Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott believes British men are facing a “crisis of masculinity” brought on by economic anxiety, which is contributing to the “normalisation of homophobia”.
In a speech on Thursday, the Labour MP for Hackney in east London will stress that the problems men and boys face are not receiving sufficient attention because – “like the film Fight Club – the first rule of being a man in modern Britain is that you’re not allowed to talk about it”.
Speaking at the think tank Demos in central London, Ms Abbott will say: “Tomorrow, too many British men and boys will wake up isolated and misdirected by a boundless consumer outlook, economic instability and whirlwind social change.
“Tomorrow, too many British men and boys who need the space and support to talk about manhood, expectations and boundaries from an early age, at schools, with other boys, and with their parents will remain silent.”
“And I believe we need to say loudly and clearly, that there is a powerful role for fathers. The truth is that just as loving fathers are a benefit to children, so loving families are a benefit to men.”
Ms Abbott will also say that the rise of consumerism has created a culture of “hypermasculinity” which exaggerates what are perceived to be manly qualities in the face of perceived threats.
“At its worst, it’s a celebration of heartlessness; a lack of respect for women’s autonomy; and the normalisation of homophobia. I fear it’s often crude individualism dressed up as modern manhood.”
In August 2010, Ms Abbott told PinkNews.co.uk in an exclusive interview: “In some ways, I think, homophobic bullying is more of an issue now than it was when I was at school. I can’t recall people being bullied for their sexual preferences. Now it’s a very common thing, to be honest.”
She added: “And it’s very oppressive for young men growing up and the way that they use the word gay as a term of abuse. It’s all part and parcel of the same phenomenon. And I think we need to work more in schools, actually, to counter this type of thinking. I think kids, it’s men, who have a very frail grasp of their own masculinity. They feel so threatened and challenged by sexual difference. but we need to challenge it.”
Stonewall’s School Report of 2012 showed 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils in Britain’s secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, while 99% have heard the word ‘gay’ used disparagingly.