Coming off the back of this piece, ‘Toxic Masculinity is alive and well, and at university’, one of the things I’ve been dwelling on is the comforting idea that somehow upcoming generations are much more enlightened in gender relations and mental health, and whether that’s in fact true. Perhaps it’s more likely than ever before for young people to have a grasp of mental health, due to the simple fact of it being implemented in schools, but does the same go for gender relations? The recent stories in the press about a misogynistic culture in private schools, and now at universities, has been truly disturbing and surely points to a lot of work still to be done. In some ways, I’d argue, it’s not the ‘fault’ of the kids, rather they are simply growing up in a social culture (and social media culture and porn culture), where harassment and sexual violence towards women is acceptable. Not necessarily deemed something to show off about, but certainly permitted. And it’s why change in this way has to involve men and older boys to step up and educate, to illustrate and exemplify that respect and empathy and connection with women is the way to operate. That they are not there as your playthings, or targets.
It’s tricky this area, almost too big to comprehend – I don’t know what anyone else’s thoughts are? But for me this all needs to be reframed as not a ‘women’s issue’ but a ‘men’s issue’.
I agree, it is almost too overwhelming to comprehend. It’s a bit like Black Lives Matter, just when you think that as a society we have moved on so much in fighting racism, only to find that we really haven’t, it’s depressing. I think with the issues around attitudes and violence towards women, although I agree that we really should stop telling women how to ‘keep themselves safe’, because that just adds to the whole ‘well she was asking for it dressed like that’ attitude, but turning the spotlight on men might not be the most effective strategy on it’s own. It might feel too much like blame and shame, which although that is very tempting to take that view, shame doesn’t always allow for the opportunity to change. Take domestic violence against women by men as an example, it’s like the national sport to name and shame men who hit women, and I have often wondered about how easy/difficult it is for these men to talk about their ‘shameful behaviour’ and ask for help. I guess we might need to be mindful of not keeping it one sided whatever our gender.
I agree with the points raised, namely, it is a complex issue and there cannot and will not be a single solution, pinpointing one section of society to change will also not fix the problem. There is much healing and listening to be done.
Personally, for me, I think starting with the question of what type of society do I want to live in provides the answers. Love and respect for fellow humans I think should always be our starting point. It is from there we find empathy and compassion in how we see ourselves and how we treat others.
I know this sounds abstract and raises the question how do you teach love, what does that do in practical terms to fix an age-old problem which is so deeply embedded in our society from the way we speak to the images we see. Well, I think it gives us a universal approach from how we make policies, how we provide justice, how we hold each other for account of our actions.
In non-secular traditions, there is a long-held understanding that we possess both masculine and feminine energies/ traits. Perhaps amplifying this understanding would help change the opinion of what it means to find strength and balance.