What started as a social media group chat that allowed men to express themselves freely has become a twice-weekly podcast seeking, very publicly, to bring men’s issues to the foreground.
Derek Marshall, 42, who co-hosts The Senate Podcast on YouTube with long-time friend Neil Hoyte, explains that the group chat was initially created to discuss basketball. However, when the pandemic struck in early 2020, WhatsApp emerged as a safe space where men could discuss burning issues.
At the top of the list is the prevalence of strained relations between men and women. “We found we were all going through similar experiences, and then in our interactions with other men across Barbados and in other chats, we were seeing the same trends,” Marshall explains.
“The podcast was something that we wanted to do for a while. People were at home, there wasn’t much going on, and I think that was a great opportunity for us as men to say some of the things men have been wanting to say but have not been allowed to say.”
Everything from love, relationships, and fatherhood to mental health and the treatment of men in the island’s court system can come up when The Senate goes live on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Nothing is off limits, says Marshall, a primary school teacher who sings tenor in a cappella group G-Syndicate and is an avid lover of sports.
He explained men are increasingly concerned that the institutions within society, particularly those tasked with delivering equality and justice, are simply not giving them a “fair deal”. While he supports gender equality, Marshall fears such movements, because of an unwillingness to compromise on both sides, have inadvertently eroded men’s rights and created tension between the sexes.
“Is it really equal when [men] go to court and we know automatically who the children will go to or when we go out on a date that the man is expected to pay?” asked Marshall. “I think, for the most part, men accept their role as providers, but at the same time, many women are saying they don’t need men, but then when men don’t provide, it is a problem. I think that is where the confusion occurs,” he added.
The budding men’s empowerment movement is not without its challenges. Some have labelled the podcast as misogynistic, patriarchal, and chauvinistic. However, Marshall insists that The Senate does not promote division or ‘gender wars’. “It is about hearing the other side, the side of men, and seeing if we can come together and meet in the middle somewhere,” Marshall contended.
“I think we have got to start by acknowledging that there have been affronts on both sides, and that is why we kind of started this, because it seems as though we have been hearing about men for God knows how long, but it is only now that you are hearing men responding to say what is really going on and kind of trying to reclaim their image,” Marshall contended.
“If you are coming to the conversation believing that you have done nothing wrong, then there is no room for healing and growth, because those things come with the truth. There needs to be apologies on both sides to go forward. If we can’t do that, we will always go around in circles,” Marshall added.
However, love and relationships are not the only items on The Senate’s agenda. “We also look a lot at men’s mental health, which many people don’t bother about or take seriously. People pay lip service to it but never really acknowledge it as something important. That is one thing that we hope to shed light on,” said Marshall.
“And we know these issues are real when we go out, and someone approaches us to share an experience or to acknowledge that something they heard on the podcast is identical to an experience they went through,” he added.
The Senate Podcast, which has garnered thousands of views on YouTube, is in the running for Podcast of the Year with the Gine On People’s Choice Awards.
In May, the podcasters will host a live gathering entitled Kings’ Gathering 2023 to discuss various critical men’s issues, including fitness, mental health, finance and law. However, Marshall has extended an open invitation to women, acknowledging that as wives, mothers, and sisters, their perspectives will always be important. (TD)