Religion & Culture | Anti-male culture destroying our youth
In 1999, Trinidadian Dr Jerome Teelucksingh launched International Men's Day, an ambitious undertaking that is unrestricted by gender, sexual orientation or religious creed. Observed annually on November 19 (his father's birthday), it calls for positive male role models in all walks of life; the celebration of men's positive contribution to family life; a focus on men's health and spiritual well-being; improving long gender relations; combating discrimination against men in areas of social services and law; and creating a safer world where people can optimise their abilities.
Dr Teelucksingh has long been an activist for social justice, and has written and spoken extensively on labour movements and workers' rights in the Caribbean. His activism turned to addressing the spiritual, cultural and psychological shortcomings of men partly caused by shifts in gender roles, male stereotyping, and social institutions that have overwhelmingly sided women in custody battles.
Although he is the architect of this growing movement, Teelucksingh declined a leadership role and prefers the title 'coordinator'.
"This is a pure grass-roots movement that allows our many coordinators to function and grow their respective bodies as they see fit; so it's not uncommon to see different websites and logos. That's fine. What's important is that we work towards the same goals," he said.
He calls International Men's Day "a conscious movement and a way of living".
Teelucksingh said that being a coordinator "should not be a burdensome job or one that demands attention for the entire year". He advises interested individuals to "create a timeline which will show when, where and they will begin planning the observance". He also encourages coordinators to create archives of their specific work undertaken on that day. "This is important so that other coordinators and supporters would be interested in how they could better their own work and improve observances." He emphasises the importance of the most seemingly inconsequential of tasks. "No activity is too simple, too insignificant and unworthy if it involves easing the burdens of another living creature. Each drop of sweat, every cent, every second spent in a worthwhile activity will surely assist in helping humanity and improving society."
BOYS AND MEN HAVE BECOME THE UNDERCLASS
After a laboured start, International Men's Day gained momentum when American-born Diane Aisha Sears was contacted by a coordinator in Australia. In sync with Dr Teelucksingh's vision, Sears assumed the role of United States coordinator. Arguably, she is now the fulcrum of a movement that is now observed in 81 countries. From her office in Philadelphia where she oversees coordinators in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, Delaware, New Jersey and New York, she recalls a childhood that was culturally and spiritually nurtured by every member of her close-knit family. "I learned more outside the classroom," she said.
Still, she excelled in College and now works as a paralegal. Sears was introduced to 'In Search of Fatherhood', a project that was undertaken by L.T. Henry, her mentor. His sudden passing was an enduringly painful experience.
"He suffered so much but I feel that he is living through my involvement with International Men's Day," she said. When she was introduced to Dr Teelucksingh in 2009, "it all came together". Sears effusively praises the Trinidadian lecturer and activist. "His organisation felt so real and so important," she noted. "When I look around I see that boys and men have become the underclass. There is so much emphasis on girls and women, now that we are ignoring a festering social problem."
Sear identifies fatherless homes and the separation of men from their children as an issue that needs to be addressed. However, she posits that skewed, unnatural upbringing of boys breeds dysfunctional men that are incapable of social integration.
"Boys are generally not allowed to express their feelings, although they emerge from the womb with the same emotions as girls," she opines. "When boys are erroneously taught that strength is purely physical - 'to suck it up' - and crying is a sign of weakness, we are courting trouble. Boys must learn that showing vulnerability in front of another person is a risk, and that is sign of strength, not weakness. Where does the emotional and psychological pain go? Either it implodes, leading to alcoholism, drug addiction and domestic problems; or it explodes in the form of violence and suicide. It's the elephant in the room."
Sears presents staggering statistics on male suicide, the theme of this year's International Men's Day. "Of every 1,000 suicides every year, 79 per cent are male. Why then do men resort to suicide as the only option to escape from psychological, spiritual and emotional pain?" she asked.
She referred to an article titled 'It's Society, Not Biology That is Making Men More Suicidal', penned by a British journalist. She culls a profound assertion from this article that was published in The Telegraph: An increase in mental health problems, and in particular suicide rates among men, suggests that the environment we live in has become more hostile to men. "If depression is the mind's way of telling us there is something wrong in our environment, then the broader increase in male suicides is telling us there is something wrong in our society."
Sears has prodigiously embarked on a programme geared for inmates at correctional facilities. "International Men's Day of Healing and Repatriation," she said, "underscores the need for atonement and for inmates to be involved in planning their reintegration as wholesome and constructive human beings in society."
Although buoyed by the accomplishments of International Men's Day, Sears acknowledges the challenges ahead and looks forward to working closely with Dr Teelucksingh. "We must articulate and be true representatives of our mission and ideals every day. Only then can IMD be instrumental in transforming society for the better."