How do we make the world safer for 3.6 billion Men and Boys?
The first step to making the world safer for Men and Boys starts with each of us searching our hearts and challenging what we believe or have been taught to believe about Men and Boys.
Do we believe that Men and Boys do not, should not, and cannot cry or express their physical and emotional hurt and pain?
Do we believe that if a Man cries, he is weak?
Do we believe that a strong Man is a Man who is aggressive and who suffers in silence when he is in deep physical or emotional pain?
Do we believe that a weak Man is a Man who is soft-spoken, peace-loving, and a Man who cries out for help when he is in deep physical or emotional pain?
Do we believe that a Man cannot nurture and love and therefore cannot raise children by himself?
What we believe about Men and Boys affects our perception of them and determines how we treat them. The myths that many of us were taught and believe is helping to create a world in which Men and Boys cannot reach their full potential and live long, healthy and happy lives. Boys – Our Sons – emerge from the womb with the same full set of emotions as Girls – Our Daughters. We give Our Daughters emotional freedom to express their hurt and pain. Our Sons are socialized to suppress their pain. Men who consistently express their hurt and pain either explode – commit acts of violence or implode by self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, food, or sex or commit suicide to end their pain.
Allowing Men and Boys to exercise the same level of emotional freedom that Women and Girls enjoy could help reduce the rising number of suicides and incidences of violence. Worldwide, approximately 800,000 souls commit suicide – 79% of these suicides are committed by Men and Boys. Men’s health is in a critical state of affairs. As an example, in the United States, women are outliving men by 5 to 7 years. Incidences of prostate cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, strokes, and suicides continue to rise. We must create more resources and support services that address the unique physical and mental health issues of Men and Boys.
Our children need Fathers in their lives. A number of Men have told me that because they are not able to pay child support, the child’s mother refuses to allow them to spend time with their child. It is wrong to deny a child the opportunity – the right -- to spend time with his or her father just because the father cannot pay child support. It is wrong to deny a Father an opportunity – the right -- to see his child. Children do not care about money. They care about spending time with their fathers. They care about being loved and affirmed by their Fathers. In situations where Fathers cannot pay child support due to, for example unemployment, they should be allowed to spend additional time with their child beyond what is stipulated in the court’s Custody Order and the amount of additional time spent with their child should be deducted from the amount of money they must pay in child support. As an example, in 2006, in the State of Indiana in the United States, Parenting Credit Time was instituted which allowed Fathers to spend more time with their children and time spent was deducted from the amount of the child support to be paid. We must work to ensure that children of divorced or separated parents have equal access to both parents – particularly their Fathers. This can be accomplished through the creation and enactment of shared parenting laws which make it mandatory for children of divorced and separated parents to spend 50% of their time with their Fathers and their Mothers.
Homicides and wars are snuffing out the lives of Our Sons, husbands, fiancées, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, nephews, neighbors and co-workers. We must find a way to peacefully co-exist. At the same time, we must eradicate the set of circumstances that exist in the lives of Men and Boys which are breeding grounds for anger and depression. We must teach peace to our children. Conflict resolution and anger management should be a mandatory part of the school curriculum from elementary school through high school.
Let’s look at boys and education. Boys are underperforming academically. They are twice as likely to be characterized as behavior problems, “unteachable”, to be misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and placed on medication, and warehoused in special education classes. Eventually, boys lose interest in education and drop out of high school. A lack of education and marketable skills leads to unemployment. They may engage in criminal activity to support themselves economically and this behavior leads to arrests and jail time. We cannot afford to have educational systems that are hostile to boys. We must find innovative ways to capture their attention, motivate them to take a strong interest in learning, and identify and resolve the underlying factors that may cause them to be perceived as “behavior problems” or “unteachable” or inattentive. And then there are boys in our global village who do not go to school because their parents cannot afford it or because they have become a ‘child soldier” and spend their time fighting in military conflicts. We must ensure that Our Sons receive an education whether their parents can afford to pay for it or not. And we must not allow Our Sons to spend their formative years witnessing or committing horrific violence as a child soldier.
Making the world safer for Men and Boys is everyone’s concern. If Men and Boys are not safe, happy, and fulfilled, then neither are we. We are all connected to one another. The fate of women and girls, the fate of our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our nations, and our world is intertwined with the fate of Men and Boys.
So goes Men and Boys, so goes our world.