By Emma Doyle
TED Talk of the week: “A call to men” by Tony Porter.
I watched this TED talk and thought of all the men I know who have been raised and culturally conditioned to believe the rigid and damaging definitions of what it means to “be a man”. I have a male friend who some might deem a feminist but is really just a man who is secure in who he is and champions the women around him in his life. He tells me, “I would call myself a humanist who believes that the masculine and feminine of creation was divinely intended to be balanced and therefore equal in value and importance to creation.” He isn’t the least bit threatened by women and he doesn’t try to dominate them, appear macho, or act superior. This is one of the few men in my life that I would deem “safe”.
Sadly, there are far more men who are not safe for women. They have not been raised believing that women are equals or that all spectrums of their emotions are okay. Our culture’s tendency to characterize certain emotions as masculine or feminine is damaging to both sexes. Men are told that expressions of joy or anger (often tied to displays of strength) are ok but showing sadness, remorse or vulnerability is not okay. When women get angry or frustrated, they’re often met with snarky comments related to PMS and being a “bi*ch”. If a man gets angry his anger is not chalked up to hormones; it is somehow justified. This is just one of the many double standards that is found in our patriarchal society. If a woman cries, she accused of being “emotional”, yet do we not recognize anger and joy as emotions as well? Guys are told “men don’t cry” and have been conditioned to believe crying equates weakness. What if we were to shift that narrative to recognize that crying is a sign of humanity; that you have a heart? Fundamentally, we are all human, and feeling the full range of emotions is entirely normal.
Tony Porter mentions a young football player who he asked “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach tells you you were playing like a girl?” The boy’s response was, “It would destroy me.” Porter said to himself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?” Can we stop a minute and reflect on traditional narratives arounds girls and boys? Much of the violence against women like rape, assault, verbal, and psychological abuse, stems from the root beliefs men are raised with. The “man box” that many men feel stuck trying to live and perform within is crippling them and wreaking havoc on relationships. I am calling on the men of this town to rise up, leave the confines of the man box, and be free. Be better. Be your true self. Be safe.
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Emma Doyle works for the Fireweed Collective Society in Fort St. James as a Stopping the Violence Wellness Worker.