Anti-male cul­ture de­stroy­ing our youth

Jamaica Gleaner - - RELIGION & CULTURE - Dr Glenville Ashby Con­trib­u­tor Feed­back: glenvil­leashby@gmail.com or fol­low him on Twit­ter@glenvil­leashby

IN 1999, Trinida­dian Dr Jerome Teelucks­ingh launched In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day, an am­bi­tious un­der­tak­ing that is un­re­stricted by gen­der, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or re­li­gious creed. Ob­served an­nu­ally on Novem­ber 19 (his fa­ther’s birth­day), it calls for pos­i­tive male role mod­els in all walks of life; the cel­e­bra­tion of men’s pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to fam­ily life; a fo­cus on men’s health and spir­i­tual well-be­ing; im­prov­ing long gen­der re­la­tions; com­bat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against men in ar­eas of so­cial ser­vices and law; and cre­at­ing a safer world where peo­ple can op­ti­mise their abil­i­ties.

Dr Teelucks­ingh has long been an ac­tivist for so­cial jus­tice, and has writ­ten and spo­ken ex­ten­sively on labour move­ments and work­ers’ rights in the Caribbean. His ac­tivism turned to ad­dress­ing the spir­i­tual, cul­tural and psy­cho­log­i­cal short­com­ings of men partly caused by shifts in gen­der roles, male stereo­typ­ing, and so­cial in­sti­tu­tions that have over­whelm­ingly sided women in cus­tody bat­tles.

Al­though he is the ar­chi­tect of this grow­ing move­ment, Teelucks­ingh de­clined a lead­er­ship role and prefers the ti­tle ‘co­or­di­na­tor’.

“This is a pure grass-roots move­ment that al­lows our many co­or­di­na­tors to func­tion and grow their re­spec­tive bod­ies as they see fit; so it’s not un­com­mon to see dif­fer­ent web­sites and lo­gos. That’s fine. What’s im­por­tant is that we work to­wards the same goals,” he said.

He calls In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day “a con­scious move­ment and a way of liv­ing”.

Teelucks­ingh said that be­ing a co­or­di­na­tor “should not be a bur­den­some job or one that de­mands at­ten­tion for the en­tire year”. He ad­vises in­ter­ested in­di­vid­u­als to “cre­ate a time­line which will show when, where and they will be­gin plan­ning the ob­ser­vance”. He also en­cour­ages co­or­di­na­tors to cre­ate archives of their spe­cific work un­der­taken on that day. “This is im­por­tant so that other co­or­di­na­tors and sup­port­ers would be in­ter­ested in how they could bet­ter their own work and im­prove ob­ser­vances.” He em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of the most seem­ingly in­con­se­quen­tial of tasks. “No ac­tiv­ity is too sim­ple, too in­signif­i­cant and un­wor­thy if it in­volves eas­ing the bur­dens of an­other

liv­ing creature. Each drop of sweat, ev­ery cent, ev­ery sec­ond spent in a worth­while ac­tiv­ity will surely as­sist in help­ing hu­man­ity and im­prov­ing so­ci­ety.”

BOYS AND MEN HAVE BE­COME THE UNDERCLASS

Af­ter a laboured start, In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day gained mo­men­tum when Amer­i­can-born Diane Aisha Sears was con­tacted by a co­or­di­na­tor in Aus­tralia. In sync with Dr Teelucks­ingh’s vi­sion, Sears as­sumed the role of United States co­or­di­na­tor. Ar­guably, she is now the ful­crum of a move­ment that is now ob­served in 81 coun­tries. From her of­fice in Philadel­phia where she over­sees co­or­di­na­tors in Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio, Alabama, Delaware, New Jer­sey and New York, she re­calls a child­hood that was cul­tur­ally and spir­i­tu­ally nur­tured by ev­ery mem­ber of her closeknit fam­ily. “I learned more out­side the class­room,” she said.

