Eamonn Marra infiltrates the ‘Men’s Summit’ in Wellington, and finds a group of damaged men. They seem like sympathetic characters. Then the presentations start…
Update, May 30 2017: Hans Laven, the clinical psychologist who appears in this story, has contacted The Spinoff contesting the account of his speech. Please scroll to the foot of the article to read his rebuttal.
Originally published May 2017
The morning I was due to attend the Men’s Summit, organised by the unofficial Ministry of Men’s Affairs, I changed clothes twice. I had a wave of anxiety that I would be outed as an imposter, and was trying to find my most conservative men’s-rights-esque outfit. As I cycled to the conference, I worried that cycling was somehow a feminist act that would give me away. I was certain there would be something inherently ‘pro women’ about the way I looked or dressed, something that would easily identify me as an outsider amongst the Men’s Summit.
As it turns out, there wasn’t. No one questioned my right or intentions being there throughout the day. Still, I chose to park my bike around the corner, just in case.
The journey to the summit had been tumultuous, with organisers having lost both their guest MC (Labour MP Kelvin Davis) and two different venues (The Grand Hall at Parliament and Miramar Links Golf Course conference room). On the day, they had settled for Kerry Bevin, head of men’s activist organisation The Ministry of Men’s Affairs, as MC and the boardroom at the Master Builders’ building in Wellington as the venue. The size of the new location did nothing to alleviate my fear that I would be seated at a table with less than 10 men and would be caught out as an imposter.
Although the summit was about men’s rights, I do not want to label it as a Men’s Rights Activist or MRA conference. There are certain associations with the term MRA that they are generally young, right wing, anti-feminist men, that generally hang out in…