Building Modern Men

HuffPost UK bloggers share honest, accurate accounts of being a man in modern Britain

Masculinity in the 21st Century has never been more complicated. Gender roles that once were relevant decades ago no longer apply to men, but they are still bound by them. Many times we hear the phrases ‘manning up’, ‘getting on with it’ and being ‘strong and silent’, which leaves little space for men to reposition themselves. Here, HuffPost UK provides that space for debate. We’re running a series of blog posts that look at sexuality, women, violence, LGBT, fatherhood, boyhood, male friendship, mental illness and lad culture, from a number of different voices, from the high profile to the man on the street.

'What Is a Real Man - A "Mard"'? by Farhan Akhtar

Award-winning Indian actor-filmmaker-singer, regional UN Women Ambassador for South Asia

None of this: Eighteen-inch biceps. A moustache that supposedly proclaims your virility. 'Showing appreciation' by leering at girls on the streets. And stalking and harassing a woman until she 'falls in love' with you or hitting your wife or your partner; none of this defines a 'mard', which is the Hindi word for 'man'. Here's what does define a 'mard', a real man, though. Showing respect. Supporting her choices. Standing up for a woman's right to live free from violence, from the fear of violence. Speaking up when that right is violated, and interrupting the cycle of discrimination she faces.

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'Misunderstanding the Black Male' by Anthony Lorenzo

Writer, copywriter, pontificator

Average black men - by this I mean black men who haven't just won gold medals at the Olympics - only see ourselves portrayed negatively. Media imagery zooms in on gang violence, failure at school, our aggressive masculinity and by corollary misogyny. It makes little attempt to verify the veracity of the stereotypes, nor is any attempt at explaining the grains of truth supposedly present in stereotypes forthcoming.

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'Men Must Challenge Lad Culture Too' by Richard Brooks

NUS vice president for union development

Most of us might not define ourselves as a lad, but we still contribute to the patriarchal stitch-up if we don't actually take action. It's not enough to just think of yourself as being different. We need to start challenging each other. We can't be bystanders. We need to be proactive and lead by example to stop this culture from defining what masculinity 'should' be. We mustn't be complacent, because that leads to complicity.

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'I Am Your Father' by Thomas Lynch

National Development Manager - Dads Rock

My son is now seven, and the older he gets the more confident I feel about being dad. I'm doing what feels right and true. There's a little part of me that still wants to be his superman, however the bigger voice in my head says I'm good enough for him. We clearly want men to avoid the trap of becoming like Darth Vader, nor do we need them to strive to be Superman.  I think men need to give themselves a break about being dad, find some middle ground and if their hearts are full of love for their family they will be good enough.

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'Why Changing Gender Roles Mean the 21st Century Is the Best Time to Be a Man' by Tom Brake

Lib Dem MP for Carshalton & Wallington

In a time where traditional gender roles are becoming more fluid, both men and women are feeling less restricted, where workloads are shared, and both sexes are respected, I can think of no better time to be a man.

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'The Reason Why Men Are Less Likely to Talk' by Liam Hackett

Founder and CEO, Ditch the Label

From an early age, people are conditioned to believe that they have a specific role within society. Women are taught to be emotional, compassionate and family orientated, whereas the men are told to be strong, brave and promiscuous.

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'Time to Break the Silence - It's Killing Us' by Paul McGregor

Founder of MFM, blogger and lecturer

Back when I was 18 I lost my dad to suicide. He was stable in his career, was loved by his family, friends, and most importantly looked after himself. He had a psychology degree, was a keen athlete, physiotherapist and read a lot of self help books. Out of nowhere he had a 'breakdown', going from being the person he always was to being put on anti-depressants.  

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'Paternal Postnatal Depression - Yes, Men Get It Too' by Daisy Scalchi

TV producer and journalist

For women, this is usually no longer a controversial thing to admit. The highs and lows of adjusting to life as a mother as well as issues like postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis are well documented in the media. But what if it's not the mother who is hit by feelings of being overwhelmed or even postnatal depression itself?

