Why Australia Needs Wimps

I am a wimp.

I am also a big "pussy", a "mangina" and a "cuck". I’m barely a “real man” at all … and I couldn’t be more delighted.

Last week, exhausted after an exhilarating and emotional road trip through country Victoria, speaking to forums in Wodonga and Shepparton about positive masculinity, I ended up sobbing on my bed like a 95kg baby.

Such a big sook.

They were the really big sobs, too, like when you can’t get your breath after you fall off your bike when you’re eight.

A warm reunion with my partner somehow morphed into a particularly volcanic fight, on account of some exceptionally dumb miscommunication.

The fight is not the discussion point here. We’re fine. It happens.

In the days I was away, I saw grown men, cops and farmers, stand up in rooms of strangers, tears streaming down their faces, as they told stories of the bloodbath of suicide in rural Australia.

“My uncle, my friend … we never knew … when I got off the plane my phone had so many notifications. I hate hearing them to this day.”

This happened in safe spaces -- not around a fire with a speaking stick, but in the sophisticated rooms of the City of Wodonga and at the Shepparton Football Club, for an organisation called Women’s Health Goulburn North East.

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The forums were to invite the local communities to look at masculinity with new eyes, to consider the damage it might be causing around them, and start a conversation on what can be done.

Men kill themselves at a rate of six a day in Australia, and it’s 40 percent worse in rural areas, like where I was. More than one woman a week is killed in Australia by a male partner or former partner.

And it’s in the country where, most especially, men are men. Men of the land are tough, strong, stoic, tall, hard, they play footy, drink beer, love their mates, their utes and know women are for sex and cooking, not friendship.

To talk about your feelings is to be "feminine" and lack manliness.

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These words are the bullets fired to police masculinity -- “you’re soft, a pansy, a pussy, a wimp, a sook, a big girl …”

Men will kill themselves, each other, and the women in their lives rather than reach out for help, show their personal pain and be seen as less than big tough guys.

You may disagree with me.

You will also be disagreeing with the deep research, hard work and clear conclusions of Beyond Blue, White Ribbon, ANROWS, OurWATCh, No To Violence, and multiple organisations with robust studies from around the world yielding the same result.

You’ll be disagreeing with my fellow panellist on the trip, Dr Michael Flood, a gender expert and 30-year campaigner, writer, researcher and speaker on the subject. (Knowing Michael, I wouldn’t.)

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You’ll be disagreeing with my fellow panellist, Tom Bell, from TomorrowMan, who’s been bestriding the stage like a coffee-obsessed Jesus, running forums redefining masculinity since he was 18. He’s 33.

Last week after speaking to forums in Wodonga and Shepparton about positive masculinity, I ended up sobbing on my bed like a 95kg baby. (Image: Supplied)

TomorrowMan does more than 500 forums a year in footy clubs, mines, banks and barracks around the world.

It’s a standard modern corporate responsibility to ensure the mental health of employees, and the smart clubs, businesses, councils, and governments at all local levels know it. It’s understood there are dangerous elements to the performance of masculinity.

You’ll be disagreeing with the country cop in Wodonga, straight from 'country cop central casting', who pumped my hand in a meaty paw, and told me of his work with domestic violence and suicide bodies. This, he said, is long overdue, real and important.

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Today, Triple M is pulling its breakfast and drive shows off air around the country, in support of Beyond Blue.

“As a network that talks to millions of Aussie men each day we feel as though it’s our responsibility to continue to encourage these men to be more aware of, not only their own feelings, but that of those around them,” said Triple M's Head of  Content, Mike Fitzpatrick.

So, you’ll forgive me if I have kind of a problem this -- a story wondering “What’s with all the wimpy, disappointing men on TV right now?”

The story ponders why Ali Wong’s character in, Always Be My Maybe, Sasha, goes for “disappointing, underachieving” Marcus, not “high-achieving go-getter” Keanu? (If you haven’t seen it, Keanu’s “douche-Keanu” in the film is a delight).

Vulture also recently panicked about soft British boys taking over Netflix.

Do a quick Google on why feminism is making men “soft”. It’s a rabbit hole.

There’s a deep need, and a thirst, for a fresh look at what it means to be a man.

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To call a man a “sook” for being somehow less than manly is simply, dead-set, wrong.

Men are dying to stop the exhausting performance of masculinity. I just heard them say it, with choked voices.

We’ve got to stop attacking men for trying to be healthy emotional beings and better people. It’s enough to make you cry.