The Shed

Published May 30, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Men’s shed focus is on promoting men’s health and wellbeing through engaging them various actives including information provision, socialisation and handicraft.  All good and well, as I support the need for men to engage in men’s business however, I am not convinced that the men’s shed concept is the most appropriate vehicle for this to happen. My reservations come from the perspective culture of this organisation dominated by mainstream concepts of masculinity; it seems to be more about reinforcing stereotypes rather than starting a new conversation. This is no more evident than the men’s rights spectre you catch glimpses of in the language used.

Men need to have an open and frank conversation with each other, one about the very nature of masculinity at this time in history. Men have an opportunity to engage in a conversation using the Feminist critique to help them make sense of their experiences .It is time to stop smarting about the social changes of the past 60 years that shock the heteronormative Anglo-European model of masculinity to its core. This is about men acknowledging and celebrating the rich diversity of their gender identity rather than adhering blindly to some idealized model. It is time to come out of the shed and start that conversation with each other.

As a man I know the fear of social sanctions for those who do not conform to the model, as a queer I know the sanctuary of the closet. It seems heterosexual men also share these same fears and security as men confined to the shed. This might be the first challenge for men who find sanctuary in their shed or in their ways of knowing and doing masculinity to venture out. I never thought in my whole life that I would be offering words of encouragement to heterosexual men to come out of shed and claim their masculinity. However, that is exactly what my plea is here for your own health and wellbeing to join the conversation so boys can become healthy self-confident men without the anxiety and guilt of previous generations.

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