Good Men and a shaving company

I am often asked what it is we are trying to achieve at Boys High – what our main purpose is. The answer to that is so broad which is in itself indicative of what we are trying to do – no one specific thing but many things. If I had to sum it up though, I want you to be Good Men (in capital letters), and all that is meant by those words. I want you to be good and I want you to develop as men. The usual aspect of goodness and male-ness apply but there is one I wish to focus on today that I think we need to work on and that is how Good Men treat women.

I am not referring to the prominent female authority figures in your lives – your Mothers and female teachers because I think generally you treat them with respect and appropriately. I am talking about the bigger picture – do you laugh at jokes that reinforce gender stereotype, do you make comments about women in general as weak, emotional and so on, the way you treat your female peers and those of your age who are young girls, and then how you view women in a romantic or sexual relationship.

Just as stereotype exists for women, so too does it exist for men and I do not want you to think that I feel all men conform to any one particular stereotype of beer-swilling, braaing, sport-watching misogynists who gather in male circles to laugh at jokes that objectify or demean women. I want you to have a picture in your mind what a Good Man says, does and thinks when it comes to women.

There is an advert from a company that makes male grooming products that hit social media this Monday in which a call is made to men around the world to act as Good Men. While the advert has provoked strong response from many quarters, some about the very stereotype I spoke of, it has raised awareness of things we need to consider on our journey to becoming Good Men. The advert’s main focus was asking us, as men, to notice and to call out unacceptable behaviour – simple as that. This unacceptable behaviour was largely centered around bullying and treatment of women.

It is unacceptable to think that any one person is inferior in any manner because of their gender. Yes, men may be physically stronger than women but women may be able to endure pain far more than men. We may be different but we are human beings and deserve to be treated well.

There are some phrases I dislike, one of which is “boys will be boys”. I need to explain. I never want a phrase like this to excuse behaviour that is unacceptable – bullying, fighting, and objectifying women and so on. We cannot allow our gender to be used as an excuse for poor behaviour – we cannot hide behind being male. But – boys do things that girls tend not to do. Boys are competitive, take risks and will kick a pinecone just because they can. They may laugh at someone’s misfortune in cases where girls will be most concerned. That is just an aspect of male behaviour. There is a subtle difference between the characteristics that being male are and using one’s male-ness as an excuse for poor behaviour.

The other phrase is “the man of the house” which automatically places the man at the centre of the household, not because he necessarily has the qualities require to lead but simply because he is male. I prefer the phrase “the man in the house” which acknowledges his contribution as a partner in the community.

I want you to watch the video now. Many of you have seen it before but look again. I hope that you are able to draw out the positive message from this clip and use these lessons on the road to becoming Good Men.