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'Westminster Needs Its Men to Talk About Why Being a Dad Is a Big Part of Their Life' by Jonathan Reynolds

Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde and dad of four

The House of Commons needs lots of different types of people, but I certainly think people with young families are part of that. We also need men who are prepared to talk about why being a father is a big part of their life, and who are not willing to see core issues like childcare, early years education, and the gender pay gap being side-lined as 'women's issues'... There's still a long way to go, but we're heading in the right direction.

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'We Must Stem the Tide of Male Suicide' by Luciana Berger

Shadow minister for mental health

We need a cultural shift so that men can discuss their mental health, seek help, overcome the stereotypes of masculinity placed upon their shoulders, and get the support they need. Each suicide is a terrible tragedy and a waste of a precious life. Together, we can prevent suicide and save the lives of vulnerable young men.

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'Male Mental Health: The Significance of 'Masculinity' by Professor Steve Robertson and Professor Brendan Gough

Professor of men, gender and health and professor of social psychology

'Masculinity' plays a significant and often damaging role in male mental health. However, masculinity is multifaceted and norms are slowly shifting such that more men may be encouraged to admit when they are feeling down or anxious and seek help...

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'90s Lad Culture Was Beautiful' by Robbie Knox

Co-presenter of the Milk Faced podcast, writer, producer and director

What started as a progressive movement where men, and women, could be their beautiful, imperfect selves, attracted these same people. Because the freedom to be yourself is all well and good unless you're a pr*ck. If you're a pr*ck, be someone else. In recent years being a lad has become shorthand for the type of people WKD adverts are aimed at. The obnoxious 70s pub bore for the new millennium.

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'Hope After My Dad's Suicide' by Jonathan Brook

Journalist, comedian and student making his own mistakes

My brother and I saw Dad a few weeks prior to his death. We watched <em>Star Trek: Into Darkness</em> and he was fine; he looked good and appeared happy. I always thought of comedy as a way to help the healing process and to make awful things seem less awful, so I sometimes joke about how the movie was so bad it drove my father to suicide. In reality though, I don't know what drove him to the point where he could make the decision to take his life, but looking back there were clear signals that he was not okay.

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'Being a Man' by Jake Mills

Comedian and writer

So many of us go about our lives hiding behind masks of decaying stereotypes and redundant expectations. We pretend to be something we're not and live a lie due to the fear of being judged for being different. All too often we bottle things up, get instinctively defensive and grow afraid of sharing our actual thoughts and feelings. We don't want to show any sign of weakness, despite not really knowing what those weaknesses are.

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'The Sports World Knows the Most Important Muscle in Men Is Between Their Ears' by Alistair Campbell

Author and former head of communications to Tony Blair

In elite sport, for many coaches and athletes it is now routine to have proper professional support, psychological and psychiatric, to get the best out of the mind; but in business and politics, where the work is much less physical and more evidently requiring of intellectual prowess, such support would be seen as a weakness, something not to admit to, and therefore not to have. This of course is how stigma develops, and with often catastrophic consequences.

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'Men and Suicide: Why It's a Social Issue' by Ruth Sutherland

Chief executive of Samaritans

Men are far less positive about getting formal emotional support for the issues outlined above. Worryingly, in response to these difficulties, men are more likely to take risks such as drinking, fighting or gambling, trying to show that they are 'manly' when faced with adversity. In fact, this is likely to make their situation worse. The masculine ideal suggests that men should never be depressed, anxious or unable to cope. It is vital that we overcome this and encourage men to access informal and formal support earlier on, before they reach crisis point. With all this in mind, where do we go from here?

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'The Measure of a Man' by Henri Ward

Part of the Great Initiative's 'Great Men Project'

Modern entertainment inundates us with choice of male identities. Most interestingly in comedy, we often root for the lovable loser, who inexplicably beats all the odds to win the affections of a woman through some shared experience or misadventure.

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'Tell Me What Makes a Man?' by Alex Reid

I had believed to be a real man you needed to fight, be tough and intimidate others around you in to respecting you, it was the only way to assert your masculinity. It was only when I was around 13 I discovered my father was a Paratrooper who had seen active service and was also a decorated boxer. To be this kind and caring father figure, who could stand up for himself and others if need be. He defined to me that a real man is one who provides for his family, offers comfort and support to his loved ones and adds value to the world.  

