EPISODES IN BIG FLAME HISTORY: No 19. Sexual Politics and Life Part 2 – Men’s Politics
Posted by archivearchie on October 26, 2009
One of the earliest anti-sexist (or pro-feminist) Men’s Groups in Britain was established by members of East London Big Flame around the end of 1973, which led on to the East London Men’s Group. As discussed in Episode 5 of this series, ELBF parted company with the rest of Big Flame in 1975. Two ex-ELBF men were afterwards involved in setting up a “magazine of men’s politics” Achilles Heel in 1978. The publication ran for 24 issues until 1999. Around the early 1980s the editorial group involved two different men who were part of North London Big Flame.
Here are some extracts from the discussions which occurred in BF over the years on “men’s politics”.
Following the first couple of issues of Achilles Heel an article appeared in the Big Flame paper May 1979 issue: Why a Men’s Movement? (article). It is sympathetic to the emerging Men’s Movement and wants revolutionary organisations to adopt “these new insights into sexuality”. There is a discussion of the debate about whether men are oppressed or not. This was a position some men in the Men’s Movement advocated, whilst others strongly rejected it.
Two articles appeared in the Discussion Bulletin of February 1981: Is a Men Against Sexism Politics Needed? and The Problem of Men in Big Flame. The authors argued that a “men against sexism politics” is urgently needed, with men taking responsibility for supporting feminism in practice.
Back to the paper and an article in the May 1982 issue: Anti Sexist Practice! This outlines some of the things men could do to make anti-sexism a priority in their political work. Particular political importance is assigned to childcare.
A women member of BF responded in a letter in the July-August 1982 issue of the paper to some of the articles which had been written by men: Why a Men’s Movement? (letter). She believes that there can’t be a men’s movement because men are not oppressed, and finds the concept “dangerous”. Men should focus on taking anti-sexism into the areas of struggle they are already involved in, and participating in childcare as a way of supporting women.
Finally in the Discussion Bulletin of March 1983 the Women’s Commission responded to a proposal for an Anti-Sexist Commission in Big Flame: Why the Women’s Commission are against an Anti Sexist Commission. Their objection is that this would mean women taking responsibility for working out men’s positions. Instead men should use men’s meetings to understand their sexism and develop anti-sexist practice.
Note: Titles of articles or documents in red and bold are links to the full version. Press on them to bring up a PDF of the document.