HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
I am a Member of Parliament and a normal, 21st Century day for me, and all my fellow MPs, is frenetic. I move from meeting to Parliament, Parliament to constituency, constituency to home, home to speaking engagements and, to do things a bit differently, I sometimes perform these tasks in alternate orders. I have to be in so many different places in the course of an hour that, if the Pope has a Popemobile, MPs should be entitled to a JetPack. Can you imagine how congested and bad-tempered the Chamber of the House of Commons would be then?
Now, I don't adopt the 20th Century man's stance by exclaiming proudly, as I walk in the door from another busy day in Westminster or the constituency, "Darling I'm home," and then proceed to flop into my armchair, put on my slippers and await my tea. This is the 21st Century, and thankfully us men are manufactured differently.
The 21st Century man is not chained by the stereotypical boundaries of his gender. He can cry, do yoga instead of weightlifting; and doesn't even have to sport a hairy chest, the envy of any primate.
When I think of the modern man I think of a man who has a reserved way of standing his ground and receives respect by showing it to others. He is not afraid to voice his concerns and his emotions, whilst being courteous and patient enough to listen to others'. This can be tough... specifically when it comes to sharing emotions, something my wife tells me I should work on!
The 21st Century gent shares the chores as close to 50/50 as possible. He is not embarrassed to tell his partner he loves her or him morning and night. He is dedicated to his work, but still has time to pack his children a ham and cheese sandwich for school and make his wife a cup of tea in the morning.
And as a man of this century, this has been my lot for the past 18 years.
I load and unload the dishwasher, feed the cat and wash the cat bowls (because we all know the kids never do), mastered the washing machine many decades ago and can sort clean clothing, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, into the right individual piles. I have even just rustled up some soup made from leftovers, which, although it wouldn't make it onto a Roux menu, hits the right spot on a cold day. I concede immediately of course that this still this doesn't compare to everything my wife does. Did someone mention childbirth?
As a Liberal Democrat politician, I have been fortunate enough to have had a hand in supporting and enacting policies of gender equality. In my work, I am not intimidated by women in the workplace, but rather competitively challenged.
It is an unfortunate and ironic reality however that a very poor election result has left our MPs even less diverse than before the election...as we are all eight of us white, middle-aged males. We must use the next four years to ensure that in the next Parliament, we become much more diverse. I am very confident that, if we win more seats, we will do exactly that.
Although important steps are being taken towards gender equality in Parliament and elsewhere, we are still in a transitional period where men are trying to work out exactly what our gender role is.
Is it not right to say we should be able to share bringing home the bacon and be able to cook a Sunday roast? How much less should we work in our workplace, and more at home?
The crux of it is pressure, from society, our families, our children, our colleagues, our friends, and ultimately ourselves. We feel pressure to be the ideal Dad and spouse whilst surging ahead with our careers, trying our best to support our spouse in theirs and maintaining a relationship with our mates.
The idea that I should be as good in the kitchen, as I am maintaining a relationship with my constituents, while at the same time trying to remain manicured and a devotee to male grooming products can be rather stressful. However, this is a challenge that I, and millions of other men are enjoying doing battle with.
In a time where traditional gender roles are becoming more fluid, both men and women are feeling less restricted, where workloads are shared, and both sexes are respected, I can think of no better time to be a man.
Tom Brake is the Lib Dem MP for Carshalton & Wallington
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