There is a masculinity crisis in Australia. Well, that’s what you would think if you had been reading the newspapers in Sydney. The city has seen an increase in drunken violence, resulting in yet another young man’s death. Men, intoxicated and feeling invincible, lash out without warning and without cause. With one punch to another man’s head, they take the life of an innocent bystander.
As a woman who doesn’t work closely with the personal lives of men, I’m not going to claim that I’m an expert on the subject of masculinity. However I can’t help but despair at what is happening to our partners, our brothers, our sons, and our friends.
Our men are not safe on the streets. What should just be a fun night out on the town with their mates isn’t guaranteed to end in a taxi home at 4am laughing at each other’s bad pick up moves. Instead, there’s a chance that you receive a phone call from the police or a family member, informing you that they are lying in a hospital bed in a critical condition. Or on the flipside, that they have been arrested after violently assaulting an innocent man, leaving that man on the brink of death.
From a casual observer’s point of view, it would seem that this rise in drunken assaults is occurring alongside the increase in steroid use and the prevalence of body image issues for men. Many others have written on the blurring of gender roles in today’s society and the potential effect that this may be having on our men. Rather than asserting their masculinity through being the breadwinner for their family, there is more pressure now to do this through bulking up at the gym and intimidating other men physically, whether that be through size or attitude.
Men in our society are regressing back to animalistic demonstrations of dominance and ego, and if we follow the same biology, it boils down to impressing women. But does this impress us anymore? For a lot of women, the alpha male type probably does. However in today’s society, where we are striving for gender equality in the workplace and at home, we want our men to share more of the day-to-day burden of child-raising and housework, and support our careers as well.
Our expectations of men’s roles have also changed. As partners and fathers, we no longer expect them to just bring home a fat paycheck every week, but we want them to have a hands-on role in ensuring that our children grow up to be well-adjusted, independent and caring people. As women and as a society, we should be holding the ideal of men to be nurturing, kind and thoughtful, and socially persecuting those that think that violence and aggressive behaviour are acceptable.
We need to call out those men – our partners, our sons, our brothers, and our friends – that think it’s OK to bully and intimidate others. Men need to do this for each other too, and insist if their mate is being a dickhead. And if there is an underlying problem with alcohol, we need to encourage them to seek treatment.
Even if some men want to regress back to these demonstrations of masculinity, we need to show that society has evolved and this is just not how it works anymore.
* Image courtesy of smh.com.au