02 October, 2017


  I am neither a sociologist nor a behavior therapist, and often unable to understand the behavior of fellow human beings. Some of us attempt to grapple with a society that has shades of evil; a society in which evil is entwined with good. Others try to understand a society in which “logical” and “illogical”, “ethical” and “unethical”, “rational” and “irrational” are often not clearly defined.

A woman is kind to her children but verbally abuses her husband. Is she being both evil and good? Can a man be deemed good if he is a caring husband but physically abuses his step-children? Likewise, a man is falsely accused of rape or murder and serves a prison sentence. Society has judged him and his character and reputation are tarnished. Whilst he was incarcerated, he was involved in fights to save his life. Would he be considered both good and evil?

Society is layered. Each layer is connected but different from the rest of layers. For instance, European society would have a layered history of migrations, conquest, and imperialism. And, each boy or man would have multiple masculinities which would be displayed on different occasions and stages of his life. And, one of more of these masculinities might be perceived as wicked or evil. This makes it very complex when seeking solutions and discussing Men’s issues. CLIFTON DE COTEAU, former Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, in an address to commemorate International Men’s Day in 2014 in Trinidad & Tobago, stated,

          “If we can recognize what gender identities mean for us men, we can better understand our other brothers, and indeed, our sister, parents and children, paving the way for a better, more understanding, more inclusive society.”

Government agencies seem ill-equipped and unable to properly deal with the multiple masculinities and challenges facing males. During 2010-2016, I conducted selected interviews (via telephone and face-to-face), in Trinidad and Tobago, with members of the medical fraternity, activists and groups dealing with boys and men at risk. This was unfunded research. Thirty two persons agreed to be interviewed and among those who participated were 15 members of NGOs, one medical doctor, one psychologist, one psychiatrist, six activists, and eight government’s Ministry of Gender Affairs officials in Trinidad and Tobago. The 25 questions comprising these interviews focused on the reasons for lack of proper health care and social services for men and boys, the relatively slow pace of gender equality, the bleak possibility of attaining gender equality, elimination of domestic violence, promotion of positive male role models and removal of stereotypes of masculinity.

The main findings of my research revealed that during the six year period, 2010-2016, the issue of gender equality has been given ample exposure in segments of the media (Facebook, newspapers, television, and radio). However, there was no significant change in critical areas. For instance there was no decline in the number of murders related to domestic violence or an increase in the hiring of more women to fill leadership positions. Likewise, there were no practical solutions to deal with problems of bullying, peer pressure, and depression facing boys and teenagers in primary and secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago.

Also, there is the prevailing inaccurate belief that men are strong and capable of surviving. Men and boys who felt alienated and marginalized had no access to counselors and support services. This was further compounded by the absence of a comprehensive gender-sensitization programme.

Additionally, most of the public seem either unaware or are unable to fully understand legislation passed by the government and policy papers that have been produced by the Ministry of Gender Affairs. One of the disturbing findings of this research is the feeling of powerlessness among NGOs to create positive change among boys and men. Activists and NGOs have limited options in voicing their opinions. These include repeated protest marches, letters to editors of newspapers, and petitions. These actions are ineffective and do not have the desired effect of prompting the government to take urgent action. Should the shortcomings and failure to assist boys and men be considered a lesser evil?

We must allow our boys and men to mature, debate, argue, and reconcile. They must decide what is evil and good. If there are limitations, then we will never find the answers to many of life’s unanswered questions. I remember a quote on the quality of men, “Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations. The only sin is limitation. As soon as you once come up with a man’s limitations, it is all over with him.” These are from the writings of RALPH WALDO EMERSON and it is very relevant for us.

HERBERT MARCUSE, a former professor of Philosophy in a book chapter entitled “Ethics and Revolution” noted:

          “Measured against the real possibilities of freedom, we always live in a state of relative unfreedom.”

Let us aspire to achieve freedom in its truest form. We must not impose restrictions on our boys and men. They must be free to grow and develop. They must understand their self, their identity, and not allow other persons or governments to fit them into any uncomfortable framework.

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