We all know the ‘unspoken rules’ for being a man; rules like ‘be the man’, ‘toughen up’ and ‘boys don’t cry’. They are the expectations that boys and young men inherit from society, based on outdated ideas of what a man is, how he acts and how he should express himself. Even if we don’t agree with them, these rules still exist silently in the background for far too many.
White Ribbon’s ‘Challenge the #Unspoken Rules’ campaign is letting us know it’s time for the stereotypes to stop, and tough-looking men (and women) on motorcycles are on a week-long tour promote healthy masculinity.
South Island Ride Leader Ken Mahon says if boys aren’t encouraged to show emotions such as sadness and anger in healthy ways, it can lead to bottling up of emotions, mental health challenges, aggression and violence.
Ken says these #unspoken rules such as ‘boys don’t cry’ have a negative impact on our young men. “It puts real pressure on boys to behave in certain ways. They suppress their emotions and their individuality and this can have a real effect on their mental health. It begins to create unhealthy attitudes that can affect how they treat their partners.”
The South Island Ride is now in its ninth year, having started in 2011. Each year the riders send out a registration of interest to communities and build the ride around those towns that are keen to have them visit and promote their anti-violence messages.
“This is my first year as the Ride Leader so I’m really chuffed about that,” Ken says. “We have a great team of riders with a range of skills. Some are great at talking to students, some can play the guitar and so far they’re all very proficient riders.”
Ken says the key thing is that they are caring people who want to help reduce the terrible rates of violence in our communities. “When 41 percent of a frontline officer’s time is spent dealing with family violence, you know we have a serious problem.
“This is the first year we are talking about the myths that we pass down to our children. The men I’ve talked to all responded to these messages. They’ve all heard these #unspoken rules and experienced the negative impacts that occur when you believe you shouldn’t cry, or that you have to toughen up or be the man.”
Ken says the message is to let both adults and our young men know that being a man is about so much more than being tough. It’s about being kind, empathetic and being confident in who you are, not feeling the pressure to be an outdated stereotype.
The riders attend a range of events each year from marches, community days, school visits, talks at Corrections and this year the riders even get to meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall who has a particular interest in family violence.
The South Island Ride is heading to Christchurch on 22 November. For more information and the itinerary, visit www.whiteribbon.org.nz.