Words || Max Lewis
Content warning: This article briefly mentions sexual violence.
In late January, a Facebook page titled ‘Macquarie Men’ was created. It touted the formation of a group at Macquarie University which aimed to “support men with their physical, emotional and mental health, [providing] a safe environment to discuss any and all issues.” In the lead up to O-Week the page garnered support and derision alike.
The page also received international attention from Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), who shared and commented in droves on an article the page posted. In effort to prevent further negative attention the post was deleted. Since O-Week, the Macquarie Men page has gathered over 120 likes (at time of writing) and the group has enough members to apply for affiliation with the university.
According to the founder, Martin Lambert, the explicit aim of the group is to “discuss the central theme of men and masculinity […] how it affects society and how society affects it,” in regards to a number of issues such as the “disproportionate rates of suicide among young men.” They wish to support those suffering from those issues, but also “find out why these issues are occuring.” One of the major issues regarding men and masculinity, Martin contends, is “men not talking about their problems” for fear of ridicule or misunderstanding. “Our main focus is here at the university; we want to give [men] the same support other people have.”
Regarding MRAs, Martin “categorically denounces” the movement, “but not on the basis of their views.” He later added, “We don’t want to be associated with them on campus at all; we don’t support hate […] We aren’t here to start fights; we’re here to start a conversation.”
According to Martin, controversy with MRAs began when local MRAs spread a post from Macquarie Men regarding false rape accusations. The post was picked up by international MRAs, gathering hundreds of vitriolic comments on the (now deleted) Facebook post which “were focused on the source of the article, but not the content.”
The group claims to be open to all Macquarie students, including women, queer and trans men and non-binary individuals.
“We can’t have a conversation about equality if we’re only listening to men. We want everyone on campus to join the conversation if they want to,” says Martin.
The group has yet to announce any meetings or activities for LGBTQIA+ individuals. However, Martin has expressed interest in working with both the Women’s Collective and the Queer Collective. “We all want the same thing; we want equality.”
Women’s Collective Executive Sian Sykes “remains hopeful that the Men’s Collective can exist as a positive space for men that is wholly and unwaveringly respectful to women,” yet states that the collective “cannot let slide statements and actions by Men’s Collective members that are harmful and misguided. WoCo believes in education above conflict, and hope that we can assist the Men’s Collective in creating a space that is safe, positive and respectful.”
Queer Collective president Charlie Zada has said that he is “unconvinced this is the group we need to address issues such as sexism, rape culture, toxic and hypermasculinity.” However, he is “cautiously optimistic that with some guidance, we could have a positive experience,” and is “happy to work with them in creating events that could really benefit everyone.”