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The need for positive masculinity

  • Published at 12:03 am November 23rd, 2019
Boy
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

How can we bridge the psychological gap between men and women?

That the world had an International Men’s Day to celebrate was beyond my knowledge. We always talked about such a day, but I never knew that it really existed and was observed in many countries across the world. I first noticed the observance of the day on social media. 

Many women were seen announcing the news of Men’s Day. Some of them were very sarcastic about it. Many ridiculed the men who they thought might be observing the day. 

Some also compared the day with International Toilet Day. I noticed a poet (female) who wrote a fantastic Bangla poem from a woman’s perspective. Overall, in the Bangladeshi context, I noticed, the idea of having a men’s day was quite funny among our womenfolk.

All of them laughed about it and there are surely many good reasons for that. My understanding of the women’s perspective regarding us is that we, men, have not presented ourselves as friendly humans to them.

We have always been men, a necessary villain, an all-powerful masculine character who most of the times make their life miserable and does not care when they are in trouble or despair, we have acted as sex offenders and shown our violent animalistic side to them.

I wasn’t surprised to see the sarcastic bile thrown at us by women on social media.

I saw some news regarding a bunch of people, men actually, rallying in front of the national press club, demanding various kinds of rights for men keeping the women in mind as a counterpart. 

My thoughts were: Is it about demanding men’s rights from women? Do we men think that women are and have been violating our rights? If we do really believe so, it would sound funny compared to how we violate women’s rights. 

So, I tried to gather more knowledge, and to my surprise, there are various kinds of texts on the internet related to this day. The day celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, their families, and communities. 

The international websites were highlighting positive role models and raising awareness of men’s well-being. Their theme was: “Making a difference for men and boys.” 

It focused on the need to value men and boys and to help people who make practical improvements in their health and well-being globally. 

The day was established by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, a lecturer of history at the University of the West Indies, back in 1999. Since the 1960s, the website said, people were trying to observe International Men’s Day equivalent to International Women’s Day.

It really caught my interest. The international concept has been completely misunderstood in Bangladesh. Men here looked at it literally -- they thought they have to demand their rights from women. 

Internationally, it is about the positive value that men can bring to the society; it’s not in any way some competition with women; it’s not about what rights men don’t have and what they can seek. 

As far as adding positive value in the world and in the community we live in, we men certainly have a long way to go. 

The need for care

Wellness for men and boys is another important aspect to ponder over. In Bangladesh, there are various reasons to believe that boys in our society at a very tender age go through quite a lot of mental inflictions. In many cases, the inflictions are also physical. 

Sexual harassment against boys is one of the issues that we have traditionally and non-chalantly ignored to address. We seem to act as if sexual abuse of male children doesn’t exist in this country. But many boys do suffer, oftentimes at the hand of their family members.

Our education system may be another element that could lead a child to become unwell. Have you seen the heavy bags full of books when these children go to school? Isn’t that unnatural for a small child? 

And when they are in school, they have to go through various kinds of bullying from their teachers. This is true -- bullying by teachers creates mental trauma within children.

Coming back to the women’s perspective about a Men’s Day -- it was indeed a very interesting angle to think about. It could be a matter of research -- why do women laugh at men when they observe a day for themselves?

I believe it’s because the women in real life don’t find the caring and responsible attitude that they expect from men. Men, over millennia, have created an image for themselves, and now a mere day may invoke some thoughts in the minds of a few men, but men at large would continue to be the streotypes that women think men are.

Men and women have jointly created this world, this society and this flow of civilization; they cannot and never will be able to live in isolation; they have to live together, survive together. 

But the lack of friendship that keeps them psychologically apart needs to be bridged. The onus of bridging the gap is, I believe, on men; they may think of transforming themselves with positive masculinity. 

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.