Monday, October 01, 2018

If you’re a man, do you have to be a ‘bloke’ in order to sing?

There are plenty of opportunities for men to sing together these days. They are called things like “Sing like a bloke” or you can even go to ‘BlokeFest’.

barbara furtuna

Does that mean that men have to be ‘blokes’ to sing? Of course not!

I ran a men’s singing day a few years back and was struggling with the publicity blurb. I tried terms like ‘guys’, ‘gents’, ‘chaps’ and even ‘blokes’.

I sent it to a few men for comments before I published it. I was surprised at the number who said they didn’t identify with these terms. If they saw that kind of publicity it wouldn’t apply to them so they wouldn’t come. Why couldn’t they just be ‘men’?

It got me thinking.

I see where people are coming from with things like BlokeFest and Chaps Choir and “Singing in the shed”. It’s an attempt to be light-hearted and to emphasise the camaraderie amongst men. “We’re all in this together and it’s fun.”

That’s exactly what I used to think.

But now I’m more careful. Not every man out there is in on the joke and can be put off surprisingly easily.

It’s brilliant that events like those I’ve mentioned above exist. They are extremely popular and anything that gets men singing is to be applauded.

But don’t forget all those men out there who don’t identify as ‘blokes’ who might get left behind. We need to make sure that there is a wide range of opportunities for men to sing, each with its own flavour.

The danger is that ‘blokes singing’ becomes yet another stereotype. There is already the stereotype of football-loving, beer-swilling men singing raucously. Alongside these we need other role models for men and singing.

The same goes for women’s singing events and mixed singing events. We need to use language carefully when promoting these so we include as many people as possible.

I remember once being asked if I had any “songs suitable for men”. There is no such thing. Every man is different (as is every woman), with their own tastes. We need to be careful when we lump any group of people together.

Let’s celebrate men singing together. Let’s try and recruit more men to our choirs and singing workshops. But let’s be aware of the language we use when we’re doing that.

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Chris Rowbury



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