Kriticos Mwansa, known for The Book Club concept in the Benelux area, held his first Book Club in Helsinki on the 9th of November. Focusing on masculinity, the Book Club took place in collaboration with the Jäbät ja Tunteet community and the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux.
The session was based on the book The Will to Change: Masculinity, Men & Love by writer and activist bell hooks.
We asked Yohannes Henriksson, Project Assistant at the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux and participant at the event to share his experience of his first-ever Book Club.
A Deeper Need to Be Heard
By Yohannes Henriksson
When I first heard that Kriticos’ Book Club on masculinity would take place in Finland, I immediately saw two vivid mental images; one where a group of men were sitting quietly in a room staring at the floor, counting the minutes, and an alternative version, where we ran out of wine before The Book Club had even started.
However, to my own surprise, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
After the first question “What ways are the best to channel your pent-up emotions?” all the men participating started to discuss. Different perspectives and personal experiences were shared and listened to resulting in all the unknown men sitting beside me starting to feel less foreign. The pre-picked quotes then naturally confluence with other topics and questions leading to a flowing conversation highlighting the participants longing to open-up and talk.
After the first hour of the men-only discussion, everyone else was allowed to join in. At this point, I could feel a change in energy, as I felt that the safe space was disrupted. Nevertheless, by the end of the “open for all” discussion it started to feel more of a safe space again; a feeling that then lingered throughout the rest of the evening.
Personally, I feel like Kriticos and Jäbät ja Tunteet succeeded in creating an environment free of judgement and assumptions. To be among 11 (mostly) unknown men and to be able to speak and listen to each other about themes like love, emotions and how we view our male models and ourselves in life, was not only refreshing, it fed a deeper need to be heard and to open-up to other male-defining individuals. The Book Club ultimately succeeded in something greater than just an interesting discussion. The Book Club gave its participants a direction to follow on how to open their mental and emotional locks by simply discussing and sharing thoughts about masculinity among other men; a concept that is still foreign to most men in my own social circle.