Many Ways To Be A Man
By Lee Orszaczky
There are many ways to be a man.
People tend to forget that.
Even today, where various tropes of “Tough Jock Footballers” and “Geeky Nerds,” “Soft Boys” and “Responsible Suburban Dads” oversaturate the mainstream media, many boys and young men still don’t recognise that growing up involves a great deal of choice.
They need to be shown, not just told.
Growing up, I was really lucky to be born into a good family with a good father who was around a lot and taught me to take responsibility for everything I did. As well as this, I had my English Grandfather, who showed me a different side of masculinity – that you could be a “tough bugger” handyman and still show a soft emotional side. My primary school Year Three teacher was also an old Irish man who showed me that you could be intelligent & creative, and still be respected. I was also exposed to different men of different backgrounds through music tutoring all throughout schooling, as well as my uncles, family friends and many others.
I was swimming in a pool of positive male role models.
But some people don’t have this, some people are never shown that they have options of who to be. Many of my friends who have grown up without a responsible Dad feel a pull towards reckless, self-destructive behaviours, bringing out the most turbulent traits of their father. It’s a vicious cycle that goes around and around and around, bringing up generations of men that share the problematic tendencies of the previous.
“Do Fathers Matter” by Paul Raeburn cites numerous scientific studies undertaken on Norwegian and American children whose dad, their key father figure, was absent during their childhoods and teen formative years. These studies all concluded that when a father figure was absent from a boy’s life (from any stage from infanthood to adolescence), that child had many difficulties forming bonds with other children, as well as impacting relationships all throughout their lives. Paul Amatto, a sociology professor from Pennsylvania State University states that “When fathers are actively involved with their children, children do better.”
A credible 2017 study into the effects of Father Figures on African American teenagers backs up these claims even further. The study found that children that communicate regularly and positively with their father figures had “favourable educational outcomes in the form of higher grades, fewer school suspensions, and more positive beliefs about postsecondary education.” The study also found that “adolescents perceived closeness to father figures was not significantly related to any of the observed outcome variables.”
This means that positive male role-models anywhere in a child’s life, including teachers, mentors, extended family or family friends can have a colossal impact on male development.
So, what now? What do we as a society do about the 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 who are raised without a father?
The answer is fairly difficult, and yet at the same time it's fairly simple.
We need to provide more male role-models outside the family unit. This means that we need more male teachers in primary education, especially considering only 18% of primary school educators are male. We need to introduce these boys to men they can look up to, encourage the growth of strong support networks from a young age and normalise that males can be caring and nurturing too, regardless of parental responsibilities. We need to put a greater focus on positive forward-thinking engagement with the generations of boys to come, to make a better generation of men to come.
There are many ways to be a man.
Maybe it’s time we showed the youth that.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.