We have found ourselves at a time where we need to unlearn toxic masculinity and teach our boys differently. The time has arrived where our young and old men have to be detoxed from the teachings they received about what ‘being a man’ is.
We grew up during a time where boys were ‘not allowed’ to feel. They are born with emotions but are taught to suppress them when they surface. The toxicity arises when we tell them to not cry, but don’t teach them how to manage their feelings.
“Boys don’t cry,” they hear, but are never taught what to do instead of crying. These little boys end up adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms that lead them to become broken.
Not crying is a drop in the ocean when we are discussing toxic masculinity. Prof Kopano Ratele wrote a book called Liberating Masculinities. Here, he focuses on freeing men from oppressive models of masculinities.
The only emotion a man can display is his aggression and women and children suffer at the teaching of this terrible lesson.
The World Health Organisation reported that South African men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. This is because we teach them to suffer in silence and never show their weaknesses. There is a commonality in male suicides. No one saw it coming. This is because we teach our boys to walk around pretending everything is okay when all they want to do is break down and cry.
Now, men just break down and die.
So, how do we save the lives of our men?
Parents have to make a conscious decision to end patriarchy in their household. This is according to Media Entrepreneur Olwethu Leshabane. She is a mother of three boys and recognises that she is not just raising boys, but raising human beings. Simple distinctions in the house on who can cook or work in the garden play a big role in instilling models of patriarchy in our homes.
It is this very flawed system that makes boys and men feel like they have ownership over women and their bodies. They are taught that they hold primary power over everything, and they take that. This lesson makes them feel like it is okay to slap their partners around as a symbol of love.
We have a long way to go as a society, and a constructive starting point is working on our boys. Prof. Kopano Ratele’s agenda is about moving away from toxic to more progressive masculinity. And we are responsible for making this happen.
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