“Be a man.” “Man up.” “Grow a pair.” Young men are constantly reminded that there is a definition of “manliness” they are expected to live up to and grow into. This year, We Can! wants to talk about that.
We want to start honest conversations about the men we are, the men in our lives, and the different ways that they choose to be men. We want to talk about how young men are boxed in, silenced, and forced to conform. We want to talk about masculinity, and how in its prescribed, prepackaged form, it has had a toxic effect on lives.
“Secondary school made me question my identity and existence. Secondary school gave me a look into how a culture of masculinity breaks down special individuals with unique personalities little by little, day by day. …I could not believe that this was how the world was meant to be. We are more than just printed lists of personality traits that fit neatly into prescribed boxes.” – Alvin
We want to talk about about how people are taught that being a man means being “not feminine” and how that makes femininity bad and shameful. We want to talk about how men are taught to see women and how slowly, those lessons are passed onto others.
“I was never one of the boys. I was never allowed to express how I felt — emotion equals vulnerability, equals femininity. I was told to bury those emotions and hide them from plain sight, to confine myself to a psychological prison. Because if a man sheds a single tear, he is no longer that. He is feminised. He is less than.” – Kelvin
And, most importantly, we want to talk about the assets men have and the difference they can make. Because we know men who do this every day. Men who can and want to change the rules of the game and carve out spaces where we can talk to each other about how to create a freer, safer society for everyone. Men who are allies, men who empathise with women and non-binary folks’ struggles, men who are inclusive and accepting of men who are different from them.
“Don’t be that guy. Like, that guy who doesn’t take no for an answer. The guy who calls at women in public places, on public transport, and gets mad when they don’t respond the way he wants them to. The guy who doesn’t want to hear “no”, and so waits until his target is too drunk, or high, to say “no”. The guy who keeps pushing until “no” becomes “yes”. Respect the “no”, and move on.” – Robert
It starts with you – your stories, your experiences, your thoughts on how we can start talking, listening, and making change. What does “being a man” mean in a society that tells us it is the same thing as dominance, aggression and power? What kind of masculinity do you want for yourself, your friends, your brothers? How can men use their strengths and position in society to boost the status of men who are less privileged, of women and people of other genders?