The following headline, preceding the interview Eleanor Catton gave The Guardian caught my eye: ‘male writers get asked what they think and women what they feel’. It’s symptomatic, isn’t it?
To be accurate, Catton’s actual words were ‘I have observed that male writers tend to get asked what they think and women what they feel’. It certainly is an interesting and fairly sharp observation, but perhaps it may be worthwhile to go beyond the realm of literature.
I may of course be wrong, but according to my experience, males in general hardly ever get asked what they feel, let alone how they feel, particularly when the one asking is another male.
This might be a fundamentally Australian way of going about things, that is to say, a cultural trait. After all, Australia is such a weird place, where the question, ‘How are you?’, does not really mean ‘How are you?’ It is merely a greeting, not a question. Perhaps I’m clutching at straws there, but anyway, I’ve said it.
A few months ago, a TV campaign was launched by Beyond Blue to raise awareness about anxiety and depression among male Australians, particularly among the younger section of the population. It is of course an extremely laudable effort at making the community at large understand the issues of depression and anxiety, in an attempt to empower them to seek help when they feel or think (playing it safe here, I know) they need it.
What I found surprising (though nothing should surprise me anymore, really) about the campaign was the tongue-in-cheek approach adopted. The public face of the campaign is a doctor (an actor in real life, of course) who says rather funny things while encouraging viewers to go to the Man therapy website.
I found it rather sad that the (apparently) only way they could think of, in order to reach out to them, that is, so as to get males to take some interest in their own feelings, had to be through making fun of them.
I think it says a lot about the Australian male psyche. About how vulnerable it is, really; it also says a lot (and not too good) about the sadly frail façade many males hide behind in order to feign, to show themselves as joking, light-hearted blokes rather than genuinely disclose their own feelings to others.
But then again, authenticity is hardly something that defines our times. Or is it?