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'Come on Big Balls - Have the Guts to Check Your Nuts' by Jack Broadley

Founder and Chairman of BaggyTrousersUK

So at 21, I was diagnosed with stage two testicular cancer that spread to nearby lymph nodes in my abdominal area. I would need an intense course of chemotherapy and removal of the testicle to cure. A question that keeps running round and round in my mind is - how many other young men like myself are out there worried, not wanting to go to the doctors and unsure what they're checking for/how often do they need to check and what to do if they find something.

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'Will It Ever Be Masculine to Say You Have Mental Health Issues?' by Aaron Gillies

Comedy writer and idiot

Male mental health has taken a step towards centre stage in recent months. An issue usually reserved only for analysing the perpetrators of mass shootings, mental health is making its way into every conversation, as men start to feel more comfortable talking about their aliments in a public forum without the fear of being labelled 'mental', 'crazy' or other ableist terminology. 

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'Stop Talking About the "Crisis in Masculinity"' by Dr Michael Joseph Richardson

The problem I have with the 'crisis in masculinity' is that it implies that what was there before was stable, secure and acceptable. This is simply false. Labelling events as 'crises' is politically convenient as it deflects responsibility. The absolution of responsibility exists as an absolution of blame and guilt. When considering masculinity (and drawing a parallel to austerity) the discourse of 'crisis' become the focal point of blame.  

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'Ten Ways to Be a Real Man' by Tom Brooks

Primary school teacher, CALM supporter

What does it mean to be a 'modern man' in a world that gets more politically correct with every opinion that's tweeted? Society is breaking down so many barriers when it comes to equality, so if we're moving in the right direction, why are we feeling more insecure?

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'What Does It Mean to be a Man?' by Luke Chandley

Supporter of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) talking #BiggerIssues

Being a man in society, it feels like you mustn't talk about emotions. Well I say f*** that. You're a human. You can do what you want (if legally correct...) You don't need to conform to the cake-cutter world that says men build things and women cook things. Men eat steak and women have salad. You don't need to be sad and quiet. Be sad and be loud. Be unhappy and be in a doctors' clinic demanding professional help.

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'Male Infertility Is a Real Issue All Men Need to Be Comfortable Talking About' by Ewan McTeir

Dad and husband from Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland

I had a number of tests which came back showing that I had a low sperm count. I felt devastated that this was happening to us and we had no control over it. We were told we would not be able to have children and advised to go down the donor route. With the help of the staff at the hospital we decided that I would have an operation done to extract my sperm, and, with this simple operation, it was possible to have children. 

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'Most Men Are Not One Dimensional - Why Can't Our Magazine's Reflect This?' by Jake Plenderleith

Writer, secularist, humanist, atheist

You do not buy Esquire or GQ for critical insight. What you do when you buy these mags is collude in the lie; that we can all look that handsome, smell that great, wear those expensive clothes, buy that watch and be that clever, smart, wealthy, funny and attractive. Simultaneously, the post-modern nature of the magazine and its readership means it cannot help but acknowledge that it is all a delusion. 

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'We're So Desperate to Talk About Masculinity' by Jack Urwin


Regardless of what some might try to tell you, toxic masculinity is an issue that people from across the spectrum want to address. It's clear that we want this discussion; need this discussion and although I'm certainly not saying my book will be the thing to bring this about (obviously that's what I want you to think, though) that it exists in itself suggests we are ready for change. 

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'Who's Really Being Silenced in the Gender Debate?' by Dan Bell

Features editor with InsideMAN magazine

Someone will invariably retort that these criticisms smack of 'me-too-ism', a whining attempt to assert the victim status of men. Except this isn't about whining; it's about being brave enough to tell the empress she hasn't got any clothes on. There really are grave issues that affect men and boys, and people really are being bullied into keeping quiet about them. Dismissing men who do speak out as 'crybabies' is just another way to emasculate and shame men who speak out.

