The network began with a call to action in a Swedish daily paper in 1993, in reaction to the violence against women and children in the wars in the Balkans (1991–2001). When the wars broke out in the early 90s, various human rights organisations reported how women and children were being systematically subjected to sexualized violence during the armed conflicts. In the call, the signatories wrote that this violence must end and that men themselves must do something about men’s violence. All men were urged to join an informal network against men’s violence. Many people responded to the call and a network formed that year aiming to encourage men to take action against men’s violence. The Swedish branch of Save the Children hosted the network during its first few years, but in 1999, MÄN was registered as an independent organisation.
Important work in those first years included formulating a clear ideological and feminist foundation, and an ideological platform was developed for the collection of ideas, perspectives and principles upon which to base the organisation’s work. MÄN’s experience from activism was merged with current research and knowledge on gender equality, masculinity norms, power analysis and more. The platform has been updated and remains a central, fundamental document for the entire organisation, including members, elected officers, volunteers and employees.
The organisation has grown continuously over the years, both in terms of activities and number of members. In autumn 2017, the issue of men’s violence against women landed at the top of the political agenda through the global #metoo protest movement. In Sweden, petitions from women in all professional spheres, signatures from hundreds of thousands of women, and stories shared on social media constituted an unprecedented movement that challenged the culture of silence surrounding men’s violence against women. #Metoo unveiled the magnitude of the problem, to the surprise of most men. Many men were looking for a way to become a constructive part of the solution. Within a few weeks, MÄN’s membership tripled.
Today, MÄN is a recognised feminist actor with an ideological compass characterised by a sharp eye on the structures that contribute to men’s violence, and a kind eye on individual men in personal encounters.