Dear Fathers: Don't look away, talk to your boys
This year the focus of Independent Media's annual #dontlookaway campaign during the 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is #talk2yourboys. The goal is to focus on the male youth, educate and teach boys to become better men and in so doing, break the cycle of gender-based violence. Today we are talking to fathers.
- Has your son heard you say that men are socially dominant and women are the weaker sex?
- Do you tell your son that men are in charge or are the bosses at home, that men are better than women?
- Do you call women nags and bitches, or belittle women drivers within earshot of your son?
- Do you make violence acceptable by telling your son that “boys will be boys” when he behaves aggressively towards his sister, or teases and even bullies her?
- When your son cries, do you call him a sissy or cry baby, do you tell him it is not manly to show emotions, that real men don’t cry, and men are supposed to be tough?
- Do you tell your son he kicks or throws a ball like a girl, that a sport he may be interested in, is for girls?
- Have you ever teased your son when he plays with dolls with his sister or tries out her dresses for fun?
- If your son says he is hungry, do you tell him to go and ask his mother, it’s a woman’s job to cook food and feed the family?
- When you argue with your wife/partner, do you become verbally aggressive and/or use offensive language in the presence of your son?
- Have you at any point threatened or physically struck out at your wife/partner in the presence of your son?
- Are there any subjects about any facet of life, relationships, love, girls that you have not allowed your son to discuss with you, or have not invited him to talk to you about?
- Do you tell or laugh at sexist jokes, wolf-whistle at or make sexual comments about women when you are with your son?
- Do you avoid discussions about sexuality, gender equality and the need for women to be respected?
Fathers want the very best for their boys and they hope or even believe that they are doing a good job. But beyond the basic do’s and don’ts, do fathers reflect deeply enough on their own behaviour?
Do they truly consider whether they are, perhaps unknowingly, entrenching stereotypes around gender roles that subtly lay the foundation of future gender bias, even toxic masculinity, or possibly an adult that will be prone to gender-based violence.
If any father ticked any of the boxes above, perhaps there is room for improvement to be a better role model for your young boy of whom you are so proud.
It is never too late to #talk2yourboys and take the father's pledge below:
My son, I pledge to always be the best role model for you that I can be.
I want you to be proud of me and look up to me, as I wish to always be proud of you.
I promise to guide you in becoming an exemplary young man who leads by example, and influences your peers through respect.
I pledge to teach you to honour and respect women in every way, and where I fall short in anything I do or have done, I promise to learn with you and from you.
Too many men are ugly and horrible to women, and some hurt them really badly too. We must change that.
We must teach our friends and other men that women are our equal partners in all we do – at home, in the classroom, on the streets, and some day, at work and wherever life may lead us.
All my love, Dad
* GET INVOLVED! Share your thoughts on toxic masculinity and how it affects our society via Whatsapp on 074 557 3535 or join the conversation on social media using using the hashtags #DontLookAway and #talk2yourboys.