Well I think it is about time we did! A firm believer in the women’s rights movement, my experience working with both young women, and with young men on masculinity, is that women automatically think of men as ‘the enemy’ yet so desperately want them to change. Young men who are working to be good partners in the home, need to be celebrated. Young men who are swimming against the tide by standing up in the fight on violence against women, need to be celebrated. Young men who have recognised the societal and cultural bias towards them and are changing the status quo, need to be celebrated.
Contrary to much popular belief, men really struggle with a sense of anxiety. I cannot throw any statistics at you, except for the one that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. Anxiety. Emotions. Through the masculinity work I have been involved in, young men have opened up and said they feel so much pressure to play so many different roles and still be strong. At the beginning of a workshop, they say things like ‘men do not share emotions’. As we move along, they realise that the anxiety is fuelled by them bottling up their emotions. We then journey together with some opening up, and others just acknowledging the importance of emotions.
So for me, it is important to celebrate men and boys. Especially when all men are painted with the same brush as recently happened with the #MenAreTrash campaign in South Africa during a high profiled rape and murder case. It is important that when women are beaten and raped and tortured, that men stand up against this and that they partner with women in outrage, and to minimise women abuse. Then we begin to change the narrative. Please don’t be thinking as you read: yes but women abuse men too. We know this but the stats tell us that overwhelmingly men are the aggressors – because they can be. My point is that we can change with concerted effort.
At the heart of it all, is that when men begin to see, to feel, to experience what their sisters go through, they change and for that we must celebrate. If men and women see each other as partners from domestic to political levels, there is indeed much to celebrate.
Gil Harper – AAYMCA
International Men’s Day focuses on improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, producing responsible males and highlighting positive male role models. It also looks at addressing issues such as parenting, positive male role models, families and healthy life choices for men.