Men's reponses to women's liberation

Men's reponses to women's liberation

How did men respond to women’s liberation? Find out more about the men’s groups, who campaigned alongside women for an end to inequality between the sexes.

Paul Smith discusses support for men and women

Women’s liberation challenged men to think about and act on inequalities between the sexes. For many men, this involved a painful examination of their relationships with women, their parenting and their work within the home. Change was required on several levels, by both men and women.

Paul Morrison talks about men-only spaces

Change on an individual as well as an institutional level

Feminists were clear that some of the oppressions faced by women were structural, built into the economy, the state and social norms. But they also expected individual men to change their behaviour. Many anti-sexist men felt that they needed to meet in men-only spaces to gain the confidence to confront their sexism and homophobia, and to find new, more honest and loving ways to interact with other men, as well as women. They also took up practical forms of activism, such as providing childcare, picketing sex shops, defacing sexist advertisements, working at women’s refuges and marching with women on issues such as abortion rights.

Dave Phillips talks about men's groups and clothes

Men’s groups

By the mid-1970s there were men’s groups in most towns and cities, communicating with each other and the wider world through a range of periodicals and conferences. They read feminist literature, and attempted to listen and respond to women’s needs, but often found it hard to manage their relationships with feminist women. Separatist and revolutionary feminists were not interested in interaction, and many other feminist groups found working in mixed-sex groups unproductive. The men’s groups of the 1970s encountered real difficulties in getting beyond feelings of guilt and shame. Nonetheless, some groups formed very powerful bonds and a few have continued to meet for over 30 years. Men’s groups, conferences and activism proliferated during the 1980s and ‘90s, loosely coordinated by the Men for Change network. Inspiration for these later years of men’s anti-sexist activism was drawn less directly from the Women’s Liberation Movement. Instead, the rise of men’s studies within British universities, and the growing significance of ‘men’s work’ in therapy circles, proved increasingly influential.

Paul Morrisson talks about being an active father

Chris Heaume recalls his guilt at being part of the patriarchy

Projects about men's movements

In this section you can hear a small selection of voices from an oral history of the men’s movement in Britain, undertaken by Lucy Delap, also archived at The British Library. John Petherbridge was interviewed as part of both this and the Sisterhood and After projects. You can find out more about men in social movements that have related to feminism since the 1960s from this collection and also from other projects and archives including the Hall-Carpenter Archive at LSE, the Unfinished Histories of Alternative Theatre oral history project and the History Workshop Journal. Writings by Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall, Jeff Hearn, Victor Seidler, Jeffrey Weeks, Ken Plummer, Michael Messner, Celia Hughes and the journal Men and Masculinities provide further context.

Mark Long talks about anti-sexism

John Petherbridge talks about working for Women's Aid

  • Sisterhood and After Research Team
  • This article was researched and written by the Sisterhood and After Research Team, who are experts in the history of contemporary feminism and narrative life methods. The team included Abi Barber, Dr Polly Russell, Dr Margaretta Jolly, Dr Rachel Cohen, Dr Freya Johnson-Ross and Dr Lucy Delap. Further information about the team and project is available in the About the project section.

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.