building modern men
BEN FOGLE, 41 Adventurer, writer and broadcaster, husband to Marina and father to Iona, 4, and Ludo, 5 What does a healthy
At times, voices come back claiming that violence against women is in no way tolerated by most of our society, and some claim (perhaps condescendingly) that I am a victim of my own tragic loss, that I may be more prone to see violence where there is none, because my life has been shattered by it, after the violent death of my wife.
Some time ago I was given some advice: that because I was nearly 30, it was about time that I sort my life out and man up for once. The term 'man up' has always perplexed me, as I don't really know how one would increase their masculinity levels, and to what standard. For instance, is there a chance that I could man up so much that I became too manly?
Talking about the sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation of boys and men is an everyday occurrence for me (including my own survivorship), but standing in front of these audiences reminded me how difficult this subject is for much of society to hear and still very much a taboo to talk about.
For 17 years I was meant to "man up and get on with it" and that tends to instil itself in life outside of rugby too... The 21st Century man is under constant pressure to demonstrate strength at the expense of being able to offload troubles.
What you discover when you make TV programmes about brave, apparently macho men such as the Baghdad Bomb Squad or Yemeni death row convicts or Sunni militants in Lebanon is that they are not the two-dimensional masculine clichés you expect. They have fears, doubts and crises of confidence. They deep down care most about their children, partners and parents. They cry, often quite easily...
November, it seems, has become of the unofficial month of men across the world. Movember has become a big deal for raising awareness about cancer, International Men's Day day takes place on 19 November and throughout the month The Huffington Post UK will be partnering with the Being A Man festival, which takes place at London's Southbank Centre. There's a lot of good issues related to being a man, but by starting a conversation about the tough ones too means there's a huge opportunity to create something wonderful. None of us should be worried about championing men or applauding and rewarding them. Let us be inspired by the great man Herbert Spencer who I mentioned earlier and work together make a society a place that enables us all to start building modern men.
We are often the father we are because of the father we had. Intergenerational conditioning is one to watch out for because a lot of what you and I experienced is dated and has less relevance in modern fatherhood. Be the father you wish to be instead of what you were raised to be.
There's a competitive edge to male friendships that can make it difficult for guys to be open and honest with each other. You might have things that you really want to talk about but can't for fear of appearing weak. As a gay guy, I could stand apart from some of this.
How could I move into masculinity that was all about dominating women and fitting into the patriarchy, whilst opening my eyes to a world that is patriarchal, and embracing feminism at the same time? Can these two things co-exist? Can I exist?