Young at Heart: Time we heard it for our men

MEN have been getting a bad press lately. I know there are reasons around this. It is fair to say they are mostly the perpetrators of violence domestically, sexually and in the community generally.

We read of the men who have beaten and/or killed their partners and their children. All unforgiveable, and like most in the community I can happily see them locked away forever.

I was on the Board of CASA (Centre Against Sexual Assault) for several years and am well aware of dangerous and violent men. Every month added new numbers to the statistics, and those statistics were frightening. The Centre for Non-Violence and the Annie North refuge tell similar stories. I have nothing but admiration and awe for the staff who work within those environments, counselling, supporting, and listening to their courageous clients.

However, let us not forget that the great majority of men are not violent. Let’s remind ourselves of that when we read the horror stories.

 I do believe most men try to be the best they can as husbands, fathers, brothers and grandfathers.

I have always enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship of the men I worked with. They provided balance, intelligence and humour in our working day. Women had to fight hard to be recognised for the “equal pay equal work” rule, but it eventually came, and the men weren’t at all threatened when that happened. The men I knew not only supported us but marched with us.

During my working life in schools I was aware of those young men in the fraught teenage years as the hormones kicked in. For those young men one sure way to escape life’s pressures was in reading (escapist literature, fantasy mainly) and playing hard games on the sports fields. The largest cohort of students who used the BSSC library was young footballers. This was their retreat, their “safe haven”.  In that environment they were gentle, courteous and fun. It was a different story on the football field, but that aggression had rules of engagement.

When a serious diagnosis brought me to my knees a few years ago I had a good man by my side every step of the way. Breast cancer strikes fear in our hearts but he never faltered in his quiet support and concern. He fronted up for every appointment. I know of many other husbands who have done the same.

Within our own family and friends I see great dads dedicated to sharing the load of child raising and caring. Every weekend they are watching and umpiring their children playing sport, alongside mothers.

Family men today work long hours, in some cases much longer than the hours their fathers worked. They are expected to put in long stints at work and often be available 24/7. They take their responsibilities for providing for their families very seriously.

Fathers today can generally no longer head down the route of golf clubs and men’s clubs. They share the child rearing more fairly. Family life today becomes an equal partnership much earlier than in previous generations, as mothers return to work. 

Let’s not forget the devoted grandfathers in all this. Grandfathers adore their grandchildren and are often seen at venues from sports matches to concerts, cheering their grandchildren on, frequently becoming a little emotional. They are great at tucking a small child under an arm and reading a bedtime story. Grandfathers I know admit the role allows them to be much more relaxed than they were as fathers!

I think it’s time we heard it for our good men... the majority of them.

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