I recently heard a good story from someone about becoming a dad. After his child was delivered the man was handed the tiny baby, as the midwife did so she quickly checked the sex, and proudly said 'here's your big strong boy.' The father wondered if the midwife had delivered a girl whether she would have said 'here's your big strong girl.' Right from the first seconds of being born we are judged and compartmentalized.
This is why the 'Year of the Male' campaign by the CALM charity is so important. It promises to be about men and their issues, while being life affirming.
I have to admit every now and again I turn into a crusty old git, who is very worldy-wise, been there, done it, seen it, got the T-shirt. My close friends would probably raise an eyebrow at such a statement and whisper in my ear, 'when are you not like that?' illustrating what good friends they are by doing so.
Feminists must remember what liberation means - it is not just equal opportunity to be financially independent or to hold positions of authority. Liberation is about much more - it's the freedom to be yourself regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, class or gender. As soon as we assign stereotypes to any identity we create expectations of how individuals should behave...
Towards the end of 2013, and as is the case with the close of every Movember, my husband proudly wore a bold moustache. It's always a point of conversation: I find it so amazing that a strip of facial hair can greatly influence the way people respond to the wearer, particularly at first encounters...
No man is an island. All of us need to ensure that we have a good diversity of friendships in our lives, it is essential to our mental health. In order to promote this we need to change the negative, hardening messages our boys receive from an early age. 'Be strong, boys don't cry, tough it out, don't show pain, be brave my little soldier, man up, you wuss!'
The Paxman and Brand debate has been viewed over 5 million times, and for me, amongst other things, it very succinctly describes the tension between science and spirituality within masculinity. Paxman, like a school yard bully, slowly circles Brand chanting 'prove it, prove it, prove it.' Brand can't prove it. He is just voicing his discontent, happy not to be able to prove it, which perplexes Paxman.
It is very easy to be righteously disgusted by his behaviour, and feel ashamed that we didn't take notice of his victims, however, the death of Jimmy Saville two years ago and the revelations which followed, still leave many unanswered questions about our relationship to fame, and particularly how men react to such power.
We can't afford to look away from this. Our present addiction to gaming and porn is a very serious matter, which needs confronting, just as any other addiction does. Our addictive fantasy world existence is actually hindering our development as a species. It is stunting us all, by suppressing our imaginations.
As someone who works with men and boys, these two descriptions of couvade, inspire and excite me. Our ancestors knew the importance of having the father bond with the baby as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. The reduction in testosterone shows how this is a biological and evolutionary imperative.
When I was young, my father and I would disagree about masculinity. I remember how he was deeply shocked and offended by the first 'Brut' adverts on the TV in which two very heterosexual sportsmen, Henry Cooper and Kevin Keegan, shared some roll-on deodorant. My father thought it meant the two of them were gay.
I believe disappointment, failure and vulnerability are essential to our development as whole human beings. By facing them we grow, and paradoxically, become happier. The measure of a man is not in his search for acclaim, success and power, it is in his reaction to disappointment, failure and vulnerability.