A Manifest for a New Perspective on Gender
Maniphesto is an open source collaborative platform, bringing together leaders and supporters of the Men’s Work movement from across Europe. We come from many different backgrounds and use different approaches but share a passion for supporting men in their journey.
Today, with the combined decades of experience and insight from tens of thousands of hours of research and facilitation amongst the teacher team, we are excited to present the European Men’s Gathering 2019 happening this September in Denmark. The gathering will bring together the leading men’s work facilitators from all around Europe in order to continue this exploration of men’s work together with you and the 150 other participants who will join us there and to focus on creating Rites of Passage rituals designed to support men stepping up and taking responsibility for themselves, their relationships and communities.
We call this an exploration because we haven’t arrived at any final answers yet, although we have discovered many elements of a successful men’s gathering, which we have realised are vital for supporting men on their journey to manhood. The purpose of the rest of this text is to summarise some of these learnings.
The first thing which we can agree upon, is that we do not always agree about everything. The strength of our exploratory approach lies in our ability to bring together a broad range of perspectives, approaches and methods, with a shared commitment to a higher vision - of helping to lift men to face the challenges of contemporary society.
It is clear that, in order to continue this exploration fruitfully, we need to be able to encourage honest and direct discussion which does not shy away from disagreement. This style of communication often leads to vigorous and direct exchanges of ideas. When we are gathered under a shared purpose, we are able to hold and deal effectively with disagreements which may arise as a path to learning more from our brothers and dealing with our own inner shadows. Once we have progressed through this phase of group “storming”, then we find that a far softer, more loving and authentic brotherly space emerges, which is where the real opportunities for depth, growth and learning occur.
We believe in a framework which prioritises a shared commitment to fundamental principles and values as well as the realisation that different approaches and methods can complement each other and compete in a evolutionary environment in order to strengthen each other. Maniphesto thus employs a method of open source collaboration between brothers where ideas compete with each other and the men involved can give space for their brothers to shine.
As the movement has been growing, we have noticed that our network structure is a strength. We have no appointed leaders who are de-facto in charge of making decisions and setting the direction. Any member of the network is able to step up in a specific situation, speak up and take the lead with regard to a specific issue. Anyone in the network is invited to set up events and experiment with any approaches they believe has potential. Any man can take up a topic he believes is important and put his best arguments forward as to why he believes the rest of us should direct our attention towards it.
In the network, there are some nodes which are more connected than others. Men who understand the potential of the networked nature of our contemporary society are connecting into hubs in the network by collaborating with other men who share their vision and are able to trust and support each other. As complexity increases, some hierarchy is necessary. These hierarchies are however very different from the static and stiff models of past. Instead they give preference to initiative-takers and doers, reward early adopters and are dynamic and able to respond to changing needs in the environment. Gaining experience in working in this kind of environment is perhaps the best kind of skill development imaginable for young men who have an ambition of making a difference in the world.
Collaboration which incorporates healthy and playful competition is a core aspect of our approach. Within the original tribe, small hunting teams as well as fighting units were absolutely dependant on every member of the team to have each other’s back. Competition is used in a playful and brotherly way in order to motivate every man to offer his best and thereby lift the performance of the entire team. In important situations however, these men counted on their brothers for their full loyalty, otherwise the death of the entire group would result.
We believe that this kind of brotherhood with other men is not only vital but also extremely masculine - we compete and push each other to perform better, but have also built up a strong group trust and loyalty to know that our brothers are there to support us if we ever falter or fail. We expect it will be a core element of men lifting each other to face the coming challenges of automation and loss of traditional contributor roles.
As we face this future, we are convinced that the empowerment of the individual as a powerful contributor to his family and community continues to be the primary approach to change men’s lives. Victimhood culture is a race to the bottom of disempowerment. We all carry trauma, and many men need healing. Some men will need therapy, and while that is not the focus of men’s work, we believe that men’s work holds the power for a man to change. The focus is on addressing the burdens of your past and your mother and father lineages, and then refocusing your attention, away from yourself as a broken and wounded person, and instead as a positive contributor to others, in whichever way you can.
The step from broken person to a positive contributor mirrors the step of taking responsibility for yourself. It is thus also the step from boyhood to manhood. Rites of Passage was thus the core element of the European Men’s Gathering 2018. We expect that experimenting with these ceremonies will be absolutely vital in creating a systematic and scalable approach to helping men to take responsibility for themselves, their families and communities. This is needed to address the current crisis of lacking meaning, direction and shared identity in our society, which we believe is the underlying cause for all of the biggest problems we are facing.
In 2019 the European Men's Gathering will continue with the focus on helping men to grow into a more mature masculinity. The theme for this year's event will be on modern male archetypes and connecting past, present and future masculinity through finding one's contributive role to society.
If you feel inspired by this message and would like to join us in continuing the exploration of what it means to be a man in society today, then sign up for the European Men’s Gathering, to be held on the 12th - 15th September 2019 at Mariager, Denmark. You can also read more about our work and principles under "Our Manifest".
Brotherly love, intensely
The Men of Maniphesto