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Gentle Critique of the IMSAC - p2

This continues on from the first part the second part of a light criticism of the IMSA and explores a few other issues.
Leading on from the previous section is the IMSA identification as a "Help-Organisation" (for want of a better way to put it). Again, this can be denied, but it's there throughout all the literature and publications. 

To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, and as a short-term stop-gap, it's perfectly valid, however, "more of the same" is not necessarily a long term solution to male identity.

Referring to points made in part one, a lack of self worth is a received notion of our society's attitude to males - if you have nothing to do, then you have no value. Rather than addressing this, the IMSA actually reinforces it by "giving men something to do", therefore reiterating the message that your value is in what you do, not what you are. As was said before, this may be inadvertent, so no one is blaming the IMSA. It simply is what it is.

An unwillingness to associate with "needing help" is an extension of a normal response to societal attitudes. How is it that "giving men something to do" is understood as "help"? It should be argued that men are valuable as they stand, whether they do something or not. Statements like "I am not valued by society by what I am but by what I do" is responded to with "Here's something to do", and this is understood as "help", which further underlines how deep the problem goes.

 As most men are aware, whether they will admit it or not, being "in need of help" is socially damaging; intimately, professionally and within the community. 

It is not in their heads. 

Most men are intuitively very aware of this, and of society's response. The idea of taking aimless men and giving them something to do has similarities with the way one would talk about a dog - he needs a walk, he likes his favourite chair, better keep him in the yard or he'll chase cars - and indeed, there is a long history of male-canine association.

Rather than presenting a charitable face, would it not be more appropriate to present an educational face? These men are not aimless, or unemployed, or retired, or on-the-scrapheap, or any other such nonsense.

These men have value, as they are, just as they are, without add-ons of servitude (such as providing a service, a product, protection, resource, and so on), and should at least be allowed to address that.

The IMSA has often said that it continues to fail to attract young men and can't understand why. 

Really? Is it so hard to understand? 

Young males do not want to be associated with "help", because society values them upon the help or service they provide. Inverting that dynamic means they are less valued by society. It is not in their heads, and it is not very difficult to understand.

Any man who stands up and says he values himself (not what he does, nor his role, but himself as a human) is immediately ridiculed as arrogant, self-centred, conceited, etc, etc, etc. Males are expected to be self-sacrificing, and you can't do that if you value yourself. 

Some might disagree, but the evidence is against them.

Cinema, television, literature and music are littered with similar tropes: 
the cowardly survivor, the ambitious male who gets torn down, the self-involved narcissist who gets his comeuppance,  the neglectful male who gets punished, the non-existant everymen who die in droves as wallpaper
 - versus - 
the hero applauded for dying, the good man who provides for others, the better man who gives up whatever for others, the man who never asks for recognition, the man who conveniently disappears when his role is complete.

To say that the expectation of male sacrifice and service is not part of our culture is at least naive, and that is being kind.

So, in short, it would be good to start addressing the deeper malaise, look towards education and self-awareness, and tone down the charity image, if the IMSA wants to attract younger men.

 
The public image of the IMSA has an undeniable emphasis on Manual Labour and this may be contributing to a lack of young members.

Having said quite a bit in the previous sections, lets now take a look at how the IMSA presents itself. By this, what is referred to is the public image of the IMSA, not the individual sheds themselves. The sheds around the country are fairly autonomous entities, and are free to do whatever they choose.

This criticism specifically relates to the Public image of the IMSA, and the activities which it encourages and endorses. It's perhaps not good enough to say that the IMSA merely reflects the members, it is more correctly said that the mens sheds are a reflection of the corporate image. This appears, at first, to be a chicken and egg situation, but not really, because no shed will ever grow up to be the IMSA, and the IMSA, as an entity, was never a shed.

Through a certain type of branding, the IMSA attracts a certain type of member, creating a feed-loop, and so there is some responsibility on the IMSA for the make-up of the sheds.

Individual sheds are free to advertise or publicise their activities, each within the limits of ability, but the IMSA,or the "Brand" if you like, has no such restrictions. 

The IMSA is not, and never was, a shed. This being the case, why is there such an overwhelming emphasis on manual labour?

There doesn't appear to be an adequate answer for this. The Q+A response of the Australian Mens Sheds association at the conference is that it simply reflects the sheds, but as outlined above, this is slightly misleading.

There are two problems with this image. The first has to do with attracting new members, particularly young members, who would be more attracted to the sheds if there was at least a semblance of future thinking, or even a modicum of recognition that we are living in the twenty-first century. What is presented can, at best, be seen as "hobby-activity", and most young men are either too busy working, or if they have time, would prefer to offer more legitimate sweat-equity, something more valuable than manual labour.

Which brings it neatly on to the other problem. The over-emphasis on manual labour implies that this is all men are good for, and that is inherently offensive.

 Of course, or course, that may not be the intention, but nonetheless, it is undeniably part of the image.

It hardly needs saying the men are capable of far greater things than manual labour (not that there is anything wrong with manual labour and craftwork; creating a beautiful object has it's own value) or craftwork, and this should be reflected in the image of the IMSA.

It should be the role of the IMSA to encourage new skills and shun the notion that you can't teach old dogs new tricks. Digital component assembly is extraordinarily interesting, as is hardware management, and software development. Even fixing televisions would be a step forward. Of course, no one has to learn these things, but it would be good, at least, to encourage it.

In particular, computer technology and software. One of the reasons given for the existence of the Mens Sheds is isolation - what better way to combat that isolation than to open up the world of the internet, social media and engagement with the world, not just the local community.

It's just a thought, but worth considering.


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