Such a good list. Comments please.
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Help for Men
- The Manual
- Video comments
Unfortunately to the average Aussie male (and males in other countries), the term “toxic masculinity” is heard as “masculinity is toxic”. This failure of communication brings such strident and strong resistance that those of us who are committed to reducing family violence need to rethink how we communicate this important message.
Men, we are with you.
But we are against your attitudes and behaviours that are just plain wrong.
But as we talk about the things that are wrong we also need to talk about the things in men that are good.
Which is why I am writing a book “Real Men Challenge” and encouraging this conversation …
What is a good man?
What is positive masculinity?
Happy for your contributions.
(See the original post on FB)
A firestorm has erupted over the last week with Gillette releasing an ad which portrays aspects of “toxic masculinity” and then a call to men to do better. In the same week, the American Psychology Assoication (APA) released a comprehensive report on the mental health of men and in it attacked “Toxic Masculinity”.
The argument after that on social media but also in main stream media fell into two distinct and opposing camps. Those that applauded the Ad and the report for shining the light on “Toxic masculinity” and telling men to get over it and in the other group who saw this as an attack on men as a group and especially the “good men” who treat women with utmost respect and are unfairly tarnished by the “toxic masculinity” brush.
As a White Ribbon Ambassador I talk to school groups, adolescent boys, fathers, sports groups and women. I completely understand the issue that family violence is a “man’s problem” as the primary perpetrators of extreme violence are men which includes murder (one woman a week is murdered by a man who is their partner or former partner). That “power and control” is at the centre of this cultural and attitudinal problem that man (and women) use in family situations to “control” their partner’s behaviour through a variety of means (psychological, social, financial, spiritual right through to the physical). When asked “what about male victims”, I can articulate the fundamental question back to those who are asking “are they living in fear?”, and most often they are not. For women, who live in a relationship that has family violence present (in all their forms), they do live in fear and need help and support to safely exit that relationship.
Having said all that, after reading articles by various prominent women who have come out on both sides of the argument and the APA report, it is clear that the term “toxic masculinity” fails the pub test. Ordinary Australians (both men & women) hear this this as “maculinity is toxic” and therefore an attack on men as a group and fails to recognise the good in men and the “positive masculinity” that does exist but has been lost in this “toxic conversation”.
I hope that as I continue to write my book ”Real Men Challenge” that those who read this can join in the discussion to clearly state what are those “positive masculinity” traits we approve and applaud in men but also to challenge those “toxic behaviours” in both men and women and call them out.
What is YOUR plan to tackle family violence in 2019
You might have made your new year resolutions and then promptly broke them.
But here is a challenge that just can’t be put aside.
In 2018, 69 women were murdered by their partner or former partner in Australia, more than 1 per week.
This is in the context of unprecedented public and media commentary about the causes of family violence and the issues victims/survivors face just dealing with daily life.
As a man, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a White Ribbon Ambassador, I know I am not alone in “Standing up, Speaking Out and Acting” to prevent men’s violence against women (and all of the other forms of violence that beset out society).
It would be too easy to say at 62, “I’ve done my bit. Time to hand over to someone else.” And in some senses I could. To see the graduates of the Pilot Youth Ambassador program become so passionate to do something about it means it not just all of us “grey hairs” doing all the talking but a new generation who are taking action.
But it is not just our role as Ambassadors. It is not just White Ribbon as an organisation. It is not just all of the other family violence services.
It is YOU. As individuals, as family members, as community members in your workplace, in your sporting clubs, in your community groups, in your schools and I ask you again this question. What is YOUR plan to tackle family violence in 2019.
For me, I am still battling on to finish my book “Real Men Challenge” and promote a “Positive Masculinity” message. But on this journey I still see some major themes that all of us can contribute to and I have used an acronym around R.E.S.P.E.C.T to highlight them.
I will write more about each of these over the coming weeks and look forward to your input and your own plans.
