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Achilles Heel (Magazine, 1978-1999?)


An anti-sexist magazine that was produced by a working collective of socialist men and launched to coincide with the London Men's Conference in 1978. From the editorial of their first issue:

"For all of us it is a process of making public a very private and very important experience- that of consciously redefining and changing the nature of our relationships with women and with each other as men. In making this experience public and in beginning to develop an analysis around it, we are in a sense 'coming out' politically as men and raligning [sic] ourselves with the womens and gay movements in the struggle against sexual oppression."

Over the years, the strapline of the magazine changed, to include "a magazine of men's politics", "an anti-sexist mens magazine", "for a men's anti-sexist politics", "for changing men", and "the radical men's magazine".

An article on the history of Achilles Heel:

Challenging Traditional Forms of Masculinity

The magazine Achilles Heel is a forum for discussion of men and masculinity and a reflection of the diverse and developing ways in which men experience themselves today.

John Rowan reports:

Between the years 1974-78 there flourished a group called Red Therapy. It focused on functioning as a leaderless therapy group for people involved in political struggles, and was also interested in developing a critique of the whole area of therapy, counselling, personal growth and the like. When the group finally came to an end, some of the women joined the Women's Therapy Centre, and some of the men started the magazine Achilles Heel. This still continues to this day, and in fact the 21st issue appeared in early 1997, with a major theme of Fear.

Achilles Heel is produced by a collective of men in London at present. It aims to challenge traditional forms of masculinity and male power, and supports the creation of alternative social structures and personal ways of being. Some of this is really very simple and human:

'It's been five years since I recorded. I wanted to give Sean five years of being there all the time. There's a price to pay for giving attention to children. If I can't deal with a child, I can't deal with anything. No matter what artistic gains I may get, or how many gold records, if I can't make a success out of the relationship with people I supposedly love, then anything else is bullshit', (John Lennon, TV interview).
This is not the whole story by any means, but it is an important part of it.

The upsurge of interest in issues around masculinity has been very noticeable in the last few years. However, very little of it is critical in any political way. The 'new man' seen by Achilles Heel right from the start as media hype, has given way to the 'new lad', without much change in attitudes or behaviour.

Books and articles on 'the problem of men' abound, some of them very good, especially when they restrict themselves to health or some other narrowly delimited area. The picture that emerges is more complex than ever before. Men do need to learn to be aware of and express their feelings more, rather than denying the uncomfortable ones. On the other hand, some men's preoccupation with emotions translates all to readily into 'I want my emotional needs met but I'm not prepared to reciprocate'.

Similarly, men need the space to redefine ourselves, to uncouple misogyny and masculinity. Men basically still need to understand and question and dismantle the excessive and aggressive power we wield. The newly-green-affluent-consumerism doesn't exactly challenge the fundamental inequalities of our society.

Achilles Heel has got much better in recent issues, with a more professional appearance, better layout and style, and seriously stimulating content. Recent issues have focused on such topics as sport, men's groups. men and women, men and families, men and sex, men and rage and men and work. The magazine aims to interest all men (and we know a number of women read it too) who are concerned with the place of men in today's world, where we can no longer take for granted the old certainties and the old roles.

(This article first appeared in Human Potential Magazine for Spring 1996).

The Achilles Heel Reader

(an excerpt from the Preface)

In the collective discussions that went into the naming of Achilles Heel we thought of a point of vulnerability that was a source of change. It was partly a recognition that we had to be prepared, as men, to share our vulnerability if we wanted to change. We could not simply change as a matter of will and determination alone as we had been brought up to believe. As a group of men from different back-grounds we had learnt this for ourselves from our own years within a men's consciousness~raising group. It had been the emergence of the women's liberation movement in the early 1970s and the challenges it presented that had encouraged us to get together in consciousness-raising groups. But we also recognized that this experience had a very different meaning in the lives of men.

Partly it meant exploring the power that we inherited as men and had learnt to live out in our relationships with women and other men. Since we had learnt to take this power very much for granted it was only as women refused to prioritize our emotional and physical needs that we recognized the nature of our dependency. This was painfully at odds with the sense we had of ourselves of being independent and self-sufficient. As men it was easy to feel that others had needs while we could always survive on our own if we had too. It was as if to acknowledge needs was to register weakness and so to bring into question our very sense of male identity. It was threatening, particularly as heterosexual men, to share ourselves emotionally with other men and to learn to support and love other men. Consciousness~raising could often be a frustrating experience, as we had mastered, over the years, the art of intellectualizing our experience as a way of avoiding having to share ourselves with others. It was difficult to escape the claws of an ever-present competitiveness and an abiding feeling that others would inevitably take advantage of whatever weaknesses we happened to show.

If women were no longer to be expected to do all the emotional work for men then it was important for men to find ways of giving and receiving support from each other. We had to be ready to challenge traditional forms of masculinity and to deconstruct the power that we had in relation to women, gays and lesbians. We had to identify the structures of patriarchal power so that we could ally with women in an anti-sexist struggle at the same time as we changed the ways we related in our everyday relationships. In doing this it was important to take these actions as men so that we could work out a relationship with different elements in the women's movement. But, within Achilles Heel, we were suspicious of a rigid and moralistic tendency within anti-sexism which involved a rejection of men and masculinity as irredeemably defined by their positions of power.

Within Achilles Heel we shared a sense of this self-rejection of masculinity as being an impossible path. It fostered the guilt and self-denial that had always been embodied within a protestant moral culture. It made it impossible for men to explore our inherited forms of masculinity and the identification with a universal reason in order to find more personal voices which helped express the frustration and anger we felt at the ways we were expected to be. Being ready to explore who we were expected to be, so questioning the ways others, including certain tendencies within feminism, would define our experience for us, called for some degree of autonomy for a men's movement, though within the Achilles Heel collective we disagreed about how this should be conceived.

As masculinity was being redefined and as men explored different ways of relating to each other and to their partners, it became easier to name and identify the ways male powers worked in the larger society, to sustain particular conceptions of what it is to be a man. It was the particular task of men to deconstruct these relationships that were continually oppressive to women, gay men and lesbians as well as to ourselves.

Women were often suspicious of men getting together in consciousness-raising groups, assuming that this had to be a reassertion of male power in the face of feminism. It was argued that men had control of so many spaces within the public sphere that there was no need for men to get together in this way. But if it was right for women to be wary of the ways men seemed to be accommodating themselves to feminism, appeasing an anger that supposedly fitted other men but not themselves, it was often unhelpful. It helped to isolate anti-sexist men as if they were to be despised or pitied for not being 'real' men. This unwittingly captured something significant, for in the denial of masculinity there was often a denial of vitality, anger and strength. It was as if the failure to engage with inherited forms of masculinity meant that men had often failed to discern what was positive and life-enhancing within this inheritance. It was only as masculinity was redefined, not through reason alone but also through an emotional exploration, that we could begin to re-evaluate different aspects of ourselves.

© 1991 Victor J. Seidler; Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06351-5 (pbk)


United Kingdom
51° 30' 0.5472" N, 0° 7' 34.4496" W
Names of Producers/organizers/editors/creators: 
The Mens Free Press Collective
Timerange, Issue-nr, ...: 
1978-1999? (24 issues)
Copyright reserved
Grassroots media in Europe