"Real Men" is a song by British singer-songwriter and musician Joe Jackson, released in 1982 as the lead single from his album Night and Day and reached No. 6 in Australian music charts.
Some of the song’s lyrics include:
What's a man now, what's a man mean
Is he rough or is he rugged
Is he cultural and clean
Now it's all change, it's got to change more
But nobody's really sure
Time to get scared, time to change plan
Don't know how to treat a lady
Don't know how to be a man
Time to admit, what you call defeat
Cause there's women running past you now
And you just drag your feet
While it’s no secret Joe was a bit confused about manhood when writing this song his sentiments are now more relevant than ever. Men today are criticised everywhere you look for displaying “toxic masculinity” while at the same time still being expected to fulfil male role models in a society that is changing fast.
There is a big disconnect between the men represented in action films and the men that society expects now especially in a historical context. So after 1000s of years of conflict supported by governments carried out by men to create the world we now live in and enjoy it’s time to radically change men. This is a big job and confusing for the change generation which is this crop of men and boys.
An example of the inconsistencies can be seen on the football fields particularly in rugby league and union. Many of the top athletes are South Sea Islanders at the moment rather than local lads, so why is this? Many local young boys are being funnelled into soccer because their parents don’t want them to get hurt and therefore the talent pool for these contact sports in Australia is shrinking.
So on the one hand we get 60 000 people to watch these very popular sporting contests but many of our young men are not considered man enough to play leaving them feeling inadequate. At the same time we want them to be more sensitive to the needs of others and want them to behave as gentlemen at all times.
Men have gone from being the bread winner in the house to sharing that role in the space of the last 50 years dramatically changing the relationship between men and women. Men’s difficulties coping with these changes are evident in our horrendous domestic violence statistics and men need assistance making this change. Their relationship to their partners is vastly different to the ones they saw between their father and mother in many cases and a new normal has to be reprogrammed into men.
Many feminists will say about time but they are not experiencing the same change as the men who are ceding power rather than gaining it in the current changes. Think of one group of humans in history who have ceded power easily to another group in a short space of time. I can’t think of any, and so a plan needs to be made to help our young men and boys come to terms with their new roles with far less contradictions than at present.
Being expected to ask the woman out and pay for the date must become a thing of the past if it isn’t already as it leads to further expectations of being the protector, provider and the one to discipline children down the track. All of these roles conflict with the idea of equality and confuse these issues around the role of men in modern society.
Taking the conflict out of male female relationships particularly in the media would also help. I don’t think the term “toxic masculinity” for example should be used in mainstream newspapers or television at all as it is offensive to men and confusing to boys.
Social programs like the Men Choosing Change course offered by Unitingcare are a much better way to assist men through this change. The course helps men struggling to understand their role in the family to think differently to the way perhaps they were raised and adapt to modern expectations. To access this type of positive assistance men should contact Unitingcare in Caboolture on 5428 4200.