The healthy mind and manner of a 21st Century man
Have you, like I have, been dismayed at the horrendous stories of sexual violence and assault over recent weeks coming from parliament house, Sydney schoolkids and so many other places?
We all know that this behaviour is in no way a reflection of men as a whole, however, fully two thirds of young men in Australia recall being told that a “real man” behaves in a certain way, i.e. self-sufficient, tough, physically attractive, rigidly gendered, risk-taking. 60% feel that society thinks that a bloke that doesn’t fight ‘violence with violence’ is weak.
However, the expectations of a male in the 21st century is changing. The vast majority of Australians understand that this stereotype harms men and want to see these outdated expectations discarded and for men to know that they are valued more for their humanity, love, caring and kindness.
Those men who continue to box themselves into antiquated male stereotypes suffer. Their mental health and well-being is subpar. They demonstrate suicide ideation and risk-taking behaviour. They are overrepresented in road trauma and being a victim or perpetrator of violence. They are also more likely to be perpetrator of sexual harassment and violence against women.
- Work it out. Are you a mentally healthy man?
Take this test and see where you are on the healthy bloke scale. Using a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is “extremely mentally healthy” and 1 is “not at all mentally healthy – evaluate where you are on these topics.
|1. Do I accept my body? That it’s not perfect?|
|2. Do I treat women and girls with the same thoughtfulness with which I like to be treated?|
|3. Do I use my position as a man to advocate for women and others?|
|4. Do I actively create and maintain friendships?|
|5. Am I as emotionally available as a caretaker or parent to both boys and girls?|
|6. Do I accept that anger is no excuse for violence or abuse?|
|7. Do I experience and enjoy touch and affection with other men?|
|8. Am I focused on creating rather than destroying?|
|9. Am I literate in issues relating to gender, violence, gender fluidity, allyship etc?|
|10. And my increasingly becoming the person I am meant to be?|
How did you go? It’s food for thought, isn’t it? And will no doubt give you goals to work on to be a better man. How have you and your attitudes changed over time? Are you increasingly becoming the person you are meant to be – freed from archaic expectations?
- Jump aboard the ‘ally’ship.
Brittany Higgin’s bravery in speaking out about her experience of sexual assault while working at Parliament House is unusual. Her action has highlighted the stark reality that two in five women (39%) and one in four men (26%) have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past five years. Kate Jenkins, the National Sex Discrimination Commissioner in her 2020 enquiry, said “We heard that workplace sexual harassment is prevalent and pervasive: it occurs in every industry and at every level across Australia. This is not simply the story of ‘a few bad apples”. Her findings equate to 2 million Australian women having been sexually harassed over five years – a truly horrifying figure.
Sexism is systemic, a system that privileges men and translates into completely unacceptable consequences for women:
- One in 4 women will be physically assaulted in their lifetime.
- One in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
- 97% of offenders are men .
The inequitable system that privileges men with a power impbalance must change. Violence against women is a man’s issue. It is your issue; it is my issue.
Earlier in this piece I asked, “Are you aiming to be the best person, the best version of yourself that you can be?” One thing you can do is be an overt ally. Have you ever intervened when you have seen someone being treated badly?
- Men of good character, men like you and I are respectful.
- Men like you and I take responsibility.
- Men like you and I stand up and speak out especially if we are a real mate.
Sometimes anger is an appropriate emotion. It is how we respond to our anger that matters.
Can you recall being penalised unfairly by an umpire or referee. How did you want to respond? What did you actually do? We have the capacity within us to do the right thing – to control our emotional response – even when we get angry!
If we can bury the archaic blueprint of toxic masculinity and promote valuing men for their kindness and caring, we will be going a long way to right the balance, promote equality and remove the incidences of sexual harassment and discrimination in our society.
- Take away questions
- Will I follow the old school mantras or will I live out my personal values?
- How can I become a better person and move up to the good bloke scale?
- Will I have the courage to challenge my mate and stand up for what is right?
In writing this piece, I have pulled information from the following:
Article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Dr Kirsten Ferguson “As Parliament faces a reckoning, there’s on thing the Morrison government must do.”
Respect@Work: National Enquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces released by, Kate Jenkins, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner
Jesuit Social Services – The Man Box: A study on being a young man in Australia (iss.org.au)