Redefining Masculinity – Initial Thoughts

by Joe

So, Friday June 5th may rank as one of the best days at work I have ever had. The plan was to discuss and develop some key messages for the Youth Engagement Program. Initially, I had thought that it would be an average meeting and we would have settled on some key messages and “slogans” (for the lack of a better term) by the end of the day. However, this meeting soon consumed the entire day and was rich with philosophical and insightful discussion. As a philosophy grad, you can imagine why I would rate this as one of the best work days I’ve ever had. I’ll run you through some of the discussion as well as some of my thoughts.

We started the meeting by discussing what we had accomplished, or wanted to accomplish, with the program. Part of my focus, as I mentioned in my first post, was on the male side of things and how I would go about educating other males about the issues of sexual violence. During some of my initial research, I came across a website/organization called “Men can stop rape,” most notably their MOST club. The program looks at how we can redefine masculinity and dispel many harmful rumors and myths about what it means to be a man. This wasn’t the first time I came across this kind of “redefining masculinity” message, so this discovery caught my attention. Naturally, I brought it up in our meeting; things seemed to take off from there.

One of the goals of CCASA is to help educate people on how sexual violence affects everyone, not just women. The findings are that patriarchy in general ends up hurting men as well as women. This sentiment is shared by many men’s organizations that are dealing with the issues of sexual violence. Men grow up with several harmful ways of thinking that don’t allow them to truly express themselves (ie. “men aren’t emotional;” “men solve their own problems;” “men are stoic;” and so on – I’ll provide a more detailed list in another post). Now if we were wearing furs, carrying clubs made from bone and chasing down saber-toothed tigers, this would be fantastic advice. Unfortunately, while times have changed, how we think of masculinity has not.

Part of what these “codes” and “rules” teach prevent men from feeling like it’s okay to talk about their feelings or ask for help when they truly need it. Moreover, these “rules” have taught society that any man who does ask for help or begins to express his feelings is strange.

Our society is more social and open than ever; any philosophy that shuns open communication is bound to be a harmful one. This is where the redefinition of man comes in. If we redefine masculinity by taking a logical and rational approach we can keep all the things that make us proud to be men, while changing our beliefs to be more in keeping with the times. Let us move with the changes, not stand against them.

I apologize for the preachiness of that last bit, but I need to be clear that this is something I feel very strongly about. Redefining masculinity will help further the goal of equality and understanding, while helping men to truly understand what it means to be “a man.” I know I said I was going to go through the entire meeting but it appears, by the length of this post alone, that it’s a much larger issue that will have to be discussed over a longer period of time. So from here on out I’ll be maintaining an ongoing discussion of this issue. With each post, I’ll add more of my own thoughts and I hope that you’ll start adding your own thoughts on this issue, as well.

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