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The 21st century man -

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TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: Australian psychologist Stephen Biddulph has long been regarded as a sort
of guru of the male liberation movement.

In the '90s, his books on manhood and raising boys launched him onto the world stage and now it
seems he has a whole new generation of followers.

Deborah Cornwall reports.

DEBORAH CORNWALL, REPORTER: It started with group hugs and the wild men camps of the early '90s.

DAN, MENS HELPLINE: Hello, Men's Helpline. Dan speaking, how can I help you?

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Two decades on, one of the big daddies of men's liberation, Australian
psychologist, Stephen Biddulph has declared the SNAG (sensitive new age guy) is dead.

STEPHEN BIDDULPH, PSYCHOLOGIST: I went through a sensitive new man phase when I was a bit younger.
I've been successfully treated for that now.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: The new century has spawned a whole smorgasbord of man-stylings and role models,
from celebrity metrosexuals to hands-on hipster dads.

But masculinity experts say it's not all just bushy beards and man make-up. Men - or at least white
middle-class men - really are rethinking the way they live.

DAVID BUCHBINDER, HUMANITIES, CURTIN UNIVERSITY: What has happened in the last two to three decades
has been a fragmentation of that, other kinds of ways of being a man in society have come forward.
For example, it is not necessary now always to be the macho man, you can be a little more tender,
you can be a little more caring.

STEPHEN BIDDULPH: There are some really positive developments happening. One... probably the
biggest one is that young dads are hugely more involved with their children.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: This call to man up - but nicely, harks back to the mantra first championed by
Stephen Biddulph. Men, he said, needed to become more emotionally literate if they wanted to live
happy, satisfying lives.

STEPHEN BIDDULPH: Alcoholism, suicide, marriage breakdown, poor parenting, violence, crime - pretty
much everything that's going wrong in the world has got that male unhappiness behind it.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Still in high demand on the international lecture circuit, Stephen Biddulph has
recast himself for the new century reaching out to a whole new generation of followers.

But his message for men and their boy children remains much the same.

STEPHEN BIDDULPH: If you have a boy in the 21st Century, you're worried about him and you have some
reason to worry.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: When the industrial age forced men to work outside the home, he says, it came at
a tremendous cost. Leaving sons emotionally stunted by distant, absent fathering.

STEPHEN BIDDULPH: Only about one man in 10 is actually close to his own dad. There's this great
wound between fathers and sons.

BRIAN HORAN, TEACHER: There is another way to do this.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Stephen Biddulph says teenage boys are still consistently being outperformed by
girls at school, largely because they're missing out on the male mentoring they need to guide them
into manhood and what he calls the 'masculine mode of teaching'.

BRIAN HORAN: The Latin word for "daffodils" means testicles. It does!

(Sound of boys laughing)

DEBORAH CORNWALL: At the North Keilor Catholic Regional College in suburban Melbourne, teachers
Brian Horan and Eamonn Buckley are into the third year of their NITOR program for troubled or
underperforming boys in Year 10.

BRIAN HORAN: We don't really necessary see ourselves as Biddulph disciples, but what really does
resonate with us is this idea that boys need to learn how to become a good man.

EAMONN BUCKLEY, TEACHER: Should sports people be role models? That's a debate for another time.
Yep.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: The two teachers run most of the classes for the year, taking their relationships
as confidantes and mentors to the boys well beyond the schoolyard. On call to students and parents,
virtually around the clock.

BRIAN HORAN: It sounds a bit evangelical but it really has made a huge change in the kids' lives.

JAMES SPITERI, STUDENT: I got a name around the school for being a ratbag, then Mr Horan and Mr
Buckley made me want class not to be a game anymore. They made me want to learn, they've improved
my marks and made me become a man.

NICHOLAS GUARINO, STUDENT: I always knew that I could achieve highly but I would just sit at the
back of the class, not worry about what was happening, misbehave and just not care what was
happening around me. If it wasn't for this course, I would have been close to like drop-out.

RAEWYN CONNELL, GENDER STUDIES, UNI OF SYDNEY: At this stage, this is due in...

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Professor Raewyn Connell says while innovative programs like NITOR no doubt do
get good results, the idea boys can only blossom under the guidance of only men flies in the face
of every major study on the learning styles of both sexes.

RAEWYN CONNELL: It's not like you know, some kind of secret torch which is passed down only from
men to boys. The main message from actual psychological research is about the psychological
similarity between men and women, boys and girls.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: It was Stephen Biddulph's prescription for underperforming boys that prompted the
Howard government to spend millions on the nationwide Lighthouse school program for boys. But,
according to Professor Connell, it was ultimately shelved for want of results.

RAEWYN CONNELL: I'm totally in favour of having more men in the teaching profession, but not in
order to create segregated programs for boys. We need the men there for girls as well.

And you're also, I think really underselling boys as learners if you think boys have only one
learning style or one narrow track on which they can learn, that's even a little bit insulting to
boys.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: But Stephen Biddulph remains adamant that most men have not had the fathering
they needed. Without some radical new approaches to how we raise boys, he says, men will continue
to adopt what he calls the masks of manhood.

STEPHEN BIDDULPH: 'Tough guy' - that's always a good one or 'cool dude', and that mask will
probably last three or four years into his marriage, if he gets married. Or his wife doesn't like
going to bed with a mask. His kids don't like having a mask at the breakfast table.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Stephen Biddulph's take on the travails of men has long been dismissed by gender
experts as simplistic pop psychology. Masculinity, say the experts, has always been something of a
stage act, shaped rather like fashion to the culture and the times men live in.

PROF DAVID BUCHBINDER: The notion that somehow we can get behind the mask to the real essence of
the person behind it, I think is perhaps something of a wild goose chase.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: But the men's movement guru has always made a point of ignoring his critics.

And after two decades in the field, younger men, he says, are at least making headway on the
generations before them.

STEPHEN BIDDULPH: There was this hunger for a guy that you could actually talk to and who could
talk to the kids and was real. We've shifted from the 1950s man who was like a log of wood.

TRACY BOWDEN: Deborah Cornwall with that report.