As someone who has an agenda about gender, I closely follow the news with respect to anything about the issues faced by men and and women. Needless to say that the last few years has had an absolute tidal wave of material to get immersed in. My project of Making Good Men Great is certainly not a lone voice on the topic. It is however, in my view, the one that takes the conversation to the real core of the problem. What is the real reason for the crisis in men?

If we take a look at what appears in the media, it generally focuses on men as sexual perpetrators, i.e. Harvey Weinstein, or as domestic violence offenders, and frequently being described as suffering from mental health problems, as President Trump suggested in response to the School shooting in Florida. The media then scratches for various explanations as to why ‘boys are broken’ and ”men are toxic’.

They come up with various explanations, most of which contain some truth or the partial truth. Issues about how boys are parented, how men are not emotionally expressive, how they are isolated, addicted to work, sex, sport, and drugs. I see this as a shot gun attempt in understanding the problem.

Peel the Onion

What if we consider the problem with boys and men like peeling an onion? I found this interesting graphic on the Internet by Michael James. Although there are many ways to utilise this metaphor, I liked this one because it illustrates how we can use the model to understand the processes involved in making sense of what is happening to boys and men.

Would that give us a better understanding of the complexity of what Masculinity is dealing with, and more to the point what individuals, couples, families, parents and teachers need to understand in our attempt ‘to fix boys and men’.
I argue that the first part of the conversation focuses too much on the symptoms and not enough on the root cause. Millions of dollars are spent on treatments, especially drugs, to provide a quick fix. Ironically in some situations medications can actually make the problem worst. What if the problem with boys is actually about the way that they are nurtured and parented? Our culture, based on ancient ideas of masculinity has approached boys by hardening them up. One of the most successful cultures was Sparta. Spartan boys, from the moment of birth were subjected to exposure in nature and then, at the age of seven, being taken away from their mothers and subjected to a violent training regime. I can hear many of you go “but we don’t do this!’. And your right we seem to have come at least some ways in that. However, the idea of toughening boys up to become ‘men’ is still a central theme in our culture.

Unfortunately, over nurturing is just as much a problem. Over-nurturing is where boys are overly controlled in what they can do, how they do it, when they can do it, and with whom they can do it. The result is that many boys fail to launch, and like those boys who are not nurtured enough, they will also have psychological, behavioural and social issues to deal with. Both approaches are based on an ideology that is toxic.

We need to find a middle path. One that starts with Male culture. One that is driven by healthy men with the right values, attitudes and behaviours. Men that can be loved and loving, respectful and be respected; strong in the face of adversity and not violent. Men who see vulnerability, compassion, tolerance and nurturing as a strength and not a weakness.

Masculinity is not a problem. Patriarchy is. It is the root cause of the men’s plight. It is not only the core belief but has become an encompassing ideology that has dominated culture for millennia. And men, husbands and fathers, teachers, politicians and business leaders, do not talk about this sufficiently, if at all. Most men only hear this word from feminists, a perceived enemy in the camp that stirs up feelings of resistance and rebellion, rather than understanding and empathy. So we, men, ignore the discussion, or worst try to trash it.

What we lack is a clear framework that includes a cohesive vision about a male culture that is healthy; how to have healthy relationships, what effective communication looks like, and how to grow and evolve as we age. We also need to be clear about what values aligned action is, and how that effects our relationships as whole. Simply saying ‘I love you’ is not enough. You have to act accordingly. Boys and men desperately need to begin on a path of evolving beyond the Iron Age warrior who is dominated by fears of annihilation.

Patriarchy is malware, a trojan that infiltrates and undermines the wellbeing and happiness of all creatures on this planet. It’s not just humans who are suffering because of our conscious and unconscious participation in this toxic masculinity. Sexual harassment, rape and all forms of violence are expressions of the alienation that boys and men feel when they fail to meet patriarchal standards of success. All this needs to change if we want healthy well adjusted boys and men.
So, follow me for more of ‘Peeling the Onion.’

Another Making Good Men Great Mentoring Group is being set up. Interested? For more information please call Rebecca on 02 9999 0429 or email