White Ribbon Ambassador
Family Violence is about Power and Control
Family Violence is more than just physical
One of the big myths about family violence is the idea that if there is no physical violence, then family violence is not occurring. This overlooks the root cause of family violence, which is “Power and Control”. This is where one partner (usually the male but not always), uses a variety of methods to ensure they are in complete control of the relationship and their partner is subservient to them and to their wishes (demands).
Several years ago, a friend of my wife and her partner came over for dinner. The friend circled the table a couple of times before her partner finally directed her where she should sit. This was so out of character for a woman who was confident and self assured and normally made her own decisions. This was an example of a red flag that provides the warning signs of a vulnerable relationship and increasing demonstration of power and control.
Power and control appears in many forms, and in addition to the obvious physical abuse, we see examples of this through:
• Verbal Abuse
• Emotional Abuse
• Social Abuse
• Financial Abuse
• Spiritual Abuse
• Image based abuse
• Sexual Abuse
All of these are used to take away a person’s independence, confidence and self-esteem and maintain power and control in the relationship.
Not so long ago, I was talking to a couple about the various forms of family violence and just happened to highlight financial abuse and how couples should both be involved in the discussions around money. Suddenly the conversation went very quiet and looks were exchanged. The man then got very defensive and said, “well I need to run the business”. It was plain that financial control was a problem. After I left them, that couple then had a very long conversation about each having an equal say in how their finances are managed and through that conversation took the first steps to a positive change in that relationship. Speaking out can make a difference.
Unfortunately, not all relationships can talk about and address these issues when they occur. Story after story tell of how one partner (usually the man) treats their partner as somehow inferior, stupid and incapable of making decisions without his help. In a process of undermining and disempowerment, the partner is eventually left feeling completely incapable of making an independent decision and feeling so worthless that they cannot conceive of leaving the relationship because they “need him”. Any attempt to resist or disobey or not meet the partner’s expectations results in further demeaning words or physical abuse.
Where the victim in these circumstances finds it within themselves to attempt to escape, the threat of physical violence and fear for themselves and their children often paralyses them, leaving them trapped. If they do leave, sadly we see in the statistics, the last actions of the power and control scenario is to inflict serious injury and even death.
I am sure there are men reading this who say, “Nah, not me mate.” And that is true of the many good men in our community who know what love is and how live in a respectful relationship based on an equal partnership. Unfortunately, there are many men who see women as inferior, sex objects, there to be the servant for the man and ultimately to be controlled by the man.
So, what can we do about this?
First, we all need to be able to take a “love check”. Are we acting out of love in our relationship? We often hear these words at weddings on how a healthy, loving relationship should function. I quote a part “love is kind.”
Being kind means listening to your partner, respecting their ideas and contribution to the relationship. Being kind means not putting them down just to make yourself “bigger”. Being kind looks for ways to encourage your partner to achieve the very best she can in whatever she seeks to do. Being kind does not demand the partner cook and clean and be at your beck and call. I am sure you can find other examples of “kindness failures”.
Secondly, be a role model and example to your children, especially your sons. Sadly, family violence is most often a learned behaviour. Boys grow up to imitate the sins of the father. But if you are good father, one who knows what loves is and how to treat their partner properly. What a positive influence that would be on them as they grow up.
Thirdly, if you see someone acting badly to their partner, “Stand Up, Speak Out and Act” and challenge the behaviour. There is an old saying that says: “the evil you walk by is the evil you condone”.
The time for silence is over. The time of courage is here. The time to call our bad behaviour is here, no matter whether it is your best friend, your brother or your father. If you witness a violent act, don’t hesitate, ring the Police on 000. Family violence is a crime.
Learn more about the other types of abuse that some men use against women.
If you are experiencing family violence you can get assistance by contacting 1800RESPECT. https://www.1800respect.org.au/
If you are a man and want to change, contact Relationships Australia on (03) 5820 7444 or find online support at No to Violence https://www.ntv.org.au/