I agree with Gerry Hassan's
call for talking about what it is to be a 'good man,' the relevance of Suzanne Zeedyk's plea for nurturing emotional intelligence, and Mona Eltahawy's demand that the straitjacket definition of masculinity be destroyed. But all three positions are disconcertingly old news. Many people, but principally women, have been actively pursuing such matters since the 1960s, but the fact that they have been cast too often as 'women's issues' has been a major stumbling block.
In the early 1980s, I researched sexism in schools, noting the pervasive ways in which differing attitudes towards boys and girls gave them little chance of growing up perceiving each other as equals. Around the same time, as a white woman brought up in 1950's Scotland, I became acutely aware of the nature and impact of racism. Grasping that my own limited knowledge, understanding, assumptions and thoughtless use of language was based on ignorance and prejudice was shocking. But once the penny dropped, it wasn't that hard to kick myself into a more enlightened place, albeit with the ongoing need to listen and learn and to 'check my privilege' from time to time. In order to enjoy and participate fully in the world, surely we should routinely examine our prejudices, our taken-for-granted actions which might, albeit inadvertently at times, be marginalising or undermining others.
If tackling racism effectively is a challenge that white people must address, then men must surely be at the forefront of challenging sexism. Opportunities have abounded for them since the equal pay act of 1970, but the notion that gender equality is solely a women's issue seems hardwired. Women's rebellion began when they grasped the limitations of their traditional roles and started talking about it. So yes, if men haven't been talking about how it feels to be a man and how they can feel better about their masculinity, it's time they did. Women won't stop them. But they have to do it for themselves.
Meanwhile, issues of equality have been embedded, notionally, within the Scottish schools' curriculum since the 1990s, although the commitment necessary to drive them forward has been haphazard to say the least. I have considered replicating my 1980's research but feel depressed by what I suspect the outcomes would be. Helping boys (and girls) to escape the gender straightjackets needs a whole lot more than talking.
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