At last year’s Rocking Ur Teens boys conference in November, we asked each of our male speakers what it meant to them to be a man. Each reply was so different but in the same breath the same; they wanted the right to be human, to be able to fail, to learn, and to thrive in life, without having to hold up society’s views of what it meant to be a man. Isn’t this what we all want? To be able to do this we need to set aside in some places the gender norms of the past.
I recently watched a documentary called The Mask You Live In. Even though it focused on the US, the messages were universal. I was fascinated by the way in which men are taught to uphold some very toxic ideas of what it means to be a man. We are taught that sharing any emotion other than anger is a sign of weakness and that we should consider how we can be powerful and can control situations to get what we need. Kindness, compassion and emotional intelligence should be considered feminine traits.
During my younger years I held on to many of the same views as the men featured in the documentary. I thought I wasn’t man enough as I was known to shed a tear or two, or let my emotion dictate how I reacted to my surroundings. Looking back I see now that in behaving like this I always felt that I had the power to take control when I wanted to. Also in my work this is a good quality to have, as I need to listen and be open to views that may at times conflict with mine.
If you take a moment to look at the men who have had a profound impact on the world we live in today, such as Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr, these men were concerned with the betterment of mankind and used their humanity to change views and evolve societies.
We at Rocking Ur Teens work to build a future where young men feel that they can be free of such toxic views of what it is to be a man.
I am firm believer that you are the action you want to see. I work hard to make sure that what I do at work and with Rocking Ur Teens provides an opportunity for young men to walk away feeling like they can see a different side to the personality, one that understands it’s okay to feel weak, that it’s okay to not have all the answers and it’s okay to wish that you could make some changes.
So as businesses build their diversity strategies around gender, please don’t forget the men within your organisations. Do not assume they have it all by virtue of the gender they are born into. This is one of the ways I feel that we will be able to address our gender gaps in society. The norms of yesteryear have to be let go and we as a society need to figure out how to be human kind, unified where it matters most.
Follow our social media for our campaign #WhatDoesItMeanToBeAMan starting on the 16th July