Informally created as a Facebook group in May, the ANU Men’s Collective is currently seeking affiliation with ANUSA as a society.
Sebastian Rossi, the group’s founder, said the impetus for its creation came from a realisation that one simply did not yet exist, and from a desire to raise awareness that “men do in fact have issues and don’t ‘have it all perfect’.”
Rossi said that the group is working to become an affiliated society, with their ultimate goal being becoming an ANUSA department. In doing so, the group would like to raise discussions and awareness about “issues that men face in society, awareness of specific cancers/diseases relating to men and to provide support and information to anyone in need of it about almost any issue.”
Becoming an ANUSA department would entitle the group to at least $5000 annually, increase its exposure, and give the group a seat on the student representative council.
ANUSA president Ben Gill acknowledged the need for greater for greater discussion on men’s issues like health, suicide, and masculinity, while questioning the need for a Men’s Department, saying, “I do not consider the establishment of a Men’s Department to be appropriate or in line with my views of feminism.”
While the ANUSA constitution is vague on the creation and intended purpose of departments, Gill stated that departments exist to “serve to advocate and further the interests of specific identity groups or areas of concern to the student body, in particular, those who have historically been marginalised and or oppressed.”
Women’s Officer Linnea Burdon-Smith opposed the group’s plans to become a department, writing that “the issues that men face are not in the same category as those faced by the groups that the Departments represent.”
Deputy Women’s Officer Holly Zhang questioned whether the group would be challenging “unjust power structures,” and suggested that it would be unnecessary for the group to become a department, given that bodies like the ANUSA Mental Health Committee already exist to combat similar issues to those the group seeks to address.
One student criticised the group’s name, saying that their claim to being a collective disrespects the historical collective movement’s efforts to fight for oppressed groups.
Burdon-Smith expressed optimism at the group’s potential to “to provide a space for toxic masculinity to be broken down,” which she says prescribes certain traits like strength and courage to individuals, in a manner that can lead to violence and mental illness.
ANU Men’s Collective member Tom Culley expressed hope at changing “many of the negative aspects of masculinity in our culture.” Culley also praised the group’s role in creating a “radically inclusive forum” for men’s issues, bringing together people of many backgrounds and creeds.
Some expressed concern about perceived connections between the ANU Men’s Collective and so-called men’s rights activists and misogyny. Rossi firmly dismissed these views, saying, “they are absurd since there has been nothing to indicate any sort of anti-feminism or MRA support let alone any sort of ‘haven’ for misogynistic thought. The criticisms have been brought about by assumption and lack of knowledge.”
Rossi encouraged anyone suspicious of the group to join and find out for themselves what the group represents.
Another men’s issues group at the University of Sydney called the Brotherhood, Recreation and Outreach Society, or BroSoc, was barred from formation by the University of Sydney Union in 2014, citing the dangers of traditional masculinity, and the perceived threat posed by the group to the queer community.