Still, she ex­celled in Col­lege and now works as a para­le­gal. Sears was in­tro­duced to ‘In Search of Father­hood’, a project that was un­der­taken by L.T. Henry, her men­tor. His sud­den pass­ing was an en­dur­ingly painful ex­pe­ri­ence.

“He suf­fered so much but I feel that he is liv­ing through my in­volve­ment with In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day,” she said. When she was in­tro­duced to Dr Teelucks­ingh in 2009, “it all came to­gether”. Sears ef­fu­sively praises the Trinida­dian lec­turer and ac­tivist. “His or­gan­i­sa­tion felt so real and so im­por­tant,” she noted. “When I look around I see that boys and men have be­come the underclass. There is so much em­pha­sis on girls and women, now that we are ig­nor­ing a fes­ter­ing so­cial prob­lem.”

COURT­ING TROU­BLE

Sear iden­ti­fies fa­ther­less homes and the sep­a­ra­tion of men from their chil­dren as an is­sue that needs to be ad­dressed. How­ever, she posits that skewed, un­nat­u­ral up­bring­ing of boys breeds dys­func­tional men that are in­ca­pable of so­cial in­te­gra­tion.

“Boys are gen­er­ally not al­lowed to ex­press their feel­ings, al­though they emerge from the womb with the same emo­tions as girls,” she opines. “When boys are er­ro­neously taught that strength is purely phys­i­cal – ‘to suck it up’ – and cry­ing is a sign of weak­ness, we are court­ing trou­ble. Boys must learn that show­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity in front of an­other per­son is a risk, and that is sign of strength, not weak­ness. Where does the emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal pain go? Ei­ther it im­plodes, lead­ing to al­co­holism, drug ad­dic­tion and do­mes­tic prob­lems; or it ex­plodes in the form of violence and sui­cide. It’s the ele­phant in the room.”

Sears presents stag­ger­ing sta­tis­tics on male sui­cide, the theme of this year’s In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day. “Of ev­ery 1,000 sui­cides ev­ery year, 79 per cent are male. Why then do men re­sort to sui­cide as the only op­tion to escape from psy­cho­log­i­cal, spir­i­tual and emo­tional pain?” she asked.

She re­ferred to an ar­ti­cle ti­tled ‘It’s So­ci­ety, Not Bi­ol­ogy That is Mak­ing Men More Sui­ci­dal’, penned by a Bri­tish jour­nal­ist. She culls a pro­found as­ser­tion from this ar­ti­cle that was pub­lished in The Tele­graph: An in­crease in men­tal health prob­lems, and in par­tic­u­lar sui­cide rates among men, sug­gests that the en­vi­ron­ment we live in has be­come more hos­tile to men. “If de­pres­sion is the mind’s way of telling us there is some­thing wrong in our en­vi­ron­ment, then the broader in­crease in male sui­cides is telling us there is some­thing wrong in our so­ci­ety.”

Sears has prodi­giously em­barked on a pro­gramme geared for in­mates at cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties. “In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day of Heal­ing and Repa­tri­a­tion,” she said, “un­der­scores the need for atone­ment and for in­mates to be in­volved in plan­ning their rein­te­gra­tion as whole­some and con­struc­tive hu­man be­ings in so­ci­ety.”

Al­though buoyed by the ac­com­plish­ments of In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day, Sears ac­knowl­edges the chal­lenges ahead and looks for­ward to work­ing closely with Dr Teelucks­ingh. “We must ar­tic­u­late and be true rep­re­sen­ta­tives of our mis­sion and ideals ev­ery day. Only then can IMD be in­stru­men­tal in trans­form­ing so­ci­ety for the bet­ter.”

When boys are er­ro­neously taught that strength is purely phys­i­cal – ‘to suck it up’ – and cry­ing is a sign of weak­ness, we are court­ing trou­ble.

Un­nat­u­ral up­bring­ing of boys breeds dys­func­tional men that are in­ca­pable of so­cial in­te­gra­tion.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Dr Jerome Teelucks­ingh

ASHBY

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