“Men’s spaces” are a pretty contentious idea. At one end of the spectrum they can provide much-needed safe spaces for men who might otherwise be uncomfortable occupying help-seeking roles. At the other, there are men’s rights activists and red pillers, whose men’s spaces tend towards homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism and misogyny.
Somewhere in between there are spaces like this website, Homer, and the Australian National University Men’s Network—neither of which are exclusively for men but which focus on issues relating to men and hope to question the way masculinity is put together. This fortnight I sat down with the ANU Men’s Network president Sebastian Rossi and one of its general representatives Hannah Zurcher to discuss the group’s purpose, history and the tension and conflict arising from its presence at one of Australia’s leading universities.
You can find the new episode on iTunes here: itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/the-homer-half-hour/id1220677361
And on SoundCloud here: soundcloud.com/homer-half-hour/3-the-anu-mens-network
The ANU Men’s Network has been the site of some controversy since its start in 2016. The idea of an ANU Men’s Network was first proposed in pretty loaded context (see the article by Codie Bell below), and men’s spaces don’t have a strong history of providing progressive, constructive advice and support. What’s more, even where a group is clear about what it will and will not accept from members, there are still people with dissenting views. Accommodating them and working with them is part of the mission—but only to a point.
I first heard of the group a couple of months ago after the group failed in its bid for university affiliation (due to administrative snafus). During this time the group’s organisers insisted (not for the first time) that it had nothing to do with men’s rights activists, and that it would not stand for homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, bullying and so on. And since I joined, I’ve found this to be absolutely true. This is not to say, however, that there haven’t been growing pains.
For an overview of the controversial origins of the group, see this piece by the excellent Codie Bell: woroni.com.au/comment/woroni-drops-ball-on-mens-collective-reporting
And a piece I mention during the podcast is this one by the current Treasurer of the ANU Men’s Network, imploring the student body to accept and recognise the value of the group: woroni.com.au/comment/the-start-of-a-beautiful-friendship-the-anu-mens-network-and-you
If you’d like to join the group, you can find it here: facebook.com/groups/1447178418641581