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'Disposable Dads and the Myth of the Modern Family' by Karen Woodall

Therapist and blogger on all thing related to families and family separation

I work in the field of family separation and I meet disposable dads every day. Dads are not welcome in post-separation family life, especially if they are going to cause trouble by wanting to actually parent their children. For those modern men who gave their all to fatherhood, the injustice of such a swift eviction from the lives of their children after separation, is a bewildering attack on their very sense of self.

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'Shame and Violence' by Jonathan Asser


We can equip prisoners with real skills to deal better with the feeling of shame out of which violence arises. I know, because I did it in one of the largest prisons in Western Europe, HMP Wandsworth. I called my approach Shame/Violence Intervention (SVI), and it won the national Innovation Award of the biggest therapy organization in the UK. SVI was different, because it targeted influential and often gang-related prisoners who were currently being violent in the jail...

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'When Just a Quarter of Males Believe It Is Okay to Show Emotion, We Have a Serious Problem' by Jonny Benjamin

Award-winning mental health campaigner and video blogger from London

We have to keep this conversation going. Every single day we lose 12 men to suicide. 
We must also start to redefine what it means to be "macho" and stop telling males to "man up and get on with it". We would never tell females to "woman up."

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'Why Daddy Pig Is a Role Model for Modern Day Dads' by Hamish Nicklin

Managing director and VP, AOL UK

Daddy Pig is a legend. So much so that when I find myself in a difficult situation at home, I often think, 'what would Daddy Pig do?'... While I know I shouldn't be seeking parenting and lifestyle inspiration from an overweight, make-believe pig, if my two daughters grow up knowing they're as loved and cared for as Peppa is, then it'll have all been worthwhile.

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'How to Be a Gentle-Man' by Tom Ross-Williams

Actor and theatre-maker

Gentleness is not something to be flippantly dismissed, it's not a sign of weakness; I see it as a potent political tool. Being gentle equals flexibility, a sensitivity to the world around you. Being gentle means that when someone else leans in, you'll probably make some room, actively stand back. Being gentle as a man means that if a woman leans in you're not going to respond by leaning in further.  

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'Recently I Tried to Kill Myself - I Want to Explain Why' by Tom Haward

Writer, reader, foodie, wine drinker and ponderer

My suicide attempt wasn't planned, it was impulsive and this scares me. It scares me how easily I went from sitting on my balcony, smoking a cigarette, to walking into my bathroom, finding a large quantity of pills and taking them. I know, for many reading this, it is very hard to understand suicide; ultimately, for me, I felt defeated and to carry on living seemed too much. Depression is a continuous, painful battle which is so much more than feelings of sadness or being low. 

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'When Dad Becomes Your Best Mate' by Greg James

Radio 1 DJ

When you get your 'dream job' you never think of the sh*t bits of it. I won't list them here, but I do list them to my dad regularly. And that is incredibly helpful. He has become so much more than the bloke I went down the park to play cricket with as a kid. He has become my closest confidant. He knows everything.  've told him everything. Whether it be a relationship that I've messed up, someone I'm jealous of, a bad show I've done, a person I've accidentally killed... (just checking you're still paying attention)... I tell him everything is my point. And that is a wonderful feeling. And I'd be lost without it.

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'Big Boys Don't Cry' by Paul Farmer

Chief executive of mental health charity Mind

We need to get to the point that men feel as at ease talking about their mental health as they would a broken arm. We need to help men equate seeking help not with weakness, but with doing something that shows courage and strength. It is, after all, profoundly brave to face up to something as stigmatised as a mental health problem. Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that big boys can and do cry. And that's okay.

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'My Depression Centre Stage' by Tim Grayburn

Former ad exec

I'm now touring a show with my soul guardian/soul mate/baby mumma/beautiful fiancé about my experience with depression and how in particular we as blokes need to talk about our problems before it's too late. 78% of suicides are men and this proportion has been the same for over a decade!

It's obvious not enough men allow themselves to talk about it, therefore going undiagnosed and untreated.

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'What Is a Real Man These Days Anyway?' by Ben Lane

Movember Real Man, Bartender, IT Security Professional and Chef

Writing this blog has given me the opportunity to think quite a lot about it and, my honest answer, God knows! I like that there are so many variations of what a real man is now, I like that we have baking shows on television and two of the top three contestants are men, I like that our role as men is not defined and it looks like it will forever evolve and very much for the better.

