Tuesday, June 19, 2007
When I think about the messages about manhood today, I find it hard to characterize any of these models presented in music, movies, sports, TV, magazines, and video games as healthy, limitless, projections of manhood. Not that I grew up with anyone better to idolize, as one of my heroes growing up was none other than Mike Tyson. I can’t even begin to calculate the countless hours my friends and I spent playing "Mike Tyson's Punch Out" because he was the toughest person around. Who knew he would bite an opponent boxer's ear off or that his violent personality would spill over to his personal life as he would abuse his wife and that he would be sexually violent toward other women in his life.
I read recently that youth are spending 20 hours on average a week watching TV and, also, that on average today’s youth view over 200,000 violent acts on TV alone by age 18 (tvturnoff.org). News coverage contributes to more and more of this as it is not just violent TV programming any more. And for that matter, we all know that it’s not just TV that is promoting these violent images. These images are much more prevalent in male culture through readily available access to a variety of technology. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to persuade anyone that media is bad. However, I am suggesting that there are not enough alternatives in media for all these over-stereotyped, celebrated images of the "real man". I just think that there needs to be more people intentionally investing in youth by modeling and embracing a broader range of masculinity to what is constantly played out in many forms in our media today.
On the other hand, I do not want to let media off the hook because it is not as if media is accidentally putting this stuff out there. It is obviously driven by consumerism and they could care less about the side effects. But that’s the scary thing; there are many studies that show a correlation between images viewed by youth and the attitudes or behaviors they display. It is disturbing, specifically, when these images they view normalize disrespect and violence regarding sex and women.
When I reflect and consider where I have been personally and why I find myself pursuing this work in presenting a healthier and safer vision of manhood, I can not help but recognize those men in my life that provided alternative attitudes and behaviors to the ones that dominated my environment. These MENtors taught me that real men could be strong and still respect others. Also, these MENtors instilled in me that violence was never a viable means to a rewarding end but that real men can express a full range of feelings, not just anger, and could empathize with the feelings of others even in midst of conflict. I take a stand in Man Up! with the expectation that there is this opportunity to provide healthier alternative male role models and the hope to reduce men’s violence against women and other men.