Today, the 19th of November, is International Men’s Day.
For some reason, a particular memory comes to mind while writing this. I was in JSS1, and I had gone to put a call through to my dad in what was the school’s call center. On ending that call, a swarm of seniors surrounded me and went on with; “Oh, you have a boyfriend and you’re just in JSS1,” “Can you imagine this small girl?” It took me a second but the web of confusion cleared and I realized it was because of the tone of my conversation and the fact that I said “I love you” at the end of the call.
I had in fact been on the phone with my dad, but it took calling him back for them to believe me.
As a child, I thought my father was human, in his expressions of love, pain and everything in between. Not perfect; human.
It has been interesting to watch the reactions of a lot of men to the wave in our society; one where women are more comfortable with their voices and more determined to build lives that take into account their own dreams, purpose and aspirations.
Words like opinionated have taken on a less empowering meaning and outspoken is synonymous with being a noisemaker – because the status quo is being challenged and normal is taking on a new hue.
I remember when I was about 9 years old, this boy in my Arabic school had asked me out. He couldn’t have been more than 12. I told him off and he proceeded to say he would arrange his friends to beat me on my way from school. Even at that age, he somehow felt entitled to my ‘yes’, something he had no right to.
Our society has conditioned us, men and women, to think in certain ways, uphold certain things as normal and others as abnormal. I cannot fault today’s man for that. What I can, and do fault him for, is the unwillingness to relearn, to take off the garb of yesterday and “this is how it has always been done” and adorn the attire of “this is how it can be done”.
According to Mental Health America, over 6 million men suffer from depression per year and men are more likely to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, rather than feelings of sadness or worthlessness. Male suicide has been on the rise since 2000. Suicide is the 7th leading cause of death among males, accounting for 2.2% of all male deaths in 2011. Approximately 1 in 5 men develop alcohol dependency during their lives.
Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, NCADV, show that 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime while 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
But men rarely speak about these things. Why? Because they are MEN. And apparently, showing any form of weakness affects the muscle mass in a person’s body and make them appear less manly. Okay, not really. But men keep all these things locked in some dark, dank space inside of them until it festers, begins to ooze and affect their mental health and productivity, all the while expecting that others owe them respect for being men, because “you people don’t know all the things we have to deal with”.
Today, it is my hope;
- That you will be willing to unlearn and relearn.
We are all a product of our society. That is true. But it can only be a crutch for so long. Eventually, we have to take responsibility for the beliefs we hold dear and the actions and inaction they trigger.
Women speaking up more for themselves does not in any way stifle the rights that men have to speak. I truly hope that you’ll take the first step towards shedding off limiting beliefs and to question the things you already have set in stone about your place in the world and that of others’.
We will probably never agree on everything, but we will move forward in our collective awareness.
- That you will allow yourself be human.
You do not have to be strong all the time. You do not have to have the rest of your life figured out all at once. We don’t. Why do you place that extra burden on yourself? Because you see; the thing with a ticking bomb of disillusionment is that it will eventually blow itself, and others, away.
- That you will seek help when you need it.
It must be exhausting, constantly operating under the belief that you must always be self-sufficient and never ask for help.
Please seek help when you need it, for the sake of your physical and mental health. And accept help when you’re offered.
We owe the next generation, of girls and boys, a mind that is more expanded and a society that does not depend on “this is our culture” when questions are raised.