We asked the women during the afternoon what advice they might give to young men about forming loving, lasting relationships. For the first time in the afternoon, there was silence. This was quite unexpected – but refreshing. There was no race to preach to boys or men, no hints of accusation or concern. In fact, the women in the room felt that the advice for men would be similar to the advice for young women: be true to yourself, treat others as you’d like to be treated, be honest, and listen to your gut as your own guide to what’s right and what isn’t.
And then an interesting set of views emerged – things have changed so much for women over the last fifty years, particularly in the work place, so that women are taking on jobs that men could do, and with more and more automation and IT, jobs are falling away. The women in the room felt that in some respects men no longer know quite where they fit – what is their niche?
Women have had encouragement and opportunities over the last 50 years to find their own voices and to claim their own power and step into work, politics, the housing market etc, but men have not had the same opportunities. In Barrow, perhaps more than some other large towns, there are some sub-cultures that aren’t particularly supportive for young men. And that occasional feeling that Barrow is a geographical ‘cul-de-sac’ sometimes does not help either men or women explore new options or expand their learning or careers.
The few pieces of advice that were suggested in addition to the general advice given for young women were:
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
You don’t need to be the cliché
Be yourself – be true to yourself