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Achilles Heel Letter.

Dear Achilles Heel,

Meeting Mick Cooper recently reminded me that I wanted to comment on his article on the men's conference. So here goes.

I enjoyed Mick Cooper and Steve Banks article (in Achilles Heel 17) on the Menswork '94 conference. I wish I had been able to attend.

I agree that there is a "men's network" rather than a unified "men's movement", but I think that this is not new, but has been recognised for many years.

But this does not mean that we can do without a definition of the aims and ideas of the network. We already have some kind of a definition — we are not men who hold the men's rights perspective or the conservative perspective (using the terms in the editorial in AH 17). But this is a very negative definition — can't we come up with something positive? Don't we need to be able to tell other people, including the media, not just what we stand for as individuals and small groups but also who we see as allies. The idea of the "minimal self-definition" of many years ago was precisely that it should be minimal — that men whose views and aims were distinct from each other but who felt that they were happy as part of the same broad network could at least agree that far.

If it is really impossible to reach agreement on a very broad definition, I think we need to look at the whole question of what definitions mean to us. Perhaps the very concept is patriarchal. Maybe definitions are a way of abstracting from reality. Is the answer to the question "Who are you and what do you stand for?" not to be found in any formal definition but in the simple reply "Look at us and see how we behave and what we do." I haven't worked out my views on this, but just suggest it as a possibility.

Best wishes. Daniel Cohen.

Achilles Heel 19, Winter 1995–6.
© Daniel Cohen

(Achilles Heel was a magazine that aimed to "challenge traditional forms of masculinity and male power and support the creation of alternative social structures and personal ways of being." Produced by a small collective of men, it was the main public voice of the British anti-sexist men's movement. That movement had made several attempts to define itself and its relationship to women and feminism, but none of these attempts gained widespread approval in the movement.)


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