Working Differently with Men (Read Time – 2.5 minutes)
“Be a Man,” “Cowboy up,” “Grow a pair,” are all statements that we have heard in our lives. But what do they all really mean? Often there can be stigma to being who we wish to be for fear of being chastised. I grew up both loving drama class and playing rugby. Often my teammates were confused about me missing practice for rehearsal and vice versa. Why could the two not co-exist rather than be at odds? I was lucky enough to have supportive family and friends that were happy for me to do both, but not all of us are lucky enough to have that from loved ones. Men face many interesting and complex issues in their lives that can be challenging to navigate.
There have been many different movements throughout history that have been focused on gender. Many of these issues are human issues that we should all be working to tackle together, regardless of sex or gender. Jackson Katz is quoted as saying that violence against women is a men’s issue for example in his Ted Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/jackson_katz_violence_against_women_it_s_a_men_s_issue. It is an issue that affects everyone and should not be relegated to being an issue for only those that are the ‘victim.’ I think the same can be said for some issues that men face and that can affect their families, loved ones, and the females in their lives as well.
There must be an important distinction made between these men’s issues and men’s rights groups. There are many groups that state they are working for “men’s rights” but in fact can border on misogyny. These groups do not work to balance the equity between genders, but rather to raise one above the other. This is NOT what this posting is endorsing in any way.
So back to men’s issues. It can be very challenging to work on some of these issues for men. Often societal norms based on society’s masculinity ideals can push men to avoid seeking help with things that they may be battling with alone, often in silence. Such issues could be male specific health problems, impotence, body image, stress, PTSD, violence, divorce, or fatherhood. All of these are issues that men can, and do, face, among many others.
Some men may experience fear or shame related to expressing some of the emotions felt around these issues. According to goodtherapy.org, “men are often conditioned by social norms to refrain from showing certain emotions, such as emotional vulnerability, fear, sensitivity, or dependence, they may fear that expressing these emotions will lead them to be perceived as less masculine.”
So, what can you do? With the help of a therapist that understands men’s issues and who can work in a collaborative and empathetic way, not only can the distress caused by such issues be diminished, it can be completely managed, or even mitigated, both for the males facing them and the others they have in their lives.
If you are, or know a man that is struggling or seems to not be himself, reach out, ask him if there is anything they need to chat about, and lend an ear. If all you do is create safe space to provide validation and empathy around what he is facing, then you will have done so much more than you can imagine. You DO NOT need to be the therapist or have the answers, but be a support and point in the direction of someone skilled in that area that can assist.
If you read this and want to get in touch, or know someone who could use some professional assistance, then mention this posting and I would be happy to provide a 20 minute consult free of charge to determine how he can help make the changes you hope to see. Contact me today! firstname.lastname@example.org or 647-550-0866
Alexander has his Master’s in Social Work from the University of Calgary and has been working with males since 2012. He was a part of a provincial advisory committee focused on engaging men and boys in violence prevention and creating training on healthy masculinity for Alberta, a treatment advisory for male survivors of child sexual abuse for the Canadian Centre for Male Survivors, and has presented internationally on the topic of male victims of domestic violence.