Like countless other women, I go weeks with numerous encounters with men ending sourly. It’s easy to get filled with revolting hate for them, especially when you’re also getting rape, domestic abuse and sexual assault news thrown at you every day. But once in a while, I’m left flabbergasted by a man who is refreshingly aware of his privilege, a man that coaxes out the best version of you, a man that understands and respects his boundaries clearly, a man that’s not afraid to openly support you, a real man. It is truly beautiful.
I need more men like that in my life. They’re out there, but they are rare. This world needs all the little boys to grow up to be like him. These men vital to the fight for a fairer world for women. Men die by suicide 3.57x more often than women. These “woke” men are a lot less likely to be a part of that statistic drops. So how do we encourage boys to grow up to be men that are physically, mentally and emotionally strong?
The first thing is discussion. Justin Baldoni has sparked this discussion on a level never reached before through his TED Talk, “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough.'” He now has a beautiful program that he launched soon after to continue the discussion called “Man Enough.” It’s already changed a lot of lives. This topic needs to become an integral chapter of parenting books. All kids should be taught about consent just like they’re taught about the concept of sharing, caring and giving. All kids should be taught to control their frustration and anger in a healthy manner instead of letting boys hit and scream and giving girls dirty looks for doing the same.
The discussion and change starts with you.
But things aren’t always that simple. The situation isn’t going to change overnight and women will continue to live with their life on the line throughout the process. So, when do we start talking to today’s teen boys about the dangers that women face? When do we teach them how to spot warning signs and how to step in before things get messy? How do we teach them about telling their friends to firmly stop doing things without having to worry about their ego? How do we help men recognize their privilege and how they can help do something to even the playing field?
These are important questions with no easy answers. The tricky part is that the girls were rarely explicitly taught or told about these things either. Our parents told us not to go out at night alone and we only figured out why when we were coming home late at night with friends and a random old man started following us while calling out obscene things. It’s tough, but we have to talk about it with almost every age and gender.
Photo: Helena Lopes