V1 2018-07-16, V2 2019-03-03
Men are human. This simple, three word sentence may come as a surprise to many, be they male or female. Women affected by #MeToo! misuse, may find it difficult to accept that men can be anything but low-life. Members of another gender may regard themselves as Übermenschen, supermen.
Some members of this male half of humanity, can be confused by the mixed signals they receive. On the one hand, they should suppress emotion and be strong, independent, stoic and tough. On the other, they should express their feelings openly and work co-operatively.
Admittedly, the stronger sex may also receive mixed signals, and sometimes they even give them – I’m told. However, this weblog post is (mostly) about the weaker sex, men.
Shoulder To Shoulder = slogan, shortened from: Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder.
Shedder = user of a men’s shed
Shedagogy = term coined by Barry Golding in 2014, to describe a distinctive, new way of acknowledging, describing and addressing the way some men prefer to learn informally in shed-like spaces mainly with other men.
Having worked with men in prison, when I came across the Men’s Sheds movement, I knew instantly that this was an important institution. I also started to read a section of a 2008 report prepared by Gary Misan that outlined some of the health problems encountered by men: https://lemosandcrane.co.uk/resources/Mensheds%20-%20a%20strategy%20to%20improve%20men%27s%20health.pdf
In referencing this report it was difficult to know what to quote, mention or dismiss. It is ten years old and Australia specific, but includes nuggets of insight that have application elsewhere. Compared with women, men live shorter lives, have worse health, suffer 70% of injuries, commit 75% of suicides, access health services less and delay seeking health services more, spend less time with doctors, focus on physical problems, avoid discussing mental and emotional problems and ….
These facts are mixed with myths. Men are to blame for the world’s evils, including their own poor health and health outcomes. Men control social, occupational, political, environmental and economic environments. Men experience health services as a service for women and children. Men are socially conditioned to engage in risky behaviours from an early age
Sheds are important in male culture. Traditionally, sheds are spaces
where men have retreated from work, life and family to make or repair things and to enjoy the company of other men. Unfortunately, the backyard shed is on the decline. Combined with other factors, such as retirement or loss of a partner, this results in loss of social networks, self-esteem, sense of purpose and identity, and can cause adverse social and emotional health and well-being issues for many men.
Sheds have in common that they are spaces for men, but may be diverse in organisation, structure and function. They can offer socialisation (friendship, camaraderie), self-esteem and purposeful activity for a large cross-section of men: young men, unemployed men, older men, retired men, men with mental health problems, disengaged men, indigenous men and immigrant men.
In Australian, where the men’s sheds movement is most highly developed, it is still an under-acknowledged, under-resourced, grassroots movement, that remains (mostly) unintegrated with any form of health system. They emerged despite an absence of any policy framework, government support or co-ordination.
Misan writes, “…key criteria for success of men’s sheds include: ensuring local support; learning from others, including affiliation with a men’s shed support organisation from the outset; having multiple partners and supporters; a suitable location; secure funding; a skilled manager and management group; a good business plan together with a sound marketing, recruitment, and communication strategy; a wide range of activities for men to take part in; extended opening hours; and links with a larger organisation, including a health service that can provide support for health programs. Ensuring documentation and evaluation of outcomes is also helpful to demonstrating benefit and increasing the likelihood of attracting future funding.” (p. 13)
While every men’s shed is unique, they can be lumped into four categories: work, clinical, educational and recreational.
For those who want to remain active, work sheds focus on repair, restoration and construction. At the same time much of the work is directed to helping the local community. Clinical focused sheds help the local male community interact and discuss their health/ wellbeing issues. Educational sheds focus on improving skills and life qualities, often around a specific skill, such as cooking. Recreational men’s sheds promote more social activity in the local area
Virtual sheds also exist, and provide an online capability where members from all men’s sheds or living in more remote communities can actively communicate and be involved in numerous research, writing and photographic activities. For example, The International Historians Association has created a community shed for veteran responders which include police officers, firefighters, paramedics, rescue workers and the military who have injuries, in-capacities or disfigurements that make them immobile or unwilling to join local work sheds.
The roots of The Men’s Sheds movement go back to the 1980s in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia and the former miners. There is also mention of the Albury Manual Activities Centre, also known as “Albury Men’s Shed” which opened in 1978. The focus in Adelaide, South Australia was on gender-biased and inappropriate care of older men living with dementia in care settings, as well as with Ausralia’s Vietnam War Veterans.
Mensheds Australia was established as an institution in 2002, by Peter Sergeant and Ron Fox as an outcome of their Economic Gardening activities.
An increasing number of Men’s Shed are being started. While the movement began in Australia in (>900 locations) and quickly moved on to New Zealand (>50). In Europe there are shed organizations in England, Finland, Greece, Ireland (>200 sheds), Scotland, Sweden (Malmö) and Wales.
In USA there are sheds in Hawaii (3), Michigan (1), Minnesota (5), Ohio (1) and Wisconsin (2). See: http://usmenssheds.org/
In Canada they are found in Alberta (2), British Columbia (7), Manitoba (2), Ontario (3) and Quebec (2). See: http://menssheds.ca
It is the fondest hope that the makerspace now being constructed in Straumen, will become a part-time Men’s Shed. On the other hand, it is also hoped that this space will offer time and space to many divergent groups of people: young and old, male and female, immigrant and native, experienced and inexperienced, practical and theoretical.
The Shed in Malmö will be given the opportunity to end this post with a description of themselves: Shed i Malmö is a space where people come together to do stuff, but more importantly, socialise. It’s like a hobby room, only bigger and better equiped. It’s like a lounge room, only more durable. It’s like a social club, but with more activities than just cards. Sometimes life isn’t always positive or even a continuation of the past. There is a new message now, 2019 is going to be a year of rediscovery for Shed i Malmö: we’ve had to move out of our location and we’re still assessing our options. We are currently ‘closed for business’. Sorry.