Worthier ways for Men's Shed to assist

RIDING SHOTGUN

RACHEL STEWART
Last updated 08:57 16/04/2012

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Men's Shed NZ. Is it the outdated, laughable sexism that bothers me or the sheer effrontery?

Actually, upon reflection, it's not the sexism. Like most women I couldn't care less, am grateful even, about being barred from any all-male gathering. Fill your boots boys and know this. I have my own three-bay shed and workshop replete with tools for Africa. Not jealous.

It's more the gall to front up to a council, any council, and ask for something for nothing. In these decidedly austere and difficult times why would a bunch of - how do I say this nicely - stale, pale males not for one minute ponder the thought that their leisure-time activities don't actually register highly on the Richter scale of societal worthiness?

Just who are Men's Shed NZ and why do they believe they have the right to ask ratepayers to help them out with their solely male retirement anxieties?

Clearly a retired web designer or decent photographer is not amongst their current members but, from what I have managed to work out from their rather obtuse website, Men's Shed NZ appears to be largely about older retired males retreating to a joint man cave and predominantly playing with their own tools (or each other's) in a golden haze of aged bromance.

Membership numbers are not quoted on the website but it appears they have established a number of sheds throughout the country. One shed is even named Woodpecker Cottage. Cute.

I couldn't find a New Zealand mission statement so I can't quote that. Certainly these men say they assist with community projects from time to time but their PR doesn't adequately reflect the fact. They also say men of all ages are welcome but I could find neither hide nor hair of anyone looking south of 60. Other than that, it is a female-free zone where men can share a laugh, a beer, oil their vices and hammer on about, well, hammers.

In a way, it could be the Masons without the goat. Or the secret handshake. They do have grips though.

My disquiet is whether councils, and in this latest case New Plymouth, have any appetite to even consider the Men's Shed request. It is true that there have been other councils that have assisted in generally small ways, and some are still considering their positions. I guess it could be viewed as an easy vote catcher. Of course, using one's brains as a decision maker is not in the job description so anything is possible.

The other thing that perplexes me is how many men really want to share a shed with other men? If my father were alive, I can just imagine what his crusty, self- reliant and rural response would be. It is unrepeatable here but, suffice to say, it would be less than fraternal. I certainly know what my, admittedly, younger male friends think of the idea.

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Am I my being too mean? I know it's not an "and/or" situation. It's just that I don't care enough about ageing baby boomers wanting to play in their million-dollar man sheds courtesy of others. They can and do raise much money from sponsors and donors and could do again. I mean if Todd Energy can give $5000 each to both Jonathan Young's and Andrew Little's campaigns for New Plymouth MP then surely the Men's Shed would be a shoo-in. Who knows, there might be some Texas tea under that there shed.

Bottom line, the thing that really sticks in my craw is the fact that men, particularly white ones, are seldom aware of just how easy their life really is, and has been, by sheer virtue of the fact that they have dangly bits. The world has been their oyster but yet some of them still want their subsidised man cave to hole up in. Poor babies.

Another aspect to the whole retirement paradigm is how women cope relative to men. Studies have shown that working women are far more likely to engage in community volunteer work than working men. Further, this increases as they retire. Don't even try to make the argument that it's because women have more time. That has never been true and is arguably less true in 2012.

Where am I going with this? Well, rather than ask the public to help fund older male wants versus needs, the very few men wanting this shed could always go out and volunteer face-to-face with the public. That would really assist with their sense of wellbeing and get them out of the house - a constant refrain of the Men's Shed.

Child abuse, domestic abuse and rape are beyond rampant in our communities. Surely there are many older men who have wisdom and decency in bucketloads which they can offer to the cause?

I suspect that's what a real man would do.

Man with a plan . . . see below.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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