As the children were growing up, every year we would have the same conversation on Mothering Sunday and Father’s Day. The kids would say that’s not fair, when is it going to be Children’s Day? The stock response was…every day is Children’s day.
In case you missed it, yesterday was International Men’s Day. Now to be honest I think at least half of the human race (females) would say every day, for the past few thousand years, everyday has been men’s day. What did the song say? ‘This is a Man’s World’
For previous generations the lines were much more clearly drawn. Men the bread winners, women home makers. Men go to war (usually having started them) women stay home, worry and look after the children.
It has taken a lot of strong people, men and women, working over many years and generations, to challenge those ‘accepted’ norms.
The ‘good’ thing about accepted norms is that we don’t have to think for ourselves about the right and wrong of a situation. That’s the way its always been and that’s the way its meant to be.
Now that people question why only men should do this and why women shouldn’t do that, well it makes you question your whole existence.
Whilst the whole business of being a man has brought great economic advantage to the male sex and great power in controlling society that has not come without a price. What if you’re supposed to know what to do, how to lead, how to be strong and an alpha male but find out that you don’t and you’re not?
These days people call it ‘Imposter Syndrome’, those feelings of self-doubt that you are a fraud. I’m sure I speak for many of my sex when I say most of the time we don’t know what we are supposed to do but we really feel we should. And of course, you can’t tell anyone that you are afraid or lonely or depressed or lost. Real men don’t do that.
I think it’s no coincidence that the single biggest killer for men under the age of 45 is suicide, that men are 3 to 4 times more likely to take their own life than women.
On the surface International Men’s Day might seem like a waste of time but maybe taking the time to think about what it means to be a man is more important than ever. Not only for the sake of men but for the sake of the whole of society too.
Maybe it’s time for men everywhere to put our hands up and say I need help. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’d like to talk to someone about it.
Men talking to men would be a good start, opening up about their doubts and fears but the trouble is that maybe that would just reinforce another set of new male norms. The trouble is with a blind spot, you are blind to it. I would hope that I carry no prejudices, but I can’t be sure can I? For me my prejudices are the norms. We need people to say things that somethings we say or do aren’t right. Once we know what they are we might be able to start to address them.
This week we have had stories in the news of how ‘male group think’ can justify racism and sexism as some form of ‘banter’. Cricket clubs have been exposed for allowing racism to go unchecked. Old school political figures have been called ‘charming’ but ‘over friendly and handsy’.
People will say that its not a problem, you are being too sensitive, too woke. The thing is if we carry on that way, without calling it out, we are in fact endorsing that behaviour.
Talking is good and as men we need to do more of it, but we also need action. If our children hear us say one thing and act in a totally different way they will follow our actions not our words.
One of the quotes for this years International Men’s Day came from Mahatma Ghandi.
“We must become the change we seek.”
I can’t expect my sons or grandsons to be better. I need to be better and hope they follow my lead.
I sometimes worry about the job I did as a father and now I’m starting to worry about being a role model as a grandfather.
It doesn’t get any easier I know but lads, we need to step up even if that means stepping back or asking for help, or letting others take charge. That’s what a real man would do.