How “Toxic Masculinity” fails the pub test

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.

Posted in Family Violence, Men, Values, White Ribbon Ambassador | 2 Comments

What is YOUR plan to tackle family violence in 2019

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.

  • R = Red Flags
  • E = Educate
  • S = Speak Out
  • P = Passion
  • E = Expand
  • C = Challenge
  • T = Tame the Tongue

I will write more about each of these over the coming weeks and look forward to your input and your own plans.

Neil Stott
White Ribbon Ambassador

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Family Violence is about Power and Control

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
• Stalking

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.

What is violence against women?

If you are experiencing family violence you can get assistance by contacting 1800RESPECT.

If you are a man and want to change, contact Relationships Australia on (03) 5820 7444 or find online support at No to Violence

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The time for excuses is over

The time for excuses is over.

With the news that 6 women have been killed in 5 days, it is time for a nation wide, community led response to family violence. (Refer to the Sydney Morning Herald article)

Men … it is time for you to dig deep and get past your resistance that White Ribbon is an anti-man campaign. It is not, instead we are calling you to dig deep and find the courage and ability to “Stand Up, Speak Out and Act” to prevent men’s violence against women.
Get educated about the issue.
Reflect on your own thinking, your own attitudes, your own upbringing that allows other men to seriously assault and murder their partners.
If you can change, they can change.
Great social change comes when we cry out “Enough is enough”.
Men, that time has come.

Neil Stott
White Ribbon Ambassador
Chair Victorian White Ribbon Committee

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Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

It is a great thing to be able to say I have seven Grand Children, 5 girls and 2 boys. They bring great pleasure and fun and tiredness when on “Grand Pa” duties!

Recently, I had three of my Grand Children up for the school holidays and they brought with them their own unique personalities and challenges and we gave them back to their parents after 4 days, sad to see them go but also appreciative of the challenges that parents have today raising their children. No other generation has ever had to face the challenges that the current group of parents have to face. Let me list a couple:

The Internet
If ever there was an invention of man that has the potential for great good and great harm, it is the internet. Through it we have access to the vast array of human knowledge about science, literature, history, music, movies … the list is almost endless. But when we think of our children and the potential risks to them … it is a scary place:

  • Online Bullying
  • Online grooming by pedophiles
  • Access to Pornography
  • Access to Online Gambling
  • Access to Violent videos

These are the obvious risks and there are probably more.

Then there is the risk around values and social influences the various celebrities in the world have on our children:

  • Singers and musicians
  • Movie and TV stars
  • Sports stars

The influence of their lives and words and beliefs and values can often far outweigh those of home and family and parents.

The worst risk out of all of these is that parents are often unaware of what their children are viewing or reading online.

Then we have everyday risk that parents have faced in every generation, their peers.
In the 21st Century, the influence of our children’s peers is deeply influenced by … the internet … celebrities.

But rather than ring our hands at the problems, there is the opportunity for positive influence from within the family, Grand Parents. Now I know for some families (like when I was raising kids) they may not be alive or due to their behaviour and attitudes are just as bad an influence as what the kids are exposed to from the internet, celebrities and their peers. But for a large percentage of families, the Grand Parents offer that “generational influence” that parents often aren’t able to achieve.

So back to my story. When our three grandkids were up for their school holiday adventure they soon collided with Grand Pa’s rules. Which was simplified into “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” behaviour. When they misbehaved, spoke badly and displayed the wrong attitude, they were challenged with the question: “What do we call that behaviour?” and they self assess themselves and given themselves the “Thumbs Down” on something they have done wrong. When they do something good, Grand Pa is quick to give them the “Thumbs Up”.

Having a well founded set of values in which right and wrong is clear provides a solid foundation for children to grow up as well balanced individuals. My personal Values is based on the Christian model and is worth repeating here:

  • I am made by God in His image.
  • I am called to Love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength
  • I am called to “Love my neighbour as myself”
  • I am called to live a life of Good Works
  • I am called to work hard to provide for myself and my family
  • God sets the standard for human conduct (which I won’t list in full but can be summarised as):
    • Right attitudes
    • Right actions
    • Right words
  • Our lives need to reflect the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23)
    • love
    • joy
    • peace
    • forbearance
    • kindness- goodness
      – faithfulness
      – gentleness
      – self-control
      It’s a pretty good list in both the Christian and secular sense and worthy to be aspired to. Of course the challenge is that we often don’t live up to this standard.

So here is the challenge, just like for my grandkids, is your daily life reflecting the good fruit in this list? Can you give yourself a “Thumbs Up” for your attitude and behaviour?
What will your partner, children, work place give you?

The greatest takeaway message for anyone reading this is your ability to self reflect and answer these questions honestly. And if you are having problems living up to these standards, get help.

A good place for help might be 1800Respect.

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