As International Men’s Day gains momentum every year (November 19th), different themes become the point of focus in different countries and I think that’s such a great thing; to celebrate our diversity of thought and values and what affects us the most. This year, in the midst of all the anti-male rhetoric we hear thrown about, I would like to share my humble thoughts on safe spaces for males.
Staring down the irony
It may seem ironic to some, this notion of “safe spaces for men”. And the source of this perceived irony is obvious. We were told that men were meant to be protectors. At least that’s a large part of the portfolio assigned to us by mother nature. And I am inclined to believe it. Take a look at the animal kingdom. The males are generally bigger and stronger and charged with protection of the herd or pride. As for those that can’t live up to the billing? Well let’s just say the law of the jungle is as harsh as it is wise. Truth is, when all remnants of civilized society gets stripped away, this is what it comes down to. Males are by nature, protectors; a job that requires aggression, bravery, physical prowess and self-sacrifice.
Even as we “civilized” people have surrendered our wildness and freedom for the protection, security and comforts provided by the state, the expectations of males as protectors lingers on.
How ironic it seems to now propose that males require safe spaces? The detractors of the men’s rights movement waste no time in pointing out the paradox of we “poor entitled men” needing protection after living in privilege from the so-called “patriarchy” (having also told us “who run the world” and assured us that #TheFutureIsFemale”). Of course the very existence of the patriarchy is debatable since it can also be seen as an outdated concept that endures to maintain a gynocentric status quo. (Surprise, surprise, its no longer about equality, it’s about power).
But more to the point, the question arises: if men are still seen as protectors, should they have safe spaces where they themselves receive protection and develop? Should their cries for help be given just as much importance as those of women? Can they be protectors while maintaining their right to be vulnerable?
A case for safe spaces
The answer to these questions is yes.
It is true that men are strong and we have the potential for greatness in each and every one of us. This will always be true no matter what anti-male rhetoric is thrown at us. No matter how much the concept of masculinity is attacked. But our immense potential can never be fulfilled if we are not at our best physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Even as we take on the role of protector, we should attempt to be the best that we can be.
But this can’t happen if we don’t feel safe to say when something is wrong, no matter what it is. We need a place where we can be vulnerable and trust that we have those with good intentions to help us. How about we take a real taboo topic: male victims of domestic abuse? Men still don’t feel safe to speak up about this and its heartbreaking. Speaking out against the abuse that males face and calling for more action is likely to be met with the “women are the majority of the victims” and “men suffer less injury than women” argument.
Assuming that those arguments are true (and they are also debatable), is this really enough of a reason to not give men the space where they can be heard? A space where they can just simply speak and not have to hear about who is more of a victim? Men need to have a space where the focus is on them. Nothing else. Just their wellbeing. A space dedicated only for their benefit. While I chose to mention the topic of domestic abuse, there are certainly other areas that will benefit tremendously from male safe spaces including education, mental health, physical health and homelessness; hot topics by advocates of International Men’s Day, by the way.
So where do we go from here?
It’s up to us
Clearly there is a need for male safe spaces. But what can the average guy do to contribute to this and to grow the community of male safe spaces. I think it starts with all of us as individuals. Reach out to your male friends. Who cares if you haven’t spoken to them in ages? Be sure to listen to them and genuinely show concern and interest for what is going on in their lives even if it’s just a phone call. Give a helping hand when you can. How about male co-workers. Surely there are lots we can do to build bonds of male fellowship among our peers in our own lives.
We owe it to ourselves to be our best and to be our brother’s keeper.
Hopefully, as more buzz is generated around men’s issues and International Men’s Day, we can look forward to more safe spaces for males of all ages. And while I believe it is absolutely fantastic for large organized NGO dedicated to men’s issues to continue doing their great work, us guys can do our part every single day.
Let me know in the comments if you got ideas for safe spaces for boys and men. Would be great to discuss!