Consider this situation:
You’re out at night with some friends (on 6th St, the Meatpacking, Ocean Ave, Beale St, etc…). Some dude and girl get in a fight: she gets loud, he gets pushy. He hits her.
What do you do?
You drop his ass, hard. Everyone cheers. The ending of Friday runs in your head and you are a hero for the night. That’s pretty clear cut.
So – a compound question:
What’s it going to take to get guys to react that strongly, that immediately, when someone they love gets hurt? Not just girls – but guys and parents and friends and kids.
What if the pain isn’t a physical threat but emotional? Or political? How do we harness that fight impulse into something sustainable? Into social justice action?
It’s easy to knock someone out. Can you be willing to show up as an advocate for a woman in a hospital at 3:30 in the morning? Can you walk someone into a mental health center and get them help if they’re feeling like hurting themselves? Can you work with your lawmakers to ensure that women’s rights are preserved?
Let’s go deeper. Let’s assume that we can activate that fight and turn it into some true change. I think that’s possible. Could be simple and have some real lasting implications.
But are you willing to ask yourself this kind of messed-up question:
What If I’m the Threat?
We spend so much time considering strangers, keeping our loved ones safe from ‘others’ who might break into our house. Hurt our family. We keep a baseball bat under the bed. Or a loaded Ruger in a safe (of course). We invest in alarm systems and the safest cars we can afford. It’s our duty as men, right?
But what if the enemy is your mind? Unchecked anger, untreated depression, unacknowledged pain. This is the shit that kills. Are you ready to deal with that threat? Because the only way to do that is to get help if you need it. To let people into your head. What sense does it make to protect your family against random bastards and then go and kill yourself? What sense does it make if you’re the one hurting your family?
There’s a lot of “Real Men” campaigns out there, and I’m not sure how I feel about them. Because they’re still using an old paradigm of manliness to convince us to do stuff like not rape, or not to kidnap people. And shaming people never works as a public health tactic. You wouldn’t say “real men don’t get cancer” or “real men eat better so their cholesterol levels are lower.”
And for those of us in the fight, we can’t assume that it’s ‘other’ guys, and that we’re the good ones. Be open to the idea that you can do better too.