Young men often imitate or take on habits and behaviours of their fathers, older men and their age peers, little realising that these behaviours are wrong, outdated and embody toxic masculinity. Picture: Pexels

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 young men.

Dear young men

  • Do you degrade and name call females at your tertiary institute or school because they ignore your advances? 
  • When a female at your school or tertiary institute says NO to anything she is uncomfortable with, do you fail to accept this and do you force the issue? 
  • Do you fail to say something when your “boys” cat call, inappropriately pursue or throw sexist insults at a girl/girls at school or elsewhere? 
  • Do you feel embarrassed or ashamed when something that touches you emotionally makes you cry? 
  • Do you make judgments on women or girls based on how they are dressed? 
  • Do you feel women are bad drivers and should leave the driving to the men? 
  • Do you publicly laugh at sexist/racist/homophic “jokes” and do you share sexist content online? 
  • When a female expresses her frustrations and shows emotions, do you view it as weakness. 
  • Do you tease your sisters, cousins, friends and females you come into contact with simply for being female and do you mock and ridicule them at every given opportunity? 
  • Do you sometimes get confused between a female being interested in you, and her simply being friendly and kind?  

Growing up has never been easy for any generation of young men, but today’s young people are faced with new challenges that are complex and sometimes confusing. 

Young men often imitate or take on habits and behaviours of their fathers, older men and their age peers, little realising that these behaviours are wrong, outdated and embody toxic masculinity. 

It might not seem like much, making a sexist joke, cat-calling or bullying someone simply because of their gender. However, these actions contribute to a climate of fear for women and girls, and fuel a sense that men can do as they please, which leads to gender-based violence consuming our society. 

Violence against women has become a terrible blight on our society. Try to become more mindful of how you treat women and girls in your own home, at school, on the playing field and your community. 

If you answered “yes” to any number of the above questions, it is seriously time to unlearn some of these behaviours and responses to situations, because it is never too late to become the best version of yourself as a young man. 

You can be the change, #dontlookaway and #talk2yourboys. 

Take the young man's pledge below:

To all women and girls I have recently become extremely conscious of gender bias, stereotypes and cliches which I have grown up believing to be normal and acceptable. 

Until now I had not given much thought to how these things affect you, and for this I am truly sorry. 

I pledge to you that I will make every effort to understand the full extent of gender bias and toxic masculinity, and that I will at all times be mindful that my words and actions are not disrespectful. 

You’re never going to respect me if I show no respect to you, I get that now. 

I promise to never demean or humiliate you, or tell sexist jokes or make improper comments about you. 

I promise to understand and accept it when you are not comfortable with something I do or say, and I do know that “no” means “no”. 

Unlearning some of the offensive behaviours and responses that I have adopted over time will be a challenge, but I am up for it, because we need to put an end to gender-based violence. 

I know it will take courage to stand up and speak out when my friends behave badly or make lame comments, but I promise that I will. 

Finally, I pledge to be the best example I can be to others, so that we can all become better men, for your sake and ours.  

* GET INVOLVED! Take one of our pledges and send your video via Whatsapp to 074 557 3535 or join the conversation on social media using using the hashtags #DontLookAway and #talk2yourboys.