This is a note to the (gentle)men of New Zealand. This is a note that is written in the wake of the Grace Millane murder, and which concerns each and every one of us.
I understand that over the last week whilst this has been playing out, some of you might have wondered where all of the gratitude for the good we have done has gone. For the time being it has to take a temporary back seat. This unfortunately is something we all need to accept collectively as parents, uncles, brothers, nephews, that whilst many of us are indeed a good bunch, the number of guys undermining our great work by abusing women is far too high. It has to stop and we have to take responsibility.
But this article is largely not about that. This is about our other problems – ones not necessarily of our making, but which we are saddled with any way and which we need to stand up and demand assistance.
We have problems that we are reluctant to act on. They are as numerous as they are diverse and we, in a fear of being told by other males and sometimes females too that they need to toughen up, all too often prove reluctant to do anything about them. And this reluctance to act for our well being is harming us, badly.
One is our mental health. That thing in our head which can be exacerbated by our life conditions such as the physical environment we live in; where we work; how our marital and social lives are getting on. You might be the male head of your family and the primary bread winner in the house. That is potentially quite tough, especially if your employment is on the rocks – perhaps the company is not going so well; you might have troublesome employees. It is okay to reach out and ask a colleague you have good reason to think is a bit in the dumps if they are okay. It might save a life.
Another problem is our physical health. Many of us are born and raised to be masculine tough guys who are told only sissies cry. You might have problems with your prostate, but the tough male inside you says not to tell the doctor (even though they might be able to diagnose it). You might have an accident at work and think “bugger it, it’ll be right” and then find you barely get out of bed the following day, but you have half a dozen jobs at work that have rapidly approaching deadlines. You go to work thinking you will try to take it easily and wind up in hospital.
It is quite okay to have a couple of beers after work to chill and maybe talk to a few work colleagues. It was something I did a bit of after work at Environment Canterbury with other colleagues across the road. Most people went went over and had a couple and went home, were happy to have had the chance to de-tune from work.
It is okay to be a male. I do not apologize for being one and nor should you. It is okay to be masculine and play rugby, and be the one who cheers for the All Blacks or the New Zealand Warriors or whatever your sporting code is. It is okay to be disappointed when they are defeated – as a Black Caps fan I am disappointed when New Zealand get a thrashing they could have avoided. But I never take my frustrations out on anyone or anything, because it is after all just a game.
You might look at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and think her talk about kindness and compassion is a bunch of feminine codswallop. Well, actually, no it is not. It is quite okay to care about others around you, yourself, your mates, your loved ones and not only that, but it is quite encouraged.
You might wonder why there is negativity towards males being around children. Well, actually much of it just stems from the unfortunate impact of the Peter Ellis creche abuse case. Not all men are Peter Ellis. It is not your fault that he managed to create a culture of suspicion if males apply to work in creches or other early child care centres and primary schools. That might turn you away from working with children.
But there is nothing wrong at all – contrary to what anyone, females included, might tell you – if you turn up to your daughters netball game and cut the oranges and the apple pieces that the players will eat at half time. On the contrary, well done if you do. Well done for showing you love and care about your daughters well being and give her a decent male role model in her life. It is not only the right thing to do, but also the cool thing. Take pride in it.
So, guys, it is quite okay to be a man. Love your sport, drink your beer (responsibly!), and be a great male head of the family/father/uncle/bro/nephew. But remember you are only human at the end of the day, and when things turn to crap, it is quite okay to ask for help.