Page 64

health

Michael Flood

Dr Michael Flood is an Associate Professor and an ARC Future Fellow (2015 – 2018). His research agenda focuses on gender, sexuality, and interpersonal violence. Dr Flood’s research at present is focused in particular on interpersonal violence and its prevention, particularly with reference to men and masculinities.

–– INTERVIEW ––

necessarily very sustaining or supportive and it’s actually hard to talk about the difficult stuff and so whether you’re single or partnered, whether you’re old or young, certainly for men in general, I think it’s absolutely crucial to have strong sources of friendship and support around you. GTR: What are men scared of regarding that contact of closeness do you think? MF: I think it’s actually not necessarily a kind of felt fear, it’s not necessarily that you ask men and they’ll say “Oh, look I’m afraid of intimacy.” The issue is more how we raise boys and how we raise men. One of the key messages that we do give to boys and men in Australia still is be tough, be strong, don’t cry, don’t show weakness and so on and that means it’s much harder to reach out for support when things are going badly. It also means it’s harder to ask for help or even funnily enough to ask for directions. For example, we know that men in Australia have poorer health than women. Men die earlier, men face a number of health constraints that women don’t and one factor shaping that is social. A social factor to do with how we raise boys and men and we know that men in Australia who agree more strongly with those ideals of traditional masculinity, men who do think men should be tough, men should be stoic and so on were less likely to seek medical help, were less likely to take the doctor’s advice when we do see a doctor, less likely to ask for help and so on and that means that their health suffers. In a piece of research I was involved in last year called The Man Box survey, done with Jesuit Social Services, it found that young men who agreed more strongly with those traditional ideas about how to be a man, they had poorer health. They had poorer mental health, some were more likely to be depressed, more likely to be suicidal, they also had greater involvement in risk taking, they were more likely to drink at dangerous levels, more likely to die, sorry to drive in a risky way and also more likely to both use violence against women on also against other men and also to be the victims of violence themselves. The short simple message from this is that traditional masculinity is bad for men in many ways, bad for our health and our relationships and a whole series of ways. GTR: Is it that women appreciate a man who is able to show a less traditional masculinity?

MF: Yeah, look and there is evidence that men’s support for traditional masculinity is higher than women’s. You ask women and men about their agreement with a series of statements, “real men should do this, real men should do that” and women have lower levels of agreement with that. At the same time, women too often are invested in traditional gender roles and some women do want men who are gonna sweep them off their feet, who have to be taller than them, who are going to hold the door open for them, pay for dinner, make the decisions in relationships and so on but the research evidence again says that those relationships tend actually to be less satisfying for women than relationships that are more equal, more egalitarian. GTR: I’ll ask you about the media and Hollywood’s role in this in a minute but women and same sex couples, how can relationships even survive when there is no communication. Or, where there is communication, how can those relationships survive when they’re based on BS? MF: Well one thing that’s happening is that our ideals, or our vision of what a healthy relationship looks like, are shifting and certainly growing numbers of women have the expectation now that their boyfriends, their husbands, will be able to communicate and will be able to communicate respectfully, will actually listen to them and take seriously what they have to say and their wishes and desires and will be able to express their emotion and in a sense, the expectations for what it means to be a man are shifting and there’s a growing room, in fact even an expectation, for men to be sensitive, to be expressive. Alongside some more traditional ideals, and I think that some men are struggling a bit, feeling like the carpets been pulled out from under them and now they don’t know how to behave and certainly if you look around in our media and popular culture, men are given quite contradictory messages. On the one hand, to be respectful, to be sensitive, to take care of our appearance and so on and on the other, to be tough, to be stoic, to not care about how we look and so on. I think some men in some ways feel like they have to pick and choose from a number of contradictory stereotypes of how to be a man. GTR: Yes, from that view, and it’s true as far as I’m concerned, it can be quote

Greg T Ross: Associate Professor Michael Flood, welcome to The Last Post Magazine and thank you for your time. Michael, masculinity. You’ve done a number of looks in that masculinity and its relation to the treatment of both women and violence and I guess, what is wrong with masculinity? Michael Flood: There’s nothing wrong with masculinity itself, the problem is with the particular forms of masculinity that are influential in Australia. Masculinity really is open-ended. Masculinity means the meanings we give to being a man in any particular society and the ways in which men’s and boy’s lives are organized, and that looks radically different in different cultures, different periods of history, but at the moment in Australia part of what it means to be a man, for many men at least, is to be tough, to be stoic, to be in control, to be dominant, to be heterosexual, to avoid displays of emotion and so on and those norms of masculinity, that kind of model of how to be a man, is pretty disastrous for men themselves and bad for men’s relations with women and children and other men. GTR: Is it fear of expression? To speak and communicate with the opposite sex is a start. I guess about- that surely is real manhood rather than being tough and keeping everything within. MF: Well that’s true and whether it’s talking to the other sex or talking to the same sex, absolutely men need friends and social networks and one of the classic patterns of men’s lives in Australia is that we often, heterosexual men at least, put all our eggs in the one basket, all our emotional eggs in the one basket, and we rely on our female partners, our wives and girlfriends for nurturance, for close intimate relationships and so on. Now in a sense that is all well and good, but if that woman then leaves we’re stuffed. Men often struggle after separation and divorce because we have relied only on our female partners for our social networks and we’ve not kept up our broader network of support and friendships and so on. The other challenge is that sometimes men’s own friendships with other men aren’t good in times of crisis. Might be great when you wanna watch the footy or go fishing together or have a casual chat but when things are going pear shaped, when things are tough, it can be harder and some men find that their friendships aren’t

62  THE LAST POST – 2019 ANZAC DAY EDITION

Profile for The Last Post Magazine

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

Advertisement