No-one who calls himself a man can sit back while our society is ravaged by toxic masculinity. The opposite of masculinity is not femininity, it’s passivity. All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.
Here are five practical ways every man can become an activist in the fight against gender based violence:
1. Start with yourself.
Every boy in his journey to become a man picks up a wound to his masculine soul. Because this wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed every man carries a wound, some quite mild and others very severe. As men, we respond to the wound in one or more of three ways. Firstly, we pose; we don’t feel we are the man so we play the man. Secondly, we fail to use our strength; instead of stepping up and taking responsibility we run and hide. We fail to stand up, be present, engage emotionally, take responsibility. We escape into all kinds of addictions; anything from excessive work or sport to sex or substance abuse. Thirdly we misuse our strength; with our words, physicality or sexuality we step over the boundaries of others, often women, to make ourselves feel powerful.
Every man needs to ask himself the question: Am I living out of the wounded boy inside or the mature man? Am I failing to use my strength or misusing it in any way?
And every man needs to consciously and intentionally embark on a journey to become whole where he brings to the world a mature, loving strong man and not a needy, wounded boy.
2. Examine your beliefs about what it means to be a man.
The four big lies we grow up with about what it takes to be a man are: sex, power, money and big boys don’t cry. The narrative goes something like this: “to really be a man you need to have lots of women, be powerful and have plenty of money. And by the way real men don’t share their feelings and vulnerabilities.” All of this is a lie. True masculinity is about using your strength well; to love, serve, protect and provide. True masculinity chooses love over power, service over dominance, giving over taking. True masculinity has no need to prove itself. Vulnerability is strength; to be able to share feelings and weaknesses shows a strength of character and self-belief that hiding them doesn’t. If this is not your concept of a true man you need to challenge and change your beliefs.
3. Be a great father.
As a father, you are the most important man in your children’s lives. They need you to be fully present. Are you deeply and consistently engaged in your children’s lives; emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially? If not you need to change that immediately. No matter what it takes, get involved and stay involved. Are you modelling to both your son and daughter what true masculinity is? You are responsible for modelling to your son how to treat women; it starts with how you treat his mother and it extends to how you treat every other woman. And to your daughter; how you treat and speak about women in general shows her how much you value her because she is a woman in the making. Treat women badly and by extension you treat her badly and teach her to expect bad treatment from men.
4. Mentor younger men.
There is a grave shortage of fathers and good male role models in society. Get involved in the lives of children who have absent fathers or are being raised by single moms. Become an active mentor and role model. True masculinity is a wonderful gift to society. Be that man who is a gift to your world. Show young boys that masculinity is good and teach them how to live it. Even if you are already a father, mentor other boys, there are many young boys crying out for attention from older men.
5. Be dangerous.
Men are designed to be dangerous. Never, ever to women, children or society, dangerous to whatever and whoever threatens women, children or society. Refuse to be passive. Draw a line in the sand and do not tolerate or condone any behaviour that treats women as “less than”. Examine your own words and behaviour. Many good men unwittingly endorse behaviour that hurts women by the jokes they tell, or actions they tolerate. Be that man who treats women as equal and valuable partners in life and who stands against anyone who doesn’t.