Teenage boys are seen as potential rapists, probable perverts, inherent abusers or future deadbeats at that tender age.
British political commentator and writer Milo Yiannopoulos puts it this way: “In modern society, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for men to be men. For masculinity to flourish in all its glory.”
We need to start celebrating positive masculinity as a society.
We can’t continue to sketch this incomplete picture of masculinity, by only showing its negativity.
Perhaps we should start taking positive approach to start helping the next generation of men. We should start building on what is positive in boys or men rather than to focus on what is wrong with them.
In a 2018 Times opinion essay titled, The boys are not all right, comedian and author, Michael Ian Black wrote: “The past 50 years have redefined what it means to be female in America. Girls today are told that they can be anything, be anyone. They have absorbed the message: They’re outperforming boys in school at every level. But it isn’t about performance.”
He further said: “Boys, though, have been left behind. No commensurate movement has emerged to help them navigate toward a full expression of their gender. It’s no longer enough to ‘be a man’ - we no longer even know what that means.”
That is a huge challenge that is equally faced by boys and young men in South Africa. The varsity and college spaces are even worse. There are movements and forums for girls and nothing for boys.
For example, these lads live with broken hearts of babies that were legally aborted without their consent as potential fathers, because “it isn’t their bodies that carry the baby”. Not only that, it gets more saddening, the ladies are given counselling after the abortions to help them heal emotionally and otherwise.
However, the young men are left alone, to carry the pain and hurt.
Society cannot continue to ignore the fact that men need help. If men keep on becoming a social problem and a threat to humanity, then the focus should be on them.
Boys and men are going through a lot. To ignore that we are at crossroads with ourselves and with how we have been socialised, will be to deny justice.
As Martin Luther King Jr once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If we continue to allow injustice to men today, we will definitely find ourselves fighting for justice for men in the next 20 to 30 years.
As Helen Smith puts it: “Something in today’s 21st century is amiss. Modern society has turned its back on the average male. All around you, you hear the question: ‘Where have all the good men gone?’”
But you know instinctively that it’s the wrong question. The right question is: Why have all the good men gone on strike?
And she further argues: “Most men are not acting irresponsibly because they are immature or because they want to harm women; they are acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives in today’s society of them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers.
“In addition, many are going on strike, either consciously or unconsciously, because they do not want to be harmed by the myriad of laws, attitudes and backlash against them for the simple crime of happening to be male in the 21 century.”
I say let us reclaim our glory as men. Enough is enough! Let’s change the narrative. In former US president Barack Obama’s famous words: “Yes, we can!”
* Chabalala is the founder and chairperson of the Young Men Movement. E-mail, [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.