The Men's Shed Movement: The Company of Men

By Barton, Edward Read | Culture, Society and Masculinities, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Men's Shed Movement: The Company of Men


Barton, Edward Read, Culture, Society and Masculinities


The Men's Shed Movement: The Company of Men, edited by Barry Golding. Champaign, IL: Common Ground Publishing Co., 2015. 433 pp. ISBN: 9781612297873 $40.00

The Men's Shed Movement started in Australia, originally in small cities and rural areas, for and among working class men. The need was felt especially given higher mental health problems/issues and suicides among older men, often retired and with a felt loss of the masculine provider identity previously provided by their jobs. Barry Golding estimates there are now 1,800 men's sheds today with a new one opening each day around the world. This is not one of the branches of what was commonly called the contemporaneous men's movement of the 1980s and 1990s, however. Men's sheds evolved informally as places where men could meet, variably in sheds, garages, dens, and sometimes unoccupied buildings, as their activities grew and needed more space, while using their hands to build things, which they were used to doing as part of their work. It has also been a place for men who were unemployed, to work with their hands and feel useful.

Men's sheds spread from Australia to New Zealand, UK, Scotland, and Ireland. Canada has seen the latest organization activity, often in collaboration with various community partners, which in Canada include Movember Foundation, the University of Manitoba, and the Men's Depression and Suicide Network of the University of British Columbia School of Nursing. The men's sheds movement does not come out of any of the branches of what might be called the contemporary men's movement, which has pro-feminist, mythopoetic, fathers' rights, and men's rights divisions, and whose branches were rarely made up primarily of working class men coming together on the basis of a grassroots ethos. The former is more of a men's health modality for older working class men. Instead of working and meeting face-to-face, activities are rather more shoulder-to-shoulder. Though the notion is not emphasized in the book, what the men are clearly receiving is a form of social support provided by in-group socializing and from which they benefit, improving their health, and being part of the glue that holds the sheds together. Women play a role in various sheds. Sometimes they use the sheds at designated times for women. Many see the benefits that their husbands/partners receive from participation in shed activities and lend their support in supporting the men's participation. Women may also be the administrators for a shed or for a state or national Men's Shed organization, and some research men's sheds. In this respect these women are paid and/or their contribution is part of their employment.

Another component of the glue is public and/or institutional funding that Men's Sheds receive. …

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