PUBLISHED: 19:00 04 December 2018
Toxic masculinity, eating disorders and crying – those were just some of the topics discussed at Barking’s men’s conference.
Organised by MenSpeak and the All Women’s Network in honour of International Men’s Day, today’s (Friday) conference at Barking town hall was a platform to discuss wellbeing, stress and depression among men.
MenSpeak men’s groups were set up 16 years ago by Kenny Mammarella D’Cruz, as safe spaces for men to discuss the gender-based pressures they face in today’s society.
He said: “I want to empower people in the local community, so men can speak and we can reduce the suicide rates, reduce the waiting lists for mental health checks, and help men become better for themselves and their communities.
“I want to empower men by sitting together, letting issues come up and feeling things. How often do we hear men being honest and open? These groups allow us to meet in this place and share our emotions.”
The session began with a ‘check-in’ round – a set of questions answered by all participants at men’s groups, including the last time they cried, their sexuality, their greatest fear and one thing they hate.
It was followed by speeches from men’s groups participants, including Nigel Gosling, who discussed his toxic relationship with masculinity and the fitness industry.
“When I was a young boy, it was all about the stature of a man, what it meant to be a man – our idol was Rocky,” he said.
“From 13 I was into physical exercise. I never let myself socialise, because the gym was my place to feel worth something.
“I became a fitness professional for 12 years, and now I find myself repulsed by the industry.
“To me, eating was more important than socialising.”
The conference was also attended by Barking and Dagenham’s mayor, councillor Sanchia Alasia.
She said: “The theme for International Men’s Day is men leading by example.
“This year it’s an opportunity to think about how we can all work together positively. We all have fears and hopes, and there can be a pressure for men not to do certain things. But we as women can break down those barriers and misconceptions.”