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'As Britain's First Out Muslim Drag Queen, I Am Comfortable With Both My Male and Female Identities' by Asif Quraishi

Britain's first out Muslim drag queen

Today I am comfortable with both my male and female identities. Asifa Lahore will always be a part of me and identity I will never deny. I'd like to believe that there is a growing trend of men being more fluid about their gender within the British Muslim community but the reality is that visibility of these men is ridiculously low and if they ever choose to declare their gender fluidity they have to conquer their internal notions of masculinity and femininity in which they were brought up.

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'Oh, To Be a Young Gay Man Again? Errm, No Thanks, It's Harder Than Ever' by Matt Bagwell

Celebrity Editor, The Huffington Post UK

I can't quite believe I'm saying this but next year marks my 25th anniversary as an out and proud gay man. Of course, even if I didn't know it yet, I was a raging homo the minute I entered this world, but it'll be a quarter of a century (!) since I sat my mum down to explain why I'd been such a bastard to live with of late.

It feels like yesterday, but a lot has happened in the last two and a half decades that has made me thankful that I'm not 19 again, despite the perception that things are now a lot easier for young gay men and women.

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'The Male Mental Health Timebomb Is a Problem for Everyone' by Dr Liam Fox

Conservative MP for North Somerset and former Defence Secretary

The fact that there is, unbelievably in 21st Century Britain, still a taboo surrounding mental illness.  Taken along with late presentation of symptoms, and the availability of treatment, it represents one of the main reasons for poor outcomes. Is this problem worse among men? My own experience as both a GP and as an MP would tend to suggest that it is...

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'Man vs. Nail File' by Jinya Mizuno

Part-time musician, artist and writer

We've got to change the beliefs in our heads because they are hurting all of us - men, women and children. Women are not weak. Having feelings is not weak. Being tough is not strong. Using a nail file is perfectly manly, if that is the expression of the man that you are.

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'Separating Men and Masculinities' by Lewis Turner

PhD candidate at SOAS

Many men reject behaviours typically associated with people who 'share the same body', and many thrive and delight in performing femininity. It's not like all men are, or want to be, masculine, nor is it the case that everything men do is somehow an expression of their masculinity. Also, because men are differentiated by class, race, sexuality, and a host of other factors, models of masculinity will in any case be easier for some to achieve than others. 

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'I Am a Widowed Dad and in Time I Will Learn to Do My Daughter's Hair' by Pete Wallroth

Founder of the charity Mummy’s Star

I think society has a strange view on men bringing up children alone. I guess people presume that because women generally take the lead in parenting, another familiar female figures will intervene if the wife or partner is not there. Perhaps people assume that a man is somehow not capable of doing what a woman can... But, do you know what? We aren't inept human beings. We aren't useless parents. We are dads and we can do anything we put our minds to.

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'Should Men Wear Makeup?' by Jake-Jamie Ward

Male beauty vlogger

I'm a man, and I wear makeup. Why you ask, because it makes me feel good, complete, confident and ready to take on the world! I started experimenting with makeup around the age of 19 when I began having terrible acne breakouts. It seriously knocked my confidence, so I turned to cosmetics and I have never looked back. Honestly, makeup has changed my life.

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'Do Boys Need Male Role Models?' by Sandy Ruxton

Freelance policy advisor and researcher specialising in gender

Is a lack of 'male role models' the source of the problems faced - and caused - by young men today? Does involving more men in boys' care and welfare make a difference? How much do we actually know about the importance of gender in work with young men? For many years, anxiety has been growing about the position of boys and young men - and the knock-on impact on society as a whole.

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'Since Identifying As a Man, I've Found It So Hard to Be Myself' by Sabah Choudrey

Trans activist

How could I move into masculinity that was all about dominating women and fitting into the patriarchy, whilst opening my eyes to a world that is patriarchal, and embracing feminism at the same time? Can these two things co-exist? What makes a man is a really narrow box. Since identifying as a man, I've found it so hard to be myself. Men are so limited and restrained by the system of patriarchy they set up themselves. Men have built themselves a prison, where they are all just the same.

