Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
How men show up right now will define us: Guest columnist Jeff Perera
Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Vicky Mochama invited a man to take over her column to address the work men need to do in this movement.
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Instead of my usual column today, I've asked Jeff Perera to write about how he, as a man, plans on changing men's conversations. Saturday is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In light of #MeToo and the many conversations women have been having about violence, I hope more men will take this moment to think of how they too can change. - Vicky
Headlines are full of the heavy stories of hurtful behaviour and harmful actions of sexual harassment and assault by men that we, as a culture, admired and believed in. At this moment, many men are fearfully sifting through their memories. We are reviewing every meeting, conversation, date, action and interaction.
What is the story women have of me? What is my reputation?
This moment isn’t just about us; it’s about those we hurt or harmed. How we show up for this moment will define us.
Collective conversations about our ideas of manhood seem to happen only in reaction to poor behaviour. Instead, men can commit to having more honest inner reflections and courageous conversations about who we have been, and who we are going to be. Most men, including me, have made hurtful mistakes, while some men’s behaviour has devolved into extreme violence.
Shame plays a role in all of this. Shame is what we carry inside, making us react with defensiveness rather then earnestly acknowledging, accepting and growing. Shame is what is holding us back from doing the real inner work towards change.
Author Brené Brown says that we need to “own the story, or the story will own you.” It is time to lean in to the discomfort of facing our actions. It is hard for real learning and unlearning to happen from a place of panic, but we can’t afford to wait for another wave of headlines to pass, like we always do. This time it feels different, and it will be different if we want it to be.
I’ve reached out to other men and "called them in" to talk about mistakes they’ve made; others have done that with me. I was pulled aside once to be made aware my actions were disappointing. I didn’t get defensive, I listened, reflected, and talked with people (of all genders) along a long period of learning and growth. That journey is one I share with men today, as they share theirs with me.
Working towards change is a life’s work, but you aren’t alone. Let’s contribute together to a culture of caring. Say sorry with the way you live the rest of your life, from this moment onward.
As men, we can encourage one another to decide that this isn’t the Day of our Reckoning. It’s the Day of our Awakening.
Jeff Perera is a speaker on healthy manhood and writes over at Higher Unlearning, a website dedicated to exploring the impacts of gender and masculinity.