. That is not a situation which a woman could possibly feel comfortable in.

There are some situations in which men get together and behave badly. There are also plenty in which they don't. I completely trust my partner to go the pub (or wherever) with his mates and behave in a way that's respectful to women, but I don't think there's any denying that when some men get together, the behaviour's not flash.

Anonymous said...

A male friend of mine is really excited about the movie. Opening up with each other & being vulnerable & really discussing anything on a heart level is very difficult for most men to do (particularly other men) and men's coffee groups could be a place for that. There may be some sexist presumptions and attitudes expressed within such men's groups (and within the movie itself) but overall I think men being vulnerable with each other & learning from each other & supporting each other is a very positive thing that will benefit many men, as well as their wives & their families.

Whether or not everything in the movie is 100% feminist and non-sexist, I think the movie sounds many times better (and less sexist) than the average movie shown in cinemas. I'm looking forward to seeing the film.

Anonymous said...

Pfft, men can talk about anything they like - just as woman can.

So what if it may upset a few others, thats what arguing and not agreeing with each other is all about. I know some bloody racist women as I do men, but who am I to tell them what they should say in their inner sanctum?

Unless you're looking at the idea of banning hate speech? That must fall into your ideological way of thinking?

Anna said...

Anon, no one's talking about banning speech about anything. It's a discussion of what's ethical, not what should or shouldn't be allowed. The example you give of racist women is clearly an example of speech that's legal, but is undesirable. Misogynistic speech surely falls into the same category. Should we have no opinions on what's socially desirable or not?

Anonymous said...

Male commentators telling me that I have no right to tell them what they can and can't say - I know I don't have that right. That's the problem. Enjoy your freedom, and don't think too hard about how you got it or at whose expense it's maintained.

Stargazer, you can call it 'nonsense' if you want, but I seriously doubt you take the trouble to familiarise yourself with everything a man has ever said before calling him out on sexism, and nor should you. I don't know why you are defending this film so staunchly, but I would really ask you to have a look at what you are promoting here.

Anna, I disagree with your interpretation of Hartmann's work. Although it's true that homosocial intimacy doesn't have to be emotionally satisfying to oppress women, that doesn't change the fact that it often is - so your saying 'this is fulfilling for the men involved, and therefore beyond criticism' is a non-starter.

As for the men's shed, if you feel that the only way for men to have a meaningful discussion is to say to women 'we don't care about your opinions', I would wonder how you could have any respect for the men concerned. Forceful exclusion of a gender perspective is something that can only be justified as a counter to patriarchal power, not as an adjunct to it.

Oh I'm sure these old fellows don't set out to oppress women when they get together in their comfortable blokey atmosphere, but that's the effect.

If we are going to fight patriarchy we can't limit our awareness of it to its more violent or catastrophic manifestations, we have to search for it in the everyday, and I submit that a group of men who feel unable to be emotionally open when women are present are a very substantial manifestation of that.

Anna said...

That's not quite what I mean, Anon. Male relationships based on oppression can probably be emotionally satisfying, but they needn't necessarily be - particularly given the class and other disparaties between groups of men. And I don't think that when a man seeks out someone he has something in common with, the result will necessarily be a bad thing (although it might be). If that were the case, I wouldn't want my partner and son hanging round together. When they do hang out together, they're not forcibly excluding me, as an individual or a woman. They're just enjoying the affectionate bond they have.

Men's gatherings might reinforce sexist attitudes, but they might also provide a platform for transforming them - that's how men's stopping violence groups work, after all.

For right or for wrong, we're socialised as male or females, and that affects how we communicate and the experiences we have. We can try to transcend that, but that's the reality of the starting point we work from.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you all have a look at some of the reactions from others following screenings of the film..... Men and Women

Anonymous said...

Anna, your partner and your son have something in common with one another other than just being men. I don't know if you have any girl kids, but you did, and their daddy had special boy time when he played with his sons but not his daughters, I expect you'd have a problem with that - or perhaps you wouldn't, given your feelings about the benevolent nature of the exclusion of women, but I think a lot of feminists, notably Hartmann, would.

What you are describing is not the exclusion of women. What the men's group film is depicting is. What your 'men's shed' groups are practicing also is. Bob and his friends getting together to discuss war and sports also is.

I don't have a problem with men interacting with other men. I have a problem with men feeling that they are somehow threatened by women expressing their views, to the point that the women must be banned from expressing those views. And I have a problem with this movie not only because it appears to approvingly validate this practice of excluding women, but because it features men openly expressing sexist opinions (namely the bit about the family court screwing up his life).

I suppose at least the film-makers (all men - one wonders if women were allowed to apply for jobs in this film, or whether that would have somehow prevented the precious male emotions from flowing) are honest enough to depict the sexism that is the product of male exclusivity. It would have been very easy for them to have depicted this men's group as somehow progressive and enlightening. What saddens me is that even though they haven't done this, a lot of people are defending it as progressive and enlightening anyway.