Sebastian creates a safe space for men

WHEN seeing the title, “ANU Men’s Network”, some people assume the worst and are quick to think it’s a group of men’s rights activists, but president Sebastian Rossi, 21, says that’s far from the truth.

Sebastian Rossi… “There was controversy when we were first starting up due to fear.”

“There was controversy when we were first starting up due to fear,” he says.

The network was founded by a group of concerned ANU students and  helps support men on campus by providing a space where they can discuss a range of “critical socio-cultural issues”.

The main topics discussed amongst the 500 members include mental health, relationship problems, image problems and insecurities around masculinity.

“Women definitely have it worse than men, but while it’s important to focus on women you can’t ignore men,” he says.

The network has a private Facebook group active for ANU students, which welcomes any gender to discuss men’s issues.

“The space has an anonymous Google form system where they submit questions and comments,” Sebastian says.

Not even the executives know the identity of members who post questions in the group.

Sebastian, who is in his fourth year of a science and chemistry degree, says it’s about making people feel comfortable.

Throughout his time at ANU he has needed support and, while there are a lot of great services, he hasn’t always felt comfortable when seeking them.

Sebastian says because he prefers to dress well rather than drink beer he is sometimes spoken to differently by people who assume wrongly he is gay.

“This space talks about men’s issues (such as Sebastian’s) without fear or reprimand and gives people support,” he says.

“It’s a space where people can say something without feeling like they’ll be attacked.”

Even though the network is adamant about not being misogynistic or oppressive towards women, sometimes comments fall through the cracks.

“We allow some of the ones that are blatantly misogynistic, but only if they’re unintentional – for learning purposes,” he says.

“But it doesn’t really happen that often.”

ANU Men’s Network has been active for just over a year and Sebastian is really happy with what’s been accomplished.

“If it’s helped just one person then it’s doing its job,” he says.

And he isn’t the only one. Women and people of all different backgrounds are getting behind the network. Even the network’s executives are a mix of males and females.

“But overall, we’re an apolitical, non-judgemental support group for men,” says Sebastian.

ANU Men’s Network and ANU Circle for Gender Equality will be raising money for Menslink at a social night in Civic, with speeches on gender roles. King O’Malley’s, August 10, 7pm.

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