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This story originally was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.

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SOUTH AFRICA: A Man's Perspective

Educator and World Pulse community member Isaac Aggrey urges men to reject cultural norms that equate manhood with power and dominance. Only then, he says, can women enjoy a world free of violence.

"We will not be boxed into masculinity by seductive promises of power or intimidating threats of violence."

There is no question that the root cause of the abuse of women is the social, economic, and political inequality women experience worldwide. Women earn less money than men. Their work at home is undervalued. Few politicians are women. Yet, raising awareness of the issue of gender-based violence is always left to women, for it is true that if society now takes violence against women seriously, it is because women are working hard to make this issue a priority.

Beneath the legacy of gender-based violence is a legacy of gender conformity that leads men to deny their true nature in favor of fitting into a society that requires men to be invulnerable. I quite remember male friends telling me how their fathers told them to promise to always have a sense of power, of pride, of confidence, mastery, and control. I ask myself, and I ask you, how does prestige, privilege, power, and control make one a man?

Many interviewed say they fear being scrutinized by their peers if they deviate from the prescribed rules of being a man. They say they do not want to stand alone in the shame of difference. They prefer denying themselves in order to feel safe and accepted within a dominant culture that demands of them: “Be a man!”

What would it mean now if we were to create a culture in which men join together to reclaim these parts of ourselves that we once hid and denied? What would it mean if we as men found the courage to stand and face the dominant culture, saying with determination and pride, that we do not want to “be a man”? If we said together that we refuse the rigid box of gender conformity? What if we created a community where we could feel safe and accepted in the infinite variety of our gender expression?

It would mean the end of the system of patriarchy, wherein the promise of power is leveraged by the threat of violence. Homophobia, violence against women, and war—the ultimate weapons of gender conformity—would disappear, no longer needed to prove and protect our "manhood”.

Men would show up in the full rainbow of our expressions. We would inhabit our homes and families and remember the delights of nurturing relationships. And we would seek out the close, loving companionship of other men and women. It would mean hope for the world in places where we have long felt only hopelessness.

I believe this is all happening now. Yes, it can often seem agonizingly slow and painful, and there is certainly plenty of overt and covert resistance; however, there is a tremendous wave of liberation moving through our world.

It is time for us now to assert that we will not be boxed into masculinity by seductive promises of power or intimidating threats of violence. It is time for us now to break through our fear and isolation and come out as gender nonconformists who do not fit or accept prescribed rules of manhood.

We can create a new culture where being a man does not mean undervaluing women or colluding with patriarchy and perpetuating violence against women. We can create a new culture where being a man is an open-ended, ever-expanding expression of possibilities.

Comments

Sharontina's picture

This is wonderful

Dear Isaac,

Its so wonderful and encouraging to read such a posting. A stepping stone i would say, a new beginning to change the paradigm. No doubt now there will be many more to follow you. I feel that in the educational institutions if this is incorporated in the curriculum as a topic of gender studies and discrimination thoroughly putting emphasis on the real status of men with power and dominance, then it would definitely work.

All the best in your ventures. Lets all work to see the world where women enjoy their space, a world free of violence.

Thank you for that powerful voice.

Regards.

Merlin Sharontina

EK. Chemorion's picture

Well Don Isaac!

Isaac,

our world needs more of you Isaac.I want to sincerely thank you for a transformer you are. such a gift to women, but more so to the men in Africa. Thank your for taking a bold step to do the unpopular by challenging the dominant negative culture, and negative perceptions and attitudes people have that promote violence against women.

I know that this will shape things differently and a group who are like minded will spread the word and live the non-gender violent life.

I honor your work in the south, and stand in solidarity with this male voice!

EK Chemorion

Kara-Amena's picture

Your words echo my beliefs

Dear Isaac,

Thank you for this beautifully-written piece. For years I have believed that if we truly want to help women, we need to include men in the process. We can not solely focus on educating, empowering and motivating the women to be agents of change - men must be included! These efforts must be done hand-in-hand. Everything you said is so powerful. For men who blindly follow the customs of a patriarchal society, they need to know that other men are challenging those systems. Many will be more-inclined to listen to the voices of their fellow men - since their trained instinct is to disregard and invalidate any thoughts or words coming from a woman.

It takes a strong and secure man to accept and respect the strength of a woman. But the culture and traditions need to be addressed. It seems many of these systems were born from a need to protect women from war and kidnapping and violent crimes - hundreds and thousands of years ago. But the historical context of these customs has been lost. And now women are victims of these practices that may have been instituted to protect and revere them. Men must be educated. Men must be involved. Once they are more aware, most men will not feel compelled to prove their dominance in archaic ways.

I hope you will share whatever efforts you are making. As an educator, you have access to a wide audience. If your efforts can be duplicated and if others can share their experiences tackling this problem through raising awareness among men - maybe we would make greater strides. I applaud you, Isaac. Thanks so much for sharing your vision!

Kara-Amena

Mukut's picture

This is great

What a great piece Isaac. You have instilled hope in us once again, that we are not alone in our fight to end violence.

Wish you good luck and may you prosper and inspire more.

Thank you.

Mukut Ray

mystika802's picture

Amazing!

It's really refreshing to hear a man's perspective. This is beautifully written! Thank you for having the courage to speak out and give hope to women globally, that we are not alone.
thank you

Wendyiscalm's picture

Thank you for speaking out

Hi Isaac,

Loved your piece and it is so true. I have always felt that in order for sustainable change to happen for women, we need men, good men who are willing to change and who are willing to teach other men to change. You matter. You are necessary.

Keep up the good work, Isaac,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Onni Milne's picture

Men, Women and Peace

As a woman living in Canada, I appreciate Isaac's courageous actions in South Africa. I also believe that men must change their current patriarchal attitudes for real equality to happen. I look forward to the day when we can say men and women worked together to create the reality of peace, justice, good governance and equality in our societies. I wish to offer the following link to a report about women's empowerment broadcast on CBC radio, March 5: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2013/03/05/sally-armstrong-on-the-a...

Onni Milne

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