Not all men? I’m a man and it’s time to admit #YesAllMen

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In '#YesAllMen', documentary-maker Marty Smiley asks, 'Is toxic masculinity killing Aussie men?'

Watch the full documentary above.

I’ve never attacked my partner. I’ve never sexually harassed someone at work. And I’ve never masturbated into a pot plant while someone watched.

I’m not one of those men, and you probably aren’t either. But that doesn’t mean we can disengage from the conversation about toxic masculinity. There’s a whole spectrum of things that many of us do that we could be doing better to support the men and women in our lives we care about most. 

So I set out to make #YesAllMen – a documentary that aims to reframe the debate about masculinity. I wanted to understand some of the key social issues Australian men are facing and find the human stories behind the alarming statistics.

Why are men three times more likely than women to kill themselves?

Each day, on average, six Australia men take their own life. Despite huge strides in mental health awareness in the last decade, the suicide rate hasn’t dropped. In fact, it’s slightly increased. How is that possible?

In the documentary, we meet Chris, a suicide survivor.  He was going through a breakup and didn’t know who to turn to for support. At the time, he was working in construction – an industry that’s disturbingly over-represented when it comes to male suicide – and a workplace bullying incident pushed him to the brink.

Despite huge strides in mental health awareness, the suicide rate for men has increased. 

I attended March for Men in Melbourne where I met men and women who said they were there to help start a national conversation about male suicide (more on that here). This was billed as a controversial demonstration, but what these people wanted to do seemed reasonable enough. I also met men who don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as convicted sexual predators caught up in the MeToo fallout, which also sounded reasonable enough. But then I met a worrying number of men who thought the media coverage of Melbourne woman Eurydice Dixon’s rape and murder was 'unfairly gendered' and heard podium speeches that made out as if Australian men are oppressed. 

Are all violent men ‘bad men’?

Coming into this documentary, I thought family violence was something that ‘bad’ men did. The reality is much more complicated.  

Michael Riley is a counsellor with Relationships Australia. Whenever men enter his Behavioural Change Program they’re asked to fill out a list that contains 50 abusive behaviours. He explains that family violence exists on a spectrum of abuse – from a man using his kids to check up on his ex when they stay with her for the weekend to hurting the family pet, all the way to murder – and he rarely comes across a guy who doesn’t check at least a few boxes on the list. I took some time to fill it out… and the results got me thinking.

If you would like to talk to someone about your mental health, here are some people ready for your call: 

• SANE Australia Helpline 1800 18 SANE (7263) www.sane.org
• beyondblue support service line 1300 22 46 36
• Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
• MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 www.mensline.org.au