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Are British Men Having a Crisis of Masculinity?

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By Jack Alexander Turner

Labour MP Diane Abbott last week claimed that a shift in social attitudes, combined with the rise of unemployment has left Britain facing a "crisis of masculinity". Speaking at the London based think tank Demos, she opined that the men of our fair country have been left "isolated and misdirected," and are increasingly resorting to "pornified ideals", resulting in viagra being seen as a party drug, as young males seek to compensate for their apparent lack of manliness.

Is this really what the disenfranchised male population of Britain has resorted to in the face of a dwindling sense of gender identity? It sounds like a Berlusconi bunga bunga party that Abbott has been denied entrance to. He wouldn't want her there anyway - imagine the woolly liberal hand-wringing, the judging glances and the monopolisation of the nibbles table. She'd be about as welcome as Chris De Burgh at a Rolling Stones after show party.

This followed on from her January speech in which she damned Britain for harbouring a "secret garden, strip-tease culture in schools and society" (which incidentally sounds like a post-watershed version of the Chelsea Flower Show), and highlighted the fact that young people are accessing far harder pornographic images than 10 or 15 years ago, she claimed that men feel the need to live up to a masculine ideal which involves the objectification of women, rather than talking openly about their problems. But as ridiculous as Ms Abbott's claims appear, they're not without justification.

According to charity Men's Health Forum's website, "Mind research has found that 37% of men are feeling worried or low with the top three concerns being job security, work and money. Despite men and women experiencing mental health problems in roughly equal numbers, men are much less likely to be diagnosed and treated for it and the consequences of this can be fatal - the MHF has long highlighted that 75% of all suicides are by men."

It would appear that men are feeling increasingly alienated in modern Britain, but could it really be true that we're sticking to the outdated 'stiff upper lip' adage, and refusing to talk about the problems we face as a result of losing our 'breadwinning' status? Clare Wyllie, head of policy and research at The Samaritans told The Telegraph: "They grew up with fathers who were austere, silent and traditional, they grew up with this expectation that they were going to be the head of the household, that they were going to be the breadwinners, that they were going to be respected by their wives and families...but what has happened is that social relations and work has changed, their identities, work and relationships have been blown apart by social change."

This social change has, according to Hackney MP Abbott, resulted in the rise of a "viagra and Jack Daniels culture", with men using the erectile dysfunction drug in order to increase the sexual prowess they associate with the aforementioned 'pornified ideals' which they've been exposed to. Quite frankly, going about your day with an irrepressible erection is probably not considered the most successful way to attain gainful employment, so one can only assume that it's a vicious cycle of nocturnal bedroom gymnastics (with company or otherwise), followed by mildly arousing yet ultimately unsuccessful meetings with recruitment agencies the morning after. Come on lads, there has to be a better way.

Abbott feels that to tackle the crisis men are currently facing, there needs to be a stronger role for fathers in family life - an increase in father-friendly parenting classes, meaningful paternal leave and "more conversation between fathers and sons". No more prancing around in those David Beckham H&M pants chaps, and for heaven's sake put down that Viagra - it's time to man up and hit the classroom.

Being a man in modern Britain should mean not having to be the sole breadwinner; the all night, chemically enhanced stallion; or the archaic stiff upper-lip wearer; but instead the open and honest man who's not inhibited when it comes to confessing his anxieties. Currently, 2013 is a pretty dire time to exist as a man - there's now a way for us to experience childbirth, the continuing success of Made in Chelsea, and an ever increasing number of men who inexplicably insist on chatting to us while at urinals, however there's no reason why we should be suffering in silence. And it shouldn't have to be a self proclaimed "card-carrying feminist" that tells us so.

They say that no man is an island. Unless he's standing at a urinal.

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