Source & Image by Tsehpi Nhemachena
It’s a widely known phenomenon that men struggle with vulnerability. This is, in part, owing to the way masculinity is presented on television shows, movies and from societal expectations. Men and boys are socialised to believe that vulnerability is weakness that men can’t afford to show. This way of thinking has been proven to have many flaws. Contemporarily, this is a phenomenon that’s being sought to be changed as we now understand that there are vast benefits to men being vulnerable.
RIPPLE EFFECTS IN COMMUNITIES
These benefits include a reduction in sexual violence, traffic accidents, suicides, binge drinking, and depressive symptoms among men. Getting rid of the beliefs that continuously exert pressure among males to behave within specific masculine norms has ripple effects in our communities, as this reduces some societal issues and enhances the wellbeing of others.
At The Big Issue, as a way of promoting vulnerability among our male vendors, we held a special workshop for all who wanted to attend. June being the month in which we celebrate Father’s Day, we saw fit to celebrate the dads among our vendors, and promote their taking responsibility for all that comes with being a parent. This was a space in which our male vendors could talk about issues that concern them, such as their physical and mental health.
VULNERABILITY BUILDS HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
We saw it fitting and of great value to have a male facilitator conduct this workshop, which went well because the men opened up and were comfortable in each other’s presence. We hope to hold many more of these workshops to continue promoting male vulnerability. Socially, vulnerability reinforces positive filial relationships. As we know, it’s what connects us to other human beings. Vulnerability is good for building healthy relationships, and this is what’s much needed among South African men, due to the high rate of absent fathers, especially among black families. Promoting vulnerability among men may result in dads being present in the lives of their children. Some of our male vendors already are, while others are not so much.
Promoting better engagement is essential because we see that absent fathers impact younger generations who are more likely to become juvenile criminals, show aggression at school, and experience social problems, which in turn promotes poverty. A lack of male role models results in boys joining gangs. Statistical evidence on the impact of fatherlessness, as presented in a study by Dr Fazel Ebrihiam Freeks, shows that 70% of juveniles come from fatherless homes, and 80% of rapists motivated by displaced anger come from fatherless homes. These statistics might not be from the South African population group, but the social issues are not different from what we observe in this country.
We understand that our male vendors at The Big Issue are in the same predicament. Some of them are absent fathers, while others face the impact of being children of absent fathers. These are a few of the motivations that we had during this in-depth and valuable workshop.
If you would like to support our vendors in any way, or if you have opportunities and ideas that could help them, please feel free to get in touch with Tsephi via email or give her a call. She is looking forward to engaging with you at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 461 6690.