Betty-Ann's Both Sides Blog

Flipping the Script on Our Role Models

It is time to flip the script on what is considered a positive role model in our society, especially for boys. When we send a message that it is all about external success such as making money, establishing power and gaining status, we encourage a sense of entitlement that leads to disillusionment, frustration and ultimately unscrupulous behavior. By providing role models that demonstrate the positive aspects of masculinity we can make room for boys to find security in their individual identity and hopefully we can avoid many of the sexual harassment stories that have dominated our news over the past year.

One such story hit close to home recently as we’ve been frequenting Prince Edward County, an island on the north shore of Lake Ontario. This area boasts some spectacular nouveaux wine, much of which is accredited to wine maker and restaurateur, Norman Hardie. Dubbed the “King of the County”, Hardie planted acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 2002 and then rose to the top of his industry. Many world leaders and celebrities have visited and tasted his wines making him a role model in the community.

Recently a story broke about how he has abused his position by groping, making lewd comments and forcing himself on women in his employ. Twenty women have now come forward with stories of sexual misconduct that have spanned years. Unfortunately, he is acting out a script that seems all too common in society these days-successful men, who are held in high esteem, using their position and the imbalance of power to dominate and objectify those more vulnerable.

Public opinion has reacted quickly and in short order, masculinity has gone from being revered to being dismissed as all that is wrong with society. Regular guys who have been going along, enjoying their lives are feeling attacked and are a little bewildered at how the tables have turned. Part of the problem is that they are being tarred with the same brush as shameless leaders. It started during the US presidential election when Trump bragged about assaulting women and then laughed about it. Many people that I know and respect dismissed Trump’s actions, made excuses for him and continued to consider him a role model. Clearly, they aren’t alone as a Gallop poll released on May 29, 2018 showed that 77% of Republicans believe Trump provides strong moral leadership.

While I don’t agree, I am not ready to throw all men under the Trump bus. I believe our castigation of masculinity has swung too far and that there are many positive masculine attributes that should be recognized and celebrated. Instead of vilifying men let’s take this opportunity to encourage the positive masculine qualities. In Aristotle’s philosophy, if one wants to learn wisdom one must seek out the phronimos. These are the ‘moral experts’ in society who can guide us to lead better lives. Aristotle taught that one could learn wisdom by emulating those who exercise good moral character and that is what we should be seeking in the role models we hold out for our boys. It is time to flip the script.

Take, for example, Toronto Maple Leaf’s coach, Mike Babcock who was named a 2018 Order of Hockey in Canada Honouree. He wouldn’t say that the things he does each day are significant because they are part of how he was raised and thus seem routine- yet he demonstrates characteristics that we should aspire our boys to be. It is very encouraging to see someone recognized who works hard, values the truth, is loyal to his friends and family, and stands up for what he believes in. He recently travelled to Humboldt Saskatchewan to spend time helping the Junior Hockey League team with their spring training camp after sixteen players and staff (including their coach) were killed in a bus crash. That’s action based on caring.

Another encouraging role model is former NFL player Terry Crews who condemned “toxic masculinity” when providing testimony on Capitol Hill in support of the American Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. He was quoted in a Daily Beast story admitting that “as a man” he was trained to believe that he was “more valuable in this world than women” and that “this is how toxic masculinity permeates culture.” He also said that when he shared the story about his own personal assault, he was “told over and over that this was not abuse, that this was just a joke, that this was just horseplay.” He now knows that “one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.” He advocates disrupting the power dynamics so that every man, woman and child will be seen as equal under the law.

As Terry Crews demonstrates, positive Masculine Energy people are strong individuals who are not afraid to speak their mind. They take risks and are quick to spring into action, especially if it is the defense of those who are less advantaged. They are confident and self-sufficient, not afraid to engage with their partners and respond to their needs on an equal basis. In this way they are integral in creating communities in which all members feel safe. As Author Elie Wiesel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Masculine Energy is the force that motivates people to speak up, take sides and help the victim. Without it, we’d never have love.

It is time to flip the script on role models and hold up those who disrupt the power dynamics to create equality, rather than using the imbalance of power to take advantage of others. It is also time to call out leaders on their unacceptable behavior which violates our moral codes. Accepting a leader and accepting their behavior don’t have to be a ‘one in the same’ proposition. If we can do this, we’ll make room for boys to feel secure in their individual identity and free them from the pressure of living up to artificial external expectations. This will not only make them happier it will reduce the sexual harassment, protecting society’s most vulnerable.