Life is just more challenging without a positive male role model

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Life is just more challenging without a positive male role model

Wayne Campbell

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality. — US President John F Kennedy

Not much emphasis and planning is given to men in most societies regarding providing safe spaces where they can freely discuss their problems. There is the tendency to narrowly define and interrogate gender solely as it relates to women's issues.

In some countries there are no support systems in place to address and intervene where necessary concerning the needs and concerns of boys and men. This lack of a holistic approach to gender affairs is problematic.

The lingering effect of this policy, undoubtedly, does have implications for women as well. In most societies, the overarching ideology of patriarchy is alive and well. It can be argued that those who make policies place all men in the same category — that of male privilege. This one-size-fits-all approach to gender relations is skewed.

The truth is not all men benefit from patriarchy on the same level. Notwithstanding the false and misguided notion of what a real man is, it is conforming to society's idea of what a man should be that results in the label of toxic masculinity.

The society's lack of action in addressing the needs of boys has resulted in recurrent issues, such as the underperformance of boys in the education system across all tiers. The Jamaican society, like many other societies, continues to grapple with the under-representation of males in the education system, yet not much is being done to address the problem. Unfortunately too many of our males continue to slip through the cracks in the education system.

State-sanctioned paternity leave would be an important indicator that the State values men and their contribution to family and development. We need to move beyond discussion to implementing the necessary legislation in order to usher in this new and progressive era. Men do have parenting rights and, yes, some men do suffer domestic abuse. There are some local companies that have made this bold move, and we tip our hats to them.

Today, November 19, the international community commemorates International Men's Day (IMD). It is set aside to celebrate the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. The day highlights positive male role models and aims to raise awareness of men's well-being. Matters such as dealing with health issues affecting males, improving the relations between genders, highlighting the importance of male role models, and promoting gender equality are topics which are of concern to the organisers of IMD.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), male life expectancy at birth in 2015 was 69 years, and for females it was 75 years. Additionally, the WHO states that the suicide rate for men is three times that of women. Suicide in men has been described as a silent epidemic and, regrettably, is a major contributor to men's mortality. In Jamaica, the high rate of prostate cancer among the male population is problematic. The issue of male health is a public health concern and ought to be given the necessary attention and resources to effect change.

Coronavirus deaths are disproportionate when it comes to one's sex; more men die from COVID-19 than women. The novel coronavirus binds to ACE2 receptors to infect cells. One research found that men have more ACE2 receptors than women.

According to Deutsche Welle (DW), the ACE2 receptor might play an important role because it serves as a kind of gateway for the diseases COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which are all caused by coronaviruses.

Unquestionably, the resources needed and the support services required are not invested in male health care, resulting in many preventable diseases going untreated in men.

IMD is observed in more than 70 countries. It was relaunched on November 19, 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago. The event in Trinidad and Tobago was created and coordinated by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh of The University of the West Indies. The objectives include a focus on men's and boys' health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. IMD is an occasion when men can highlight discrimination against them and celebrate their positive achievements and contributions to communities, places of work, friendships, families, marriages, and childcare.

As the society continues to evolve we must acknowledge and celebrate the good men who serve as positive role models. A society which does not appreciate and highlight positive male role models runs the risk of retreating into a state of chaos, embedded in a sea of toxic masculinity, which inevitably will erode good family life.

The society, however, needs to widen the discourse surrounding men's issues. At times the conversation regarding these issues seems too academic and tucked away in a privileged space. The dialogue must involve the narrative of more men; from the man who wipes the car windscreen at the intersection to the university professor, from the farmer in the rural area to the male who lives in the inner city. There must be a realisation that multiple masculinities exist and that the input of a cross section of males is critical in order for the State to create policies, programmes, and plans necessary to address issues affecting men.

Research has shown that having a positive male role model has a profound impact on the lives of children. Youngsters need role models in order for them to emulate and develop acceptable behaviour traits. Studies prove that children without positive male role models are more likely to be involved in criminal activity, premarital sexual activity, and do poorer in school. Life is more challenging without having a positive role model to emulate.

Peer pressure is real and ever-present. We all need someone to talk with, and knowing that a positive role model is available makes life less burdensome. Our boys, in particular, require positive male role models in order for them to excel in their academic pursuits.

As males, let us celebrate IMD in a paradigm of collective masculinity, while acknowledging the existence of multiple masculinities. Let us continue to play a positive role in our families, communities, nation-building, and development.

In the words of Edwin Louis Cole: Being a male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of choice.

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 Jamaica Observer or waykam@yahoo.com .


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