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Tackling Toxic Masculinity At Tea-Time

Elinor Jones discusses how the creation of male-only groups in Sweden called Killmags may help tackle gender inequality.
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Tackling Toxic Masculinity at Tea-Time

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July 4, 2020- By Elinor Jones

Elinor Jones considers the merits of all-male discussion groups as a way to combat modern sexism.

It is essential that inequality must be addressed in order to live in a world without oppression; a world where activism should be highlighted as something we all must engage in. Activism requires us to initiate challenging conversations on issues not faced within our own protective, comfortable bubbles. It requires us to educate ourselves on the realities of the world and how we can change systematic bias and persecution.

Challenging the status quo through meaningful and educational discussions is a powerful tool in addressing gender inequalities pervasive in society. In Sweden, ‘killmags’ (translated as ‘guy talks’), were launched by the non-profit organisation Make Equal, to promote the power of male-only dinner parties. They aim to host discussions that address gender-based violence, misogynistic language, and female discrimination ubiquitous in industry. Men can question their own experiences, speaking up about matters that do not go hand-in-hand with chats at the pub on a Friday night.

By opening up conversations that rock the boat of typical male-male interactions, men are being encouraged to make proactive changes to their own thoughts and actions and those of their friends, families, and colleagues. This initiative, developed in the wake of a series of sexual assault cases at Swedish music festivals, puts the onus on men to make their own commitment to equality, by making men part of the solution rather than the villains. These parties give men the opportunity to interact with others from a range of professional backgrounds, overcoming differences to assess the actions of others and express their own opinions. Topics have included analysing anonymous messages revealed during the Me Too movement and speaking about gender-related issues without interruption.

Whilst many men may feel far removed from gender inequality, perhaps arguing that they share the responsibility of childcare or that women hold senior positions within their organisation, it is impossible to argue that these inequalities do not still exist. Whilst, thankfully, some challenges facing women have become less widespread, it does not mean they have disappeared.

Difficult conversations still need to be had in order to combat systematic imbalance and discrimination.

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Killmags are a forward-thinking initiative to confer confidence on men to make a change, but it is important to distinguish this from past generations of male-only committees that have persisted in places of power. Governing and industry committees have long been debating issues of life and death for women, including abortion, menstrual health, and custody in domestic abuse cases despite themselves being predominantly white, cis, heterosexual men. Difficult conversations about inequality need to focus on working in the interests of women without agenda from the male perspective so as to change the mindsets and therefore the actions of such committees. Killmags, by engaging men to discuss why inequalities exist and how they exist, allow change to take place. 

Of course, those who perpetuate gender inequality directly via their actions will be unlikely to attend such meetings, despite being the ones who are most in need of having their prejudiced views challenged. Thus, it could be questioned how great an impact Killmags will really have. Whilst this is a valid line of enquiry, it undermines the power of men who may previously have been passive or blind to gender inequality, depriving them of a platform from which to take action and promote change. The noise of those who are normally silent needs to drown out those who oppress. 

Male-only drinks and dinner parties may seem like a futile attempt at feminism but is it not more productive to encourage men to change the views of those around them? Everyone has the power to be an activist; we all have the power to assess the world and commit to making it a fairer place. 

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