Getting to the Root
In a real sense, the root of the abuse and exploitation of women and girls at the hands of men and boys is NOT a mystery.
There is a crisis among males! A crisis which is due to a lack of understanding of the core truths of Male Identity, Manhood and True Masculinity.
When a thing and its purpose are not properly understood it is easy for a person to abuse (abnormally use) that thing to the detriment of self and others. So it is with male strength or power (be it physical, verbal, sexual, financial, political or otherwise).
|What Is Manhood?
So what is male identity? What constitutes manhood? In fact, who told you that you were a man?
Was it your turning 18 or 21 that made you a man? Or drinking your first beer? Smoking your first cigarette or spliff? Or maybe it was drawing your first pay-check?
Ah, I got it!
Your first sexual experience! Is that when you became a man?
It seems that there may be a variety of answers depending on who you ask. But is that how it is supposed to be?
I mean, is there no objective standard by which young males attain manhood? One universally understood and agreed? Or if not universally, at least consistently within the same culture?
|No Formal Rites of Passage
In our Caribbean society, there seem to be no formal rites of passage through which young males are processed to be declared a "man" in the eyes of the society.
Such a rite of passage exists in some cultures and young males are prepared for it by their fathers or if he is deceased, another adult male in the family, village or community. The preparation is as integral to the process as the formal event at which the young male is presented to his community as a "man".
Depending on the main activity of that culture, the young male is prepared so that he can function as an asset in the society, rather than a liability. He learns work skills so that he can, in future, maintain a family, protect his community, lead his tribe or take over the family business.
However, that is not enough to constitute manhood.
He is also taught Character qualities which will allow him to live harmoniously in his community. Among these are Respect, Dignity, Integrity, Responsibility, the Value of Human Life and how to serve God and lead his family in spiritual matters.
|Making Up Manhood As We Go Along
In the absence of those formal structures, people sometimes improvise, making up manhood as they go along life. They pull from other cultures as best as they can - from television, movies, advertising. Or they mimic those who are older in the hope that they know what they are doing and are doing the right thing.
Sadly, the yardstick we have chosen to use focuses more on physical stature, financial success, sporting achievements and sexual prowess. This has led males to pursue these things at any cost and to lie about their achievements so as not to be considered a "failure" by their peers.
No longer is character deemed to be part of the processing of a "man". This is poor socialisation. Devoid of character qualities that stand the test of time, some men live lives of disrespect, indignity, irresponsibility, irreverence and selfishness.
|Manhood Based On Performance Is Problematic
Times have changed since the mid-20th century and, in some societies, men are no longer the breadwinners. Nor are they always at the top of the corporate or political ladder. Some may feel as if they have been marginalised and they may have a harder time finding employment or pursuing higher education than women in their families and communities.
As we age, some men are unable to compete as successfully as before against young males and may lose their position as "top dog" in their chosen field of activity or endeavour. Sadly, some resort to cheating to regain their fame and lie about it to friends, family and the public. Remember Lance Armstrong?
Inability to attain and maintain their former "symbols of success" has pushed some men into criminal activities, led to depression, suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual and other addiction. These activities have inevitably led to failed careers, marriages and family lives.
Manhood based on performance or status is therefore a problematic standard. After all, if you lose the material "toys" or are superseded by a woman on the job or in the home, do you cease to be a man?