A Delayed Response
The one thing we definitely don’t need right now is passionate hot takes from men.
I’ve seen a few women lament the lack of response from many men over the past few days, and that’s understandable, since all of the fear and anguish from the latest landslide of GBV stories are directly caused by men.
Personally, I felt like this needed more thought and space and time than what is offered by a 280 character tweet declaring your shame at your gender. Frankly, the conversation I’d like to have just isn’t appropriate on a day when people are hurting as much as they were yesterday.
That conversation is centered around the questions “Why?” and “What now?”.
The question of “Why are men doing this?” is difficult to ask, because it feels like we might end justifying the brutality actioned by men - but if we don’t ask it, that’s even more hopeless because it means that we can’t change these men’s behaviours. It’s also scary for men like me to ask that question, because it forces us to contemplate the fact that we are entirely able to do these atrocious acts ourselves.
I’ve seen lots of answers to the “What now?” question over the past 24 hours, and honestly, none of them seem to be thought through. I think that’s because we want to treat all men as a monolith, as if all men are exactly the same with the same motivations. I’m not arguing against #MenAreTrash, or that all men aren’t in some way part of the problem. I’m suggesting that the reasons why men are problematic are varied.
We have to consider that men, as individuals and as a group, are complex and nuanced. That means that our solutions have to be complex and nuanced. That’s scary, because we want to find a one-size-fits-all solution that’s easy for all of us to execute and get on board with...but that solution just doesn’t exist. There are multiple interventions that are required in ALL levels of society.
That being said...that actually means that there is a little glimmer of hope. If men were all the same, simple beings, they would be incapable of change. I’m suggesting that we are NOT simple beings and therefore we not only have the ability to change, but the responsibility to do so too.
I can’t help but being pragmatic about this, so here are some obvious things you can do to be part of this change that is desperately needed:
Go to therapy (and encourage your friends to do the same). Men are mentally unhealthy, mostly because we’re not shown how to be healthy. At best, we lean on women to provide emotional labour for us, and at worst, we see the brutality we enact on women constantly. Getting professional help is the start to getting mentally healthy and self-reliant. My wife had the great idea of the “therapy selfie challenge”: men posting pics of themselves about to get therapy to destigmatize it. I honestly love that idea.
Watch and support #JustMen (and encourage your friends to do the same). This show is a great way to jump start your journey in defeating your own toxic masculinity. It’s a popular show, but the more support and funding it receives the more it can go to where the men who need to see it are.
Do more work in understanding how male privilege and the Patriarchy creates environments where men are able and encouraged to think and act in these terrible ways (and encourage your friends to do the same).
Listen to the women around you (and encourage your friends to do the same).
Question your own actions and motivations, and don’t give yourself excuses for your behaviour (and encourage your friends to do the same).
Demand a plan of action from the government (and encourage your friends to do the same). Tweet @CyrilRamaphosa, @GovernmentZA and email the Director-General of the Department of Women, Youth & Persons with Disabilities: DG@women.gov.za
This list is by no means exhaustive, and I would love input from other men about what we should be doing to improve the situation. Two things are clear though: if men are the problem, men have to do the work to find the solutions, and that is never going to happen unless we start to talk to each other. Real talk. Talk that is scary and makes us vulnerable.
Honestly, you might feel like you don’t know any men who you CAN talk to like that - which is why I can’t suggest therapy enough. It’s the safe space you need to do that hard work.