Introduction to Positive Masculinity

( from Facebook's Activist ebook published in May 2023)

by Gloire Wanief

14 min read

The new societies in which we evolve put forward a new paradigm for which men are not prepared and this preparation requires education. Many men who consider themselves anti-feminist or other affiliated terms, point to certain social phenomena experienced by men such as:

  • Media silence about male rape victims;
  • Physical, moral and economic violence;
  • Denial of parental custody of children to fathers;

To name but a few. These problems are real and have a detrimental impact on men. Indeed, one cannot deny the impact of feminism on these problems. Except that it would be wrong to consider that all these problems are the fault of feminism. On the contrary, all these problems are the underside of patriarchy, this is what hides under the cloak of virility. And the impact of feminism is that with this movement, women no longer serve as carpets to hide all this filth. Indeed, like any system of domination, patriarchy is based on dominated people, in this case women, hence the notion of submission which is, literally, the action of putting oneself below. All the flaws, all the defects, of men were masked and tolerated by women so that this image of strength and grandeur remained perennial. But today, this is no longer the case, women have decided to raise their heads and the table is overturned.

Toxic masculinity, which is the set of harmful aspects of social characteristics attributed to men, has always been present: men have always been raped, men have always been beaten, men have always lost custody of their children. But these subjects were not addressed and still are not addressed for the simple reason that to talk about them would be to admit that man is weak, and it would be inconsistent with all the millennial propaganda about the power of men. Imagine yourself, if tomorrow on television, Vladimir Putin spoke about a rape he allegedly suffered when he was a child. How would you feel?  Imagine that on television, men confided, with tears in their eyes, about the domestic violence they suffered and other difficulties about family life, married life and all the daily burdens resting on the frail shoulders of these gentlemen, saying that they could no longer bear. Just imagine that, do you think it's possible? 

In 2021, I saw on Twitter a video of a man being whipped by a woman. The man was of a certain age, he was completely naked and his suffering transpired on the screen. This video was posted by a man who said in essence that public opinion will only qualify this scene as domestic violence if and only if the man had, at some point, tried to defend himself by hitting the woman in turn. He was right to say that, and in many such situations, that is what happens. Moreover, all the men in the comments went in the same direction and every day it is the same thing, the men, rather than talking openly about the violence they suffer, spend their time accusing feminism of not talking about them.  

First, it is wrong to say that feminists do not talk about men. If there are social movements that are really interested in the problems of men as a gender, a social group, it is those that have a feminist foundation. 

Because feminism is interested in gender issues, the roles of each individual according to whether he or she is a man or a woman. But above all the impact it has on the individual.

Second, blaming feminism is totally counterproductive. A few years ago, I was following the YouTube channel of a man who had been a victim of rape and who was campaigning for this topic to be put on the table. But all the videos of him I watched only served to demonstrate the flaws of feminism and he never really dealt with the subject of raping men. No testimony of victims, no focus group formation, absolutely nothing. It is especially counterproductive because it is not because of feminism that we do not talk about raped men in the media, not at all. It is because of patriarchy that there is this silence, this taboo around the suffering of men. Not talking about men's suffering helps maintain patriarchy, not advance feminism. It is true that feminists dwell much more on issues that affect women, but this is perfectly normal. That's its role, that's what this movement responds to, and you can't blame an eagle for not being a cat just because you have trouble taming it. Because that's what these people want: to tame feminism, women. This behavior is just a continuation of the logic of patriarchy domination and it will lead us nowhere else than to perpetuate our defects and our individual and collective suffering.

We men, especially those who stand for gender equality, need to take responsibility for educating other men about the status of men. We must create discussion groups so that we can exorcise our demons and vent our frustrations in peace. This kind of space does not exist, yet the men who want to confide are more numerous than one might think.

You see, this TV set I mentioned earlier is what we need. It is often said that men should not cry, but after Senegal's victory at the CAN, during all the sports competitions, we see men crying freely. This proves that the problem is not crying. The problem is crying in situations that show weakness. But football, sports in general, are high places of demonstration of virility and crying in these situations is in no way proof of weakness. We must demystify the man to cure the evil at the root. Man must be stripped of his crown or if you prefer a less violent version, man's crown must be stripped of its thorns. This is the only way out to move towards positive masculinity.

You will certainly ask me what I do at my level to achieve this positive masculinity. I could tell you that this is neither the time nor the place to talk about it, but I am obliged to answer because I brought up this matter. Concretely, all I do is talk about it, try to talk about it more and more and I must admit that it is complicated. It's mostly complicated because of the way men might look at me. The way they already look at me. How to approach these subjects, how to discuss these things with people, who all their lives, have never had the opportunity, the right to talk about themselves, to give themselves to others.  It is only with women that I feel comfortable talking about it and doing this work around a discussion.  

In the presence of men, I can't do it, I'm afraid of being judged, I'm afraid of being mocked. I am not yet out of male validation, because yes, men are also subject to the validation of other men, but especially of men in the sense of the figure of patriarchy, the patriarch to whom all men must resemble. Therefore, this man must be killed and everyone must commit his own inner homicide: the jihad of the heart. And mine, I decided to do in the public square through this text and my actions that sound the death of the man in me, the figure of patriarchy in me, the death of virility, the death of silence on sexual abuse.

We Africans are a suffering people, laughter masks our pain, drunkenness masks our pain, laziness masks our pain, entertainment masks our pain. That's why we're champions in this. We have experienced many atrocities, our history is littered with corpses, others have made us suffer, ours have done the same, we no longer trust anyone, we are frightened children, hidden in the closet until the moment of becoming adults when we are forced to face the harsh outside world. We have seen the bravest among us die brutally, we have seen the smartest and most intelligent among us become traitors, we have seen our small victories turn into curses, so we are afraid to rebel.

Each of us does not trust ourselves, which makes it difficult to trust the other. Unity thus becomes utopian, the imperialists divide us, the politicians divide us, we only gather around areas whose impact on our future is very insignificant. We laugh at everything to avoid crying; We tell the stories of others to forget the traumas of our own history.

All this sadness, all this shame, all this guilt that we refuse to express, it is painful, it is horrible, it is imprisoning, it is unacceptable, it is unacceptable! For me, all this shows the need to break the silence. By talking about our pains, they become much more real, making them real allows us to better look at them, understand them and then remedy them.

As humans, we deserve peace, inner peace first so that the rest will follow. It is the therapy of words in writing and orally externalizing evil is the very first step. I chose my burden: to promote gender equality and encourage Africans to achieve their dreams. This is my mission through my writing. This is a new birth, through this collection I am born again and I advance towards the next stage, that of concrete actions. I've talked enough about toxic masculinity and change. Now is the time to act. I do not hide from you that I am afraid of breaking my face, but I am convinced that what I am moving towards is necessary. Without pretending to be a messiah, I think I have a duty to act in accordance with what I think.

I offer you a literary journey to the heart of my wildest emotions. My committed and enraged pen reveals my colorful world and the nuances of my gray matter. More Artisan than Artist, words are my raw material.

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