Yet another daughter of our land brutalised at the hands of broken manhood. And another. And another. Another precious daughter, sister, mother, aunt savaged by the scourge of toxic masculinity. The deplorable evil we call gender-based violence has made itself visible in a way which no man can ignore. Whether we like it or not we are at war. And unlike most wars the casualties of this war are women. As men we cannot tolerate this aberration committed in our name, by men who call themselves our brothers.
We have allowed this enemy so far beyond our borders. It is in our homes, our streets, our parks, and even our churches. From parliament to public toilets it plies its deadly trade. It stalks our daughters in school corridors, it lurks menacingly in parks and public places and postures in positions of power. It skulks malevolently in the very institutions tasked with protecting us. This is an enemy that must be met with the same level of force, commitment and urgency that galvanizes a nation in times of military threat.
The enemy is not men or masculinity. The enemy is deeply wounded men with a severely distorted sense of what it means to be a man. True masculinity uses its strength to love, serve and protect. Wounded masculinity uses its strength to dominate or take what’s not its own by force in a sick attempt to prove that it is powerful. True masculinity is authentic and caring. False masculinity postures, poses and abuses.
True masculinity never stands by when abuse is taking place, it stands up and protects. As Edmind Burke so profoundly said ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. True masculinity is not passive or safe, it is active and dangerous. But never, ever dangerous to women or children or to society, always dangerous to whatever threatens women, children or society. The solution is not to tame men, or feminise men. The solution is to heal the hearts of men, to teach men what true masculinity is and to refuse to tolerate false masculinity.
We will not win this war by focussing on its victims, we will solve it only by dealing with the enemy. Counselling programmes for victims of abuse are necessary but they don’t deal with the cause. It’s like sending the Red Cross to war while the army sleeps. Greater policing, although necessary to hold the enemy at bay while we deal with the root cause, is not the solution. There are men in the very police force tasked with protecting our women who are themselves abusers, who don’t take rape seriously, who ask women what they were wearing, as if this has anything to do with their sacred right to the protection of men. The solution is to stop men from abusing.
As a man I want to say sorry to every woman who has been wounded by masculine abuse. I’m sorry that I, or one of my brothers, was not there to protect you. I’m sorry that someone who calls himself a man did this to you. It was not your fault. You did not deserve this. Know that whoever did this to you was not a real man and that whatever he did cannot stop you from being a real woman.
The father in me weeps for the fallen angels who have been taken from us at the hands of desperate cowards who call themselves men. Weeps for those angels who still stand but whose wings bear the scars of masculine brutality and who struggle to fly. Please fly again. You were made to fly, you deserve to fly, we need you to fly. What happened to you was not your fault.
The warrior in me rages and rallies, and calls to all men to join in this battle. We can no longer be silent or still. We need to fight with everything we have; our voices, our strength, our resources. And we need to start with ourselves. The enemy is within. The enemy is false masculinity. The warrior that will defeat the enemy is also within. It is authentic masculinity.
Any man who ever lays a hand on a woman in a way in which causes her pain loses the right to call himself a man – no matter what she does and no matter what she is wearing. Any man who uses his strength or his words to hurt a woman has broken a sacred trust and betrayed the brotherhood of men. You are a disgraceful coward and as a man I say shame on you.
To all the men who embrace their masculinity, who use their strength well, who regard women as equal but stunningly different partners in the co-creation of a beautiful world, I say to you brothers let’s go to war. Let’s use our strength to love, serve and protect. Let’s be the men our daughters, mothers and sisters need us to be. Let’s destroy this enemy so the world can know the fragrant breeze and radiant beauty of our angels in full and free flight.
Craig is the author of Dad – The Power and Beauty of Authentic Fatherhood, founder of the NPO Father A Nation and celebrated speaker. His website is Craigwilkinson.co.za and his materials can be found at Thedadbook.co.za.