This "All Male" Office Was Proposed In Australia For The Most Ignorant Reason Ever & Obviously The Internet Is Firing Back
Does the world need more all-male offices? Two Australian entrepreneurs think so. They’re launching a men's-only co-working space in Brisbane, called “Nomadic Thinkers,” that will offer dudes an exclusive space to work, as well as a café and gym. A recent Junkee interview with founders Samuel Monaghan and Matt Mercer has sparked an intense backlash online, and it’s not hard to see why: Their justifications for creating an all-male work space are seriously messed up.
Let me start this by saying that I don’t think gendered spaces are inherently bad or discriminatory. As Junkee points out, female-only co-working spaces already exist — although it’s important to acknowledge that women-only entrepreneurial groups have typically been built to support a minority workforce (In Australia, only a quarter of new startups are founded by women). Having exclusive spaces for the people who already dominate a professional field is not quite the same thing (and I wonder if they are even necessary, as I’d imagine that most men in male-dominated fields aren’t lacking in male peers). Nevertheless, I don’t have anything against male gathering-spaces per se; although they don’t deal with the same systemic, historically embedded prejudices that women deal with in the labor force and nearly every other aspect of their lives, it’s fair to say that men do face challenges that are specific to them. Although we tend to focus on the restrictive gender stereotypes imposed on women, men also grapple with powerful, oppressive gender norms, and it’s not a bad thing for men, together, to address how those norms shape their lives and impact what it means to be a man in contemporary culture.
The problem with “Nomadic Thinkers” isn’t so much the concept itself, as it is the founders’ stated reasons for creating it, which are misguided, misinformed, offensive, and sexist. Monaghan told Junkee that an exclusively-male office space would help curb domestic violence. “We both had a mate who ended up in a violent situation with his wife,” he said. “He pushed his wife over.” He suggested that domestic violence “stems from depression in many cases,” adding that “Depression and suicide result from a lack of social support and community.” His solution? “Having a space where they [men] can be men is more of a preventative measure,” he said. “Healthy, happy men don’t hit their wives.”
So… he’s saying that we need to just let dudes be dudes… so that they won’t abuse women? And that, for a man to be “happy” and “healthy” — and therefore not abuse his partner — he needs to avoid women in the workplace? Er… that's some victim-blaming BS right there. (As Junkee points out, research does not suggest that that people commit domestic violence because of depression.)
Monaghan continues, “We live in a stoic culture. As guys in Australia we’re told to suck it up. When women are around we have trouble being vulnerable.” And then he adds this doozy:
I’m 25 and I’ve grown up in this culture where we don’t have any rites of passage. In other cultures you go out and hunt in a forest for three days. We just hit 15 and start drinking. There’s a real loss of identity for men. We used to go to war together. Girls do it better naturally, they have tea parties and stuff.
Just… what? Are we living in Downton Abbey?
Unsurprisingly, readers were quick to clap back against Nomadic Thinkers, especially the suggestion that domestic violence is caused by depression, which is, apparently, somehow caused by being around women.
On November 2, Monaghan and Mercer took down the Nomadic Thinkers’ social media accounts and made its blog private (though the company’s website says the closures occurred so that they could “review images used to ensure there are no copyright breaches.”)
The Nomadic Thinkers team apologized for the remarks in a statement posted today, writing,
Firstly, we would like to acknowledge the public anger as a result of a Junkee article on Tuesday. Unfortunately, it has come across that we trivialise the significance of domestic violence and depression. We would like to express our apologies as this is not the case. Our intention is and has always been to highlight the seriousness and social costs of these issues, and take an immersive and proactive approach towards action.
However, further research suggests that the misogyny displayed by the Nomadic Thinkers’ founders in the Junkee article wasn’t a one-time thing. Although the company’s blog has been made private, Huffington Post Australia stored the posts using Google's webcache, and their content is intensely troubling.
For example, in a blog post titled, “Why There Is Still Hope For Men In The West,” Mercer expresses the paranoid view that men should seek self-employment, because women are taking all of the jobs in traditional companies:
Given the cards are now stacked against you in the workplace with the younger generation entering the workplace perplexed by the rhetoric about the ever present patriarchy when in their context women are earning more than men. Not to mention the gatekeepers in HR with sexist policies where a candidate is selected because of their sex over their merit for number's sake to have a gender diverse workforce.
The Huffington Post points out that the study that Mercer links to actually shows that although young women are outearning young men, that dynamic flips by age 30, after which men earn more money than women for the rest of their careers. And women in Australia earn an average of 16.2 percent less than men, so I find it hard to believe that men are really being persecuted in the workforce.
It doesn’t stop there. In another post, titled “Are You A Pathetic Man Child?”, Monaghan writes,
The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child is so true. Unfortunately we have a village of women because the men have been slaughtered and the boys have been babied and coddled in cotton wool. It's time to create some men again.
I don’t even know where to start with this. I’ll be brief: NOPE.
There are many other examples (which HuffPo has helpfully compiled), including the claim that men are regularly "persecuted for expressing their masculinity," but if I keep reading these posts my brain is going to melt and ooze out of my ears in protest.
You know, I’m a little conflicted about this whole “men’s only work space” thing because, on the one hand, I think the Nomadic Thinkers founders’ reasons for creating the space are offensive and wrong, and to encourage such an enterprise would be to condone the spread of misinformation about domestic violence, as well as misogynist paranoia about men somehow being stripped of their role in society. On the other hand, if the views of the clientele at this workspace reflect those of its founders, I certainly wouldn’t want to work with those people. So maybe having them separated in their own little cozy cave benefits everyone after all.