#IMD2019: Let's talk about men

Wayne
Campbell

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. — Edmund Burke

There are some in the society who continue to question why we celebrate International Men's Day, given the patriarchal society, and indeed world, in which we live. There are those who would quickly add: Isn't every day International Men's Day? Obviously, this is not so; hence, International Men's Day is set aside to highlight the achievements of men in all spheres of their lives, as well as to identify the link with men's issues and that of sustainable development of our societies.

Commemorated annually on November 19, International Men's Day facilitates a space in which issues surrounding men and boys can be interrogated and discussed. Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, history lecturer at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago, initiated the celebration of International Men's Day on November 19, 1999 and is well known for his groundbreaking work making a stand for boys and men.

Let's talk about the issues facing men. Men's issues are real and must be discussed in a safe space. These issues include masculinity, manhood, male health, including mental health, paternity leave, boys' underperformance in the education system, gender-based violence, crime, the feminisation of the education system, improving the relations between genders, highlighting the importance of positive male role models for our boys and promoting gender equality.

We should not disregard the concerns impacting and affecting men. We ought to take every given opportunity to improve the relationship between both sexes, instead of perpetuating a climate of gender inequality.

Regrettably, the society ridicules men who are deemed weak. Men who are victims of abuse by women suffer in silence since they are not encouraged to seek help. Additionally, when they do seek help, sometimes they are scoffed at and stigmatised even by agents of the State. The definition of weak men is usually associated with males who show their emotions. There needs to be a wider societal conversation regarding how and where men should seek help.

In the powerful words of Donald Glover: “Black men struggle with masculinity so much. The idea that we must always be strong really presses us all down, it keeps us from growing.”

International Men's Day is celebrated in over 80 countries, including Australia, the United Kingston, Canada, India, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. We tend to operate on a premise that all men are the same; the truth is there are multiple masculinities on the continuum, and as such we should cater as much as possible to the diverse and complex strands of masculinities, not only locally, but also on a regional and global level.

There is still much work to do in order for us to challenge, and indeed rewrite, the gender stereotypes surrounding masculinity and manhood. Some of the popular ones are “men don't cry” and “man up!” Arguably, the strand of toxic masculinity is responsible for promoting this rigid gender stereotypes which has taken over much of the society. In some quarters there is a deliberate attempt to discount the emotional experiences of men and boys. We need to move away from such a discourse and instead become more responsive to the needs to men.

The construction of masculinity, especially Caribbean masculinity, needs to be revisited. The traditional gender binary is that masculinity is wrapped in toughness and physical strength. This notion needs to be re-examined to take into account the variations in cultures and masculinities. There are other characteristics of masculinity such as honour, ambition, compassion, and emotional intelligence. This paradigm shift is especially important as we try to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 5 of promoting gender equality.

International Men's Day is celebrated in a number of different ways. There are public seminars and classroom activities which help to promote the day. There are panel discussions and lectures also, and in some countries there are awards ceremonies and art exhibitions held to bring attention to the day.

Of course, we cannot forget the impact of social media in promoting and celebrating International Men's' Day. The Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network will be facilitating a men's-only forum on International Men's Day at 20 Lady Musgrave Road in St Andrew to discuss mental health and masculinity. Do we need to hear more from the Bureau of Gender Affairs regarding issues impacting men and boys? The Bureau of Gender Affairs is still viewed as an organisation promoting only women's issues. The bureau needs to do more to change the public's perception, and one way is to champion the rights of men and boys.

On this International Men's Day, let us make a difference for the men and boys in our communities and society. As men, we need to lead by example and hold each other accountable. We all desire to live in a better society, and by providing a platform in which men can speak candidly and freely about their issues we are creating an atmosphere for both genders to coexist harmoniously.

Let us recommit ourselves to do better in those areas which we have fallen short, areas such as sexual responsibility and parenting. Let us use International Men's Day as a platform geared at providing opportunities for people everywhere to appreciate and celebrate the men in their lives and the contribution they make to society for the greater good for all. Happy International Men's Day.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Send comments to the Observer or waykam@yahoo.com, @WayneCamo.


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