Written by Jessie Panazzolo
I haven’t written a food for thought piece this year, but this week I have been divulging more and more into the topic of male Lonely Conservationists and now I feel I need to speak out about what I have uncovered.
This all began on Tuesday when I was in a meeting with a doctoral candidate discussing a paper we are writing about loneliness in conservationists. She asked me if I would like to structure the paper around gender differences in conservation, and I told her that I didn’t feel comfortable analysing that data, or making conclusions when only 21 out of the 65 blogs were submitted by men.
This got me speculating as to why there were more blogs submitted by women, and I considered the female gender bias that occurs in many conservation units in many universities across the globe. I also considered the stereotype that men were less inclined to talk about their feelings or be comfortable being vulnerable. But these were all just speculations, I had to know for sure. I took to Instagram to ask male conservationists in my community why they were less inclined to write a blog for the website, and I was shocked at the response.
It quickly emerged that toxic masculinity was a factor that had both impacted men who had submitted blogs, and led to concerns in those wanting to submit. One LC reports to have faced backlash from his blog, with people telling him to “toughen up” or that he shouldn’t complain because he doesn’t have a “real job” in academia, like they do in the trades. This LC even reported that people within the Lonely Conservationists community weren’t showing support as he “had a job, so he shouldn’t complain”.
Others echoed the sentiment, sharing that men are expected to suppress all emotions no matter how unfulfilling their job, how unemployed they are, or how terrible their home and dating life seems. One LC commented that:
“Putting it down on paper for everyone to read, suddenly it’s no longer a bruise you can shake off and more of an open wound that you can’t pretend isn’t there. Open to criticism and belittling.”
It is important to note that this LC almost shared his concerns privately, in fear of speaking up about the issue, but the few that did comment were all thankful for the solidarity.
Speaking back with the doctoral candidate about this issue, she sent me a paper titled “Work as a Masculinity Contest” by Berdahl et al. which highlighted some of the issues that these male LCs were discussing. One particular quote caught my eye;
“People tend to view womanhood as a prescribed characteristic, manhood must be earnt over and over again.”
For me as a woman, it was challenging to broach this issue as I have faced toxic masculinity many times, but had never considered the impact that it has on men- possibly with the exception of men of colour and queer men. Toxic masculinity being defined as men showing dominance over women and men, made me start to wonder why there weren’t as many men actively standing up to the issue as there are women’s groups. One LC comments:
“I see on posts, submissions and blogs that the women are far more supportive of each other, commenting and engaging much more -which helps bring validity and confidence to what you’re doing.”
To dive deeper into the issue, I asked the men of Lonely Conservationists what I could do to create a more supportive environment which would encourage them to tell their stories. To be honest here, I was a little frustrated at the responses I got.
One suggestion read:
“Give us these opportunities to open up”
when the opportunities I had provided to share their stories on the website weren’t being taken. Another suggestion was that the male blogs were promoted more so that men felt comfortable around these types of stories and could find like-minded people more efficiently. This also bothered me as this would suppress the notion of equality and fairness amongst the blogs and authors, almost punishing female and non binary authors for their empathy and community building skills.
I am surprised that none of the men suggested that showing support and empathy to other men would help to alleviate this toxic culture and promote a new norm. I was shocked that this conversation didn’t spark a movement into a new direction of behaviour and that these men sharing the same concerns dd not come together to redefine masculinity.
As a woman faced with the same issues that these men are, I would feel comfort in knowing that these men, impacted by toxic masculinity, were also fighting the same fight that I am fighting, for a more equitable future. By writing this post I hope to set the tone for the community that regardless of gender, ethnicity or wealth, that we should all be supporting each other in everything we do. There is nothing at all to be gained by competition, ego or ridicule and having experienced all three of those concepts in my conservation career in every job I have had, It would be a benefit to the industry to work on tearing down these stigmas.
So to all men considering submitting a blog but bound by fear, I urge you to come forth and tell your story. By doing so, you are not only helping to normalise the voices of conservationists, but also you are helping to dispose the notion that men are not worthy of telling their truth and having their honest thoughts shared.
To all men reading the blogs, please share your support, comment, and get in touch with the author, for he may be living in fear of ridicule. Now is your time to be a part of the solution and your opportunity to redefine masculinity.
To be a part of the discussion, check out @lonelyconservationists on Instagram