A virtual community
By Peter Vogel
The growth of the Internet over recent years has had an interesting spinoff for many men.
One of the greatest obstacles to men overcoming their isolation from each other is the fact that most men work full-time. This often means being away from their home from early morning until at least early evening; often longer. This leaves little free time to spend with their family, let alone with friends.
Over the last decade many men's groups have sprung up around Australia. These are groups of men making a determined effort to build trusting relationships with other men, by setting aside a fixed time every week, or two weeks, or every month, to meet and talk. I have been meeting weekly in such a group for over three years. Over that time, many nine-to-fivers came and went - the men who have been able to maintain continuity are those who are self-employed, unemployed or flexibly employed.
For some men who work in offices, however, a new sort of men's community has been developing via the Internet. In much the same way that at-home parents meet for coffee, or chat over the proverbial back fence, a growing number of men meet informally during their workday over the Internet.
These "virtual men's groups" are generally a bunch of men with a common interest who converse vie email messages, using what is called a "list server". A list server is a piece of software that redirects email messages to multiple recipients. The people who wish to form a discussion group put their email address on a list, and whenever a member of the group sends a message, it is received by everyone on the list. I am a member of several such groups, ranging in membership from 5 to 2500.
The virtual men's groups comprise men who have internet access at work, such as academics, computer engineers, and many other office workers, and men who have personal internet access from home. Some discussions bubble along during the day, as men sneak chatting with their mates in amongst their daily grind. Others are quiet during working hours and come alive late at night, after the kids are in bed.
One of the interesting features of virtual men's groups is the geographic spread of participants. The men you are chatting with could be in England, Japan or just around the corner. In my experience, the issues facing men are almost identical no matter where they happen to live. One important benefit of virtual men's groups is the irrelevance of geography - I have met many men through such groups who find it geographically impossible to meet like-minded men, or to join a physical men's group.
Some of the groups are closed, that is you can join by invitation only. Others are public, which means anyone can join.
One of my favourite groups is "dadlist" which is a group of at-home dads. We discuss the full gamut of fathering issues, which ends up being most everything about children relationships, men and women. We share the common bond of being at home with the kids, in societies which are more accustomed to fathers being absent. There are an average of a dozen messages a day on this group. There are some women in this group as well, who add a valuable perspective from time to time.
I also belong to a closed group, with about 20 members, mainly Australian and New Zealand men. We talk about personal and political issues which affect our lives. Being a closed group, there is a high level of trust and confidentiality has been built over time, and conversations are often deeply personal, insightful and moving. The main purpose of this group, like a physical men's group, is to explore what it means to be a man in today's world and to support each other in times of difficulty, such as relationship upsets.
About a year ago I started a boys' education discussion group, where teachers, parents and others from various countries share ideas about the problems boys face in schools and how they can be addressed. At the moment, we are having a major discussion about anti-homophobia education; why it's needed, why it's resisted, what should be taught and how.
I belong to a few men's health discussion groups, one run by the N.S.W. Men's Health and Wellbeing Association, and two international ones.
As well as the email "list server" groups there are many websites covering men's issues. Most of the text (but no graphics) of Certified Male is published on the web. Another important site is Manhood On Line (see the Spring 1996 issue of Certified Male for details) which is an excellent on-line magazine including news, resources, and opinion pieces. This site includes interactive forums where members tell their personal stories and discuss men's issues.
For many men, internet contact is the first time they have joined any sort of men's group. Some men find the relative anonymity of email and the web provides some initial safety, enabling the expression of thoughts and feelings that would never have previously been expressed. As their confidence grows they can make face to face contact with other individuals and groups of men in new and more fulfilling ways.
As anyone who is interested in gender issues will attest, the mainstream media have been woefully slow to recognise that men have an interest in these issues as well. Most writers, reporters and editors believe that relationship, family, health, education and personal issues are women's issues, and rarely seek out or publish a male perspective. Many men have reported that they cannot get their views published in the mainstream media at all, being stymied by what they refer to as "the lace curtain". The internet is proving to be a medium which allows men to bypass other media and begin breaking down their social isolation.
Issues of general concern to men are being exposed and consolidated in the minds of a cross-section of men, many of whom are educated, literate and socially aware. The oppressive and restrictive social forces operating on men are being identified, defined and discussed to an extent which was not possible even a few years ago. What has been forced on men by their social isolation may unwittingly and ironically provide the unifying force for change to our archaic laws and social customs which deprive men of their right to contribute to all facets of human activities and to express the complete rainbow of human emotions.
David Throop's virtual library. A huge collection of men's links and information.
Manhood Online Australian men's issues on-line magazine, includes articles, threads, contacts, calander or events and more.
http://www.ozemail.com.au/~irgeo/amp.htm Australian Men's Party
Vancouver Men "Men supporting each other through life's journey".
Stuart Birks' Gender page Lots of interesting gender links and commentary.
Dean Hughson's divorce homepage. Designed to help people facing divorce.
Australian Family Law case database.
Multiple Male Orgasm. Come again? This one is worth a look!
http://www.cybercom.net/~hopper/male-ab.html Sexual Abuse of Males
A discussion and review of statistics on the sexual abuse of male children, and a list of Web resources for males sexually abused in childhood.
http://www.parentsplace.com/readroom/athomedad/index.html At home dads' magazine. Good reading by and about at-home fathers.
http://www.parentsplace.com/readroom/father.html Parents' Place reading room Lots of reading about fathering etc.
http://www.daddyshome.com/ At Home Dads Resources for male primary-cargivers.
http://www.pnc.com.au/~pvogel/cm Certified Male Certified Male magazine (just the text).
Full-time Dad Magazine Supports and encourages men in their work as fathers.
http://www.vix.com/menmag/ Men Magazine Magazine of the Seattle Men's Evolvement Network. Includes lots of men's own stories, men's movement news, and lots of information and thoughts about the mythopoetic men's movement.
http://coombs.anu.edu.au/~gorkin/XY/xy.htm X-Y Men, sex and politics. Australian profeminist quarterly magazine about men and masculinities.
Men's issues list servers (discussion groups):
At-home dad's list
To subscribe, send an e-mail message:
subscribe dadlist <your name>
Boysed list (Boys' education theory and practice).
To subscribe, send an email-message:
Message body: subscribe boysed [your email address]
Men's support group. By invitation only, see this website for details:
False accusations list
To subscribe, send an e-mail message:
SUBSCRIBE FALSEACC@a-team.org your full name
How to Subscribe to Certified Male
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