The decision to attend the Second International Conference on Men’s Issues was easy. It was being held in London, in July. Thats just a hop across the water, at holiday time. I could get to there, so I would get there. The obvious draw was the list of speakers, the who’s who of the men’s rights movement were to be put on a stage one after another, but as I was to find out, this was a conference where just actually being there outweighed the insights held within the speeches. That is not to undermine insights of the speakers, but a understanding of the reality. Every speech, from the opening by Erin Pizzy to the closing from Paul Ealm will be available on youtube shortly, hence I will not go into those now, but the experience of being there, the thousands of conversations between and after the speeches could only be accessed by being there.
The conference did not contain organised “break out” sessions, there were however twenty minute breaks between speakers that allowed attendees time to mingle over coffee. The speakers were freely available during these times however the conversation rarely centred on their work, and the reasons behind that is entirely rational. We, the attendees had came to hear first hand the voices that we bring to our homes via the internet. When you begin talking to people like Karen Straughan (Girl Writes What) with 129,400 subscribers to her youtube channel or Sage Gerard, the founder of KSU/Zen Men or Lucian Valsian who has a weekly radio show about mens interests in Europe, and therefore have both been bringing forward content for years through various mediums, it quickly becomes clear both parties in that conversation know what they are about. What these people are interested in is what we, the attendees are up to, what brought us to the movement and the conference. This was both logical and surprising. However the interest in what others were doing was a common theme in all the conversations between the attendees. The level of interest shown in others at the conference, was one of the striking features.
The other was what happened at the end of each day. The conference did not so much close for the day as relocate to the bar of the local hotels. As it was held at London’s ExCel Centre which is quite out of the way both speakers and attendees were scattered across a few hotels. The conversation became slightly less formal (if that was possible !) and people mingled into the night. On the evening before the conference I met another attendee, Luke, who has became a friend for life over the space of the conference. We were walking into the hotel and the whole AVFM team were having dinner. We were remarking how surreal the situation was. It is rare in life people have such close access to people you normally only access through the content they provide. It is akin to a back stage pass with the Rolling Stones/Black Sabbath/The Who (delete as appropriate or insert your own). A small hour later everyone was chatting as equals. There are two main reasons for that transformation.
As another friend I had talked to on line and met up with at the conference, Angelo remarked, the average IQ in the room was well above average. The other reason can be found in Paul Ealm’s speech on the last day. When Paul spoke about the need for men to insist that women step down from the pedestal, that we embrace there equality but not their privilege. To tell them they are valued, but not more so than their brothers, fathers, husbands and sons. Also that women must insist men dismount their white horses, that they must see women as capable and responsible people, it is clear that those sentiments went beyond the male female dynamic.
This movement is about true equality, it is about understanding that people carrying out different roles can be equally valued, that everything we do on a day to day basis is important, and there is a real difference between the words “different” and “lesser”. The top table of the Mens Rights Movement are leading from the front on this. They have not only stepped off any pedestal that they may have been placed upon, but taken sledge hammer to that pedestal. Yes, I/we fully respect the people who are at the top of the movement and stand on the stage. We admire them and draw inspiration from them, but we do not “Look up” to them. We look them in the eye, as they do us, to do otherwise would be both unwanted and disrespectful.