The Stella Women Series with Lou Edmonds, Founder of Men of Manners and MenStylePower

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When it comes to advocating for change, few possess the determination and experience of Lou Edmonds. With a career spanning over 22 years in media, TV/video production, and marketing,  Lou first made a name for herself as a pioneering female publisher of men’s lifestyle content in Australia. 

These days, she’s turned her vision and work to tackling outdated notions of masculinity and addresses the far-reaching effects of gender violence through her work at Men of Manners, a gamified subscription-based academy teaching male teens etiquette, deportment, purpose and identity. 

In this month’s edition of the Stella Women Series, we had the pleasure of chatting with Lou to find out more about her trailblazing work in redefining masculinity, how she’s turning the tide on gender violence, and a sneak peek into her upcoming panel at SXSW Sydney. 

To kick things off, can you give us a quick introduction to yourself and your current role at Men of Manners?

“Louise Edmonds is my name, but many people call me Lou. I’m the Granddaughter of Australian boxing great Tommy Burns and fight for the next generation through an online youth academy, Men of Manners.

The academy came about after years of being a female publisher of men’s lifestyle content and my own story of being a survivor of child sex abuse, assault and domestic violence. I realised to protect our daughters, we needed to educate our sons. Yet, how were our young men being educated on character, morals and ethics? 

For many years I was an in-demand men’s lifestyle writer for top-ranked companies such as Nautica and Barneys New York, Sydney Morning Herald’s Executive Style, and, amongst others. It was during this time that I developed the preventative concept to turn the tide on outdated masculinity that not only harmed women but also harmed men, many of whom were often living with undiagnosed childhood trauma.”

As a survivor advocate, why are you so passionate about pioneering preventative concepts to turn the tide on gender violence?

“One of the reasons why I decided to be so vocal about turning the tide was because the statistics on child sex abuse haven’t changed in over 40 years. We still have 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys abused before the age of 15. And this just cannot go on. 

With all the parameters in place through government bodies, charities and helplines, it is utterly baffling that those statistics remain so high. 

But in truth, we have another enemy to face when it comes to tackling child sex abuse and that is the internet, the digital sphere, and the dark web.  

To give you an example of the volume of children at risk, Australia is the third largest user of online child pornography that is produced out of the Philippines. It’s now estimated that just shy of 500,000 adult traffickers are abusing children via live calls every day

So the online usage and the expansion of this material on the dark web must be called into line, and how we do this is through policy and media exposure by brave men and women.”

You’re running a panel at SXSW Sydney about “How survivor-led solutions can heal trauma”. Why is this such an important conversation to be having in 2023?

“SXSW launched Twitter, Pinterest and Uber –  and artists like Billie Eilish. It’s an international platform with great presence and exposure, not to mention gravitas. 

To be the vision carrier of the panel, I can see significant outcomes for those who will be sitting beside me and in the video panel. Particularly in terms of support, belief and investment to expand the already outstanding solutions for survivors. 

The tech arena is in a position of power when it comes to ceasing heinous crimes against children online. With a stellar line-up [including Grace Tame, Lula Dembele and Russell Manse], this is an Australian-first discussing the personal story of each individual but also putting forward sustainable solutions.

I have survivors who have found a way to get their solution and message across via art, music, television, podcasts, policy, safe houses, award-winning books, journalism and sport. It’s quite incredible.”

Alongside your advocacy work, you’ve got a stellar career spanning over 22 years in media, TV/video production and marketing. What has your experience been like as one of the only female publishers of men’s lifestyle content in Australia? 

“I giggle at this question because it has been good yet also challenging. I’m a trained stylist, which is a key unique selling point for MenStylePower. My mother won multiple awards in fashion design in the 70s – so it is natural for me to look at the overall composition of a person and reinvigorate their personal presence. I love doing this as I see a profound transformation from the inside out. 

MenStylePower is about style, of course, but I intentionally delved into taboo topics that men were afraid to speak of but were looking for answers to online. These included ‘The ugly lure of porn’ and ‘What it means to be a man in the 21st century’. These articles warranted over one million views.  From here, other notable publications headhunted me to write from my feminine perspective of men’s styling, which I was very grateful for. 

But the men’s lifestyle space is run by men, obviously; and sometimes I felt ostracised when speaking to some of my comrades in the space, especially when I suggested collaborations and partnerships. Let’s just say they never eventuated.

My vision for MenStylePower was always to teach men the power of emotional intelligence, morals, ethics and to create a safe space in all pillars of life. We need men to level up to us with EQ, gender equality and civility. 

I certainly saw that there is a genuine desire for this after being a part of the leadership team for ‘The Mentour’, which presented a three-day men’s event at Town Hall in Sydney, with over 400 men turning up wanting to know how to better themselves. ”

What words of wisdom would you like to share with our community of women at Stella? 

“The longer I live, the more I see how powerful women are in all areas of existence. I think what Stella does for women, in particular being unapologetic, is truly inspiring. In a man’s world, this calls for brave women to stand strong and tall and not sway from their convictions. 

I’ve met incredible survivors who are truly courageous in their field of work. They come up with ideas and solutions for everyday challenges, no matter how small. 

I would encourage the women of Stella to remember how much power is within their hearts and just charge forth with passion and do what they were meant to do in life, no matter how insignificant they think it is – someone needs to hear them and receive their vision.”

Find out more about Men of Manners Men of Manners – We Teach Aussie Teens the Social Code on their website and stay up to date with Lou on her LinkedIn.

Feature Image Credit: Cybele Malinowski

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