Gary Barker, Equimundo President and CEO, recently delivered a TED Talk on ‘A reframing of masculinity, rooted in empathy.’ In his talk, Gary urges us to turn away from harmful ideas about masculinity and instead foster a culture of care, compassion and connection among men.
We must talk about manhood, Gary says. This is not instead of conversations about women’s full equality and rights, but it is an urgent and interconnected conversation that we must have.
“At risk of mansplaining here, you know where men are having these conversations if we don’t talk to them. Young men right now are having these conversations online. There is an explosion of conversations about manhood online. Some of them are good…but there’s a huge amount of it that’s fed by an industry of misogynist and angry influencers who are getting the attention of young men.”
The unfortunate truth is this: manhood is a through line of violence. The majority of violence in the world is carried out by men, including violence against other men, violence against women and people of all gender identities, and violence inflicted upon themselves, including suicide.
“Our research finds that 40 to 50 percent of young men in the US say they trust one or more of those negative voices online. Why are they going there? They are lost, they are struggling, they’re confused…About two thirds of young men tell us that “no one really knows me.” What a call and a cry about loneliness in their lives. If we don’t reach out, they will continue to find solace online with the voices that we well know about.”
The root of this violence has to do with how we raise boys, and how boys and men live their lives. We tell boys to “man up,” and teach them that violence is the best tool for conflict resolution. We tell them that having a lot of sex, drinking a lot of alcohol, and driving too fast in sports cars are the right ways to demonstrate your manliness – and it’s costing men their lives.
What can we do about this? How can we convince men that it’s important – and manly – to have this conversation? We know that many men are confused and defensive when men’s role in gender equality comes up in conversation. How can we bring men into these complex conversations without turning them away?
Gary’s TED Talk is also available as a podcast on Spotify. Listen here: