My grandfather is a ‘get the job done’ man. He farmed the Alexandra District in Victoria before buying a dairy operation in Epping. Still young, his back gave way and he was unable to fulfill his assumed destiny. Farming was everything to my grandfather; his backyard vegetable garden is testament to a youth spent learning his trade.
He spent the rest of his life supporting a family through factory shift work. His back has always caused him pain, panging with the reminder of what his life should have been. Still, my grandfather’s is a good life. He let fate play its hand, and has played his own back.
He refuses to blame external forces for what others may regard as his misfortune. He does what many younger men seem to have lost the ability to do: he takes it like a man.
In the face of feminism, men have lost much of their machismo. Metrosexuals and their SNAG predecessors threw this style of manliness out and moved hair products in. ‘Taking it like a man’ is today widely riled as a macho put down impacting on young men’s psyche. These five words should instead be read as a neat summary of how males can best handle challenges in our lives.
‘Taking it like a man’ is about searching for answers and developing solutions. If we approach problems in life ‘like a man’, we are taking responsibility for our situation and not looking to pass the buck to someone else. If we don’t pull our weight, we are letting the team down. Women have rightly argued for equality with men. That does not mean men should let go of who they are.
Instead of blaming the education system for ‘failing’ young men, and calling for quick-fix, political-palaver solutions like bringing in more male teachers, we need sophisticated responses that will shape compassionate and capable young men. Leaders must look beyond the school system for answers, and encourage men to play many roles: father, employee, husband and community member. Workforce issues, parenting and community involvement need to go on the political agenda, and stay there for the long haul.
Many men we have chosen as leaders have failed us through unprecedented displays of self interest. Chief executives happily accept multi-million dollar payouts rewarding poor performance. Politicians ask us to be more civil, yet continue with schoolyard bullying tactics and obscenities in question time. We should be taking them to task and demanding more of men who lead, if we intend to follow.
We claim we want quality time with our kids and are more stressed than ever. But we refuse to challenge current thinking. We continue to work more hours. We rarely use family-friendly work arrangements effectively. We don’t stand up and take responsibility.
Men’s advocates do us a disservice. Men have a history of poor father-son relationships, feminism has confused men’s role, and many men have been sexually abused and poorly treated, they say. These are valid points. But excuses are not solutions. Extensive services have been set up to support men to deal with their problems, but statistics show men are very poor at utilizing them. As a collective we can be rather disappointing. It is quite a spin to claim the male gender has been hard done by. We need to get over it.
Men have to work better with women. We need to let our egos ride and realise a collaborative effort is best for all. The processes and outcomes in the Family Court will only improve if we mediate and compromise. Stress relief will come when we work fewer hours and allow ‘the feminine’ to have an impact at the executive level.
We need to stand up and take it like men. That’s how we’ll give ourselves the best opportunity to provide a positive, contented world for our children and grandchildren to tackle.
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