When we start our journey, we're defined by biological characteristics: genes, hormones, cells, setting apart most newly born as masculine or feminine – futur men or women. Then life grinds its teeth and shape ourselves.
I remember very clearly the day when my French literature teacher in high school asked us, while we were studying the 18th century Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who wrote a lot about education, if we though that human beings are born "good – as a good person" or "bad". Fast forward with more years of life experience, I'm convinced every baby on earth arrives as a good human being, then his/her life environment determines his/her type of personality.
For the sake of this article, let's explore what it means to be a little boy and what's make them "good or bad" boys and, later, men. Tony Porter, one of the founders and CEO of A Call to Men explains what happens in a lot of cases: Young boys are put in what he calls the Man box.
"The Man Box identifies the limitations on what a man is supposed to be and what he believes. These expectations are taught to men – sometimes unconsciously – and reinforced by society. In the Man Box, men are supposed to be:
- Powerful and dominating
- Fearless and in control
- Strong and emotionless
- Successful – in the boardroom, the bedroom and on the ball field.
In the Man Box, women are objects, the property of men, and of less value than men. The teachings of the Man Box allow violence against women, girls and other marginalized groups to persist."
This whole concept comes from the cave age when surviving needed a lots of physical power but nowadays our societies arrive at a point where physical strength are far from being essential to survival, Brain is. And when a group is losing control, fear starts to do its job, men stay in their "Manbox" and the vicious circles keeps moving.
How do we break this vicious circle?
Again A Call to Men describes the process very clearly:
"Break out of the Man Box and live by the Principles of Healthy, Respectful Manhood
1. Embrace and express a full range of emotion.
a. Allow men and boys to cry.
b. Validate men and boys’ feelings.
2. Do not conforming to the pressure to always be fearless and in control.
a. Allow men and boys to be and act afraid.
b. Allow men and boys to ask for help.
3. Value a woman’s life, treat all people equally and promote the betterment of humanity.
a. Never use power, control or violence.
b. Never use gender-based attributes to bully or discriminate.
4. Do not use language that denigrates women and girls.
a. Do not make or laugh at sexist jokes
b. Do not perpetuate negative stereotypes with phrases like “You throw like a girl”
5. Develop an interest in the experience of women and girls, outside of sexual conquest.
a. Listen to women and validate their experiences.
b. Embrace female friendships
6. Model a healthy, respectful manhood to other men and boys."
Countless time, we can experience the advantage of gender collaboration, diversity, knowledge sharing, experiences, skills. Let's embrace the fact that all human beings have a masculine and a feminine side and actually let's not associate feminine or masculine to a behaviour: Men and women can be powerful, coward, skilled, cleaver, strong, sensitive, bad etc... Confidence in our tastes, our personalities, who we really are and not who the society wants us to be, enables to associate with a wide range of people on the same page or complementary to who we are, rendering the concepts of gender, sexual orientations and race not relevant anymore.
There's obviously lots of good men, it's not a revolution that needs to be done, more a constant steps forward towards a better education, that's where "good men" can contribute when witnessing bad behaviours. Go to A Call to Men web site – www.acalltomen.org, explore how you can help, contribute on a day to day basis. Nothing flamboyant, just normal behaviour. It'll help to:
"Create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful
and all women and girls are valued and safe."
I came across A Call to Men while looking for an organization involved in gender equality to be associated with a fund raising event. After extensive research, I found that lots of organization dealing with this problem are female ran. But as a young woman pointed at me, "you know there's so much we can do... most offenders are... men".