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'Why We're Dedicating an Entire Month to Covering Issues Facing Men' by Stephen Hull

Editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post UK

Throughout November The Huffington Post UK will be partnering with the Being A Man festival, which takes place at London's Southbank Centre. There's a lot of good issues related to being a man, but by starting a conversation about the tough ones too means there's a huge opportunity to create something wonderful. None of us should be worried about championing men or applauding and rewarding them. Let us be inspired by the great man Herbert Spencer who I mentioned earlier and work together make a society a place that enables us all to start building modern men.

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'I Guarantee to Make You a Better Dad By the End of This Blog Post' by Jeff Brazier

TV presenter, ex pro-footballer and proud dad

If you were watching your kid's experience of childhood on the big screen at your local Odeon, what would the scenes consist of? Do you play a leading role? Or are you an extra? We are often the father we are because of the father we had. Intergenerational conditioning is one to watch out for because a lot of what you and I experienced is dated and has less relevance in modern fatherhood. Be the father you wish to be, instead of what you were raised to be.

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'Why Sensitivity Is a Vital Part of Masculinity' by Krishnan Guru-Murthy

Channel 4 News anchor

What you discover when you make TV programmes about brave, apparently macho men such as the Baghdad Bomb Squad or Yemeni death row convicts or Sunni militants in Lebanon is that they are not the two-dimensional masculine clichés you expect. They have fears, doubts and crises of confidence. They deep down care most about their children, partners and parents. They cry, often quite easily...

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'Coming Out and Competition - A Gay Man's Retrospective' By Tamal Ray

NHS doctor and 'Great British Bake Off' finalist

There's a competitive edge to male friendships that can make it difficult for guys to be open and honest with each other. You might have things that you really want to talk about but can't for fear of appearing weak. As a gay guy, I could stand apart from some of this. My friends knew we'd never be competing for women or on the pitch and so I was different enough that they could let their guard down. I think there's maybe a similar dynamic with straight guys who have close female friends. 

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'Men - It's Time to Talk' by Tom May

Retired rugby player

For 17 years I was meant to "man up and get on with it" and that tends to instil itself in life outside of rugby too... You show any sign of weakness and it gets exposed. The 21st Century man is under constant pressure to demonstrate strength at the expense of being able to offload troubles.

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'Male Sexual Abuse: If It's Still a Taboo Let's Do Something About It' by Duncan Craig

CEO, Survivors Manchester

Over the past few weeks, I've been invited to speak at a number of conferences and events across the UK on the subject of male sexual violation. Talking about the sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation of boys and men is an everyday occurrence for me (including my own survivorship), but standing in front of these audiences reminded me how difficult this subject is for much of society to hear and still very much a taboo to talk about.

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'How to be an Alpha Omega-3 Man' by Chris Sav

Artist, writer and preserve maker

Some time ago I was given some advice: that because I was nearly 30, it was about time that I sort my life out and man up for once. The term 'man up' has always perplexed me, as I don't really know how one would increase their masculinity levels, and to what standard. For instance, is there a chance that I could man up so much that I became too manly?

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'When We Use the Abuser's Voice' by Tom Meagher

Leading advocate in the White Ribbon Campaign, for gender equality and non-violence

In various conversations across many venues over the last two years about gender-based violence, similar questions arise about what it is specifically in our culture or peer groups that facilitates the self-justification of perpetrators of violence. At times, voices come back claiming that violence against women is in no way tolerated by most of our society, and some claim (perhaps condescendingly) that I am a victim of my own tragic loss, that I may be more prone to see violence where there is none, because my life has been shattered by it, after the violent death of my wife.

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'I'm a Single Father Raising My Son to be Feminist' by Benjamin Brooks-Dutton

Writer of the award-winning blog 'Life as a Widower'

It dawned on me, at last, that feminism essentially just means advocating that all rights of women be equal to those of men. So why not be feminist? After all, what modern British man could look his mother, wife, girlfriend or daughter in the eye and say that they are worth less than their sons or themselves? And what father raising his male child without a mother would feel like he'd succeeded in raising him the way his mother would have wanted, if he grew up to believe he was somehow superior to the opposite sex?

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