Letting Them In: Should Men be Included in Self Care Talks?
Waving goodbye, the last woman in the room embraces us with a hug before setting off home at the end of our Self Love talk at Peckham levels. It’s February, it’s 2018, close to Valentine’s Day and we’re buzzing from being around 50 super busy multi-talented creative women in London who would rather spend a few hours being courageous and vulnerable by sharing their truths, their words encouraging every sister in the room to continue their journeys in fashion and design, all while we share tips on better self-care.
When me and my co-founder, who also happens to be my bestie and sister returned to organising our usual talks, not exclusive to women and opened to all, we asked ourselves if men needed to hear about self-love too. After all, we were discussing being a freelancer and entrepreneur in London and how to take care of yourself in the midst of that crazy life, a topic with no gender. The idea felt contradictory, breaking the sisterhood to let THEM in, not only were we, as a nation, in the midst of girl power and the long-awaited me-too movement, but we we’re finally addressing the issues we have on the social ideologies of masculinity.
A year later and we’re still pondering on if we should squeeze men into some of our self-love spaces. Is the segregation necessary when discussing self-care and mental health? To settle our minds, we asked a few people what they thought and came up with reasons why we should let men in.
"Irrespective of what they have between their legs, and I really believe that inclusivity is the way to equality."
Some issues are human issues
A life changing moment happened for me when I sat in the audience of an international woman’s panel, the panellists totalled 6, 2 of them were men. The discussion was about inequalities at work. After a heart-felt speech from a female panellist, about women hardly being put forward for promotions, one of the men raised his hands and admitted to missing out on opportunities too, the reason being a lack of confidence. The women suggested female confidence workshops, and it turned out the guy on the panel would have benefitted from it too. We interviewed Chris and asked him about his opinions on self-care, who backed this point by saying both women and men can have the same struggles, irrespective of what they have between their legs, and I really believe that inclusivity is the way to equality.
The awkward strangers on the morning commute, the kitchen rush for coffee fixes and the endless meetings that make up our day, I bet there’s a man there. It doesn’t end at work, we have dad’s uncles, brothers and friends. If most of our issues are human issues, can we talk about them freely with our male friends? There are some chat’s that girls might do better, however Chris admitted to discussing mental health with the boys, often it’s masked with banter, but that’s the way they deal with it.
We then spoke to blogger and new mum Maria and writer Melanie about who they go to when they need to discuss that type of stuff. For Maria opening up the need for self-care to her husband or friends was important, especially after having a baby. “The mumhaustion is real and self care is even more important to maintaining my health and wellbeing.”. Melanie also leans on her friends and is happy at the fact It is more acceptable to say 'No, I'm not OK actually!'.
You may have read the first two points and came up with a few circumstances where you really don’t need a man around. New mum Maria appreciated the comfort she felt in a female only exercise class after giving birth and highlighted the security blanket that can be felt during single-gender swimming times, especially for body conscious people. Chris highlighted that there are physical aspects of self-care which are gender-specific, such as prostate checks. Mel agreed, when she personally experienced infertility and miscarriage, The physical and mental feelings associated with this felt very gender specific, so a women only platform was important for her to be able to discuss what had happened in her female body.
It makes sense, sometimes you don’t need a man around when you’re discussing changes to your areole after breastfeeding or when your vagina mis-behaves, and men have issues they may not feel open about sharing with their partners. There is always a time and a place.
Self-love has changed, it’s about the internal you
Melanie highlighted how the term ‘You love yourself' was frequently banded around the playground as an insult in the 1980's, referring to a person whose behaviour was seen as arrogant and vain. Now this has shifted considerably and self-love, to Melanie, means appreciating what her body CAN do rather than can't, and celebrating all of the things that us humans achieve on a daily basis. Chris felt personally that a lot of barriers were coming down in regards to gender. “Maybe ten years ago, I couldn't discuss things with my male friends, but society is changing and people are becoming open minded, and I think a lot of men are thankful for it, although they won't say it, but the admission of this is in their willingness to talk about it.”
"Having spaces that allows all of us to talk this out and understand the new era of redefining society’s label of masculinity and femininity – even if it does feel awkward at first."
The rise in male suicide – are we helping each other out?
The statistics are shocking, male suicides have consistently accounted for approximately three-quarters of all suicides in the UK, with the highest suicide rate amongst men aged 45-49. What role can we play as women in bringing down this statistic? It’s important for us to be aware of each other’s gender biases so that we have the opportunity to go into our gender specific groups, but then address certain issues when we are together. How can we create a space where we have regular and genuine catch-ups on our mental health status without pointing the finger. As we, as woman have the conversation on stepping into our divine feminine power, we are seeing a shift in the definition of masculinity. Having spaces that allows all of us to talk this out and understand the new era of redefining society’s label of masculinity and femininity – even if it does feel awkward at first.
So should we let men into our self-care talks? That’s like asking are men human and do they need love. Yes, we’ve spoken enough, created panels and talks, but I’m ready to action this out and normalise self-care for all. As a disclaimer, I want to add that this doesn’t mean we will take away girly spa trips and sisterhood events and whatever men do when they go back into their, umm, man-caves. Let’s sit together, think about our human issues and let each other know that it’s OK to need some down time.
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