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Men can be feminists too
Last week, the Single Father’s Association of T&T (SFATT) stated that physical punishment should remain a legitimate way to discipline children in homes and schools. SFATT was attempting to ally with a mother who uploaded a video showing her physical and verbal abuse of her daughter on the social networking site Facebook, in an effort to discipline and protect through public humiliation and violence.
It’s important to avoid individual woman blame, and instead turn attention to inadequate coping strategies in families, inadequate provision of social services and inadequate understandings of how adolescence, sexuality, status and vulnerability are being reshaped by the Internet, media and popular culture. It’s also necessary to protect children from violence of all kinds.
To take any other public position ignores that the nation is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It disregards decades of advocacy against corporal punishment by Caribbean women, rather than learning from and visibly allying with this politics and history. It undermines other men’s collective efforts to create greater peace in relationships, schools and communities.
I’m thrilled that men have been slowly joining women in trying to transform sexism, homophobia and violence. The Caribbean suffered almost three decades of setback by the myth of male marginalisation, that fiction that gender equality meant too much woman power, and that men are the victims whose rights now deserve our greatest attention. Pervasive though baseless, this backlash framed how many men expressed their anxieties in a world requiring new kinds of bravery, rather than bravado. Disappointingly, such response to feminist challenges to power distanced men from much needed collaboration with women and children’s rights struggles.