The Caribbean is no paradise for many men and boys who live in marginalised communities, are sexually abused, experience violence as an everyday part of life, face limited opportunities for supporting themselves and the people they care about, are disabled by lack of social and other services.
UN reports indicate that 32% of boys in nine Caribbean countries described their first sexual experience as forced or somewhat forced. Sexual abuse of boys is REAL.
Jamaican researcher Corin Bailey has demonstrated that young men in marginalized communities are often unwilling participants in crime and violent activities. The struggle to escape violence is REAL.
Men make up the majority of victims and perpetrators of homicide.
The Institute for Gender and Development Studies’ Break the Silence project on Child Sexual Abuse reached out to both boys and girls in their initiatives to end incest and sexual violence against children.
And yet, many of the (usually) male voices which bemoan that men are marginalised, becoming obsolete and falling behind, don’t seem to really care about men at all.
Have vocal Men’s Rights groups like the Men’s Education and Support Association of Barbados ever spoken publicly against the sexual abuse of boys, the violation of the rights of men who migrate from other Caribbean countries, men’s violence against each other, the challenges faced by men living with disabilities?
Too often when men stand up to talk about what is wrong for men they end up not really talking about men at all. They leave all the valid and urgent issues which rob men of living full lives as complex human beings off the table.
What they do talk about is women.
Consider this excerpt from a recent Jamaica Gleaner story:
Mr Banks was concerned with the number of young men clothed with pseudo-confident machismo, but threatened with irrelevance because of the rapid spread of self-empowerment of Jamaican women who are advancing at a much faster rate than men in a great many areas of endeavour pertinent to the urgency of national development.
To frame a story about the vulnerabilities men face as reducible to “irrelevance” due to women’s empowerment is to trivialize the very urgent concerns of men. It is to support sexist notions that a woman’s place is one of dependence and second-class citizenship. What is revealed is that Men’s Rights activists are not at all interested in the ways in which gender ideologies, homophobia and social exclusion based on disability, migrant or socioeconomic status force some men and boys to the margins. There are concerned in the maintenance of a gender ideology in which men are superior to women and in which men’s public and private rights to dominance over women are unchallenged.
Women’s economic autonomy — our ability to provide and care for our families –, bodily autonomy — our right to determine what we do with our own bodies, in no way renders men irrelevant. The task of reconfiguring our Caribbean in such a way that we can all flourish requires everybody. In fact, far from being irrelevant, men are key to the creation of more equitable and just societies.
Those who care about men and boys, who care about their performance in schools, about their right to a life free of violence, about their right to be, need to find a language for talking about their vulnerabilities and challenges that does not centre blaming women. They also need to recognise that they can’t have it both ways. There’s no way of getting rid of the gender ideologies which harm men while maintaining the ones that privilege them. There are two sides of the same coin. Gleaner columnist, Everton Price, suggests
Our universities and tertiary institutions can begin by making men’s studies a critical part of their varied curriculum offerings designed to not only reverse the numerical outstripping of men by women in a number of disciplines and equalling them in a number of others
Gender Studies and courses on Men and Masculinities are taught across the campuses of the UWI. But beliefs about just what kind of man would take a Gender Studies or Men’s Studies course work to keep many men (and women) away.
International Men’s Day was founded in Trinidad & Tobago and is now celebrated all across the world. A fine way to celebrate it would be for powerful men with wide platforms to stand up for other men across differences of race, age, dis/ability, nationality, sexual orientation, class, religion.
What’s your wish for International Men’s Day?