This is an important question and it is one being asked around the world in a number of forums and campaigns. Many are secular, but there are also plenty of Christians talking about the topic. Let’s take a snapshot of some of the big campaigns:
- Men Care is a global campaign focused on fatherhood from the perspective of encouraging and equipping men to become active, equitable and nonviolent fathers and caregivers.
- Front Page Father is a media campaign in South Africa that ‘aims to create awareness of the value of involved fathers and to empower men to become more involved in the lives of their children and families.’
- HeforShe is a major UN campaign for gender equality fronted by celebrities such as Emma Watson. The campaign takes the position that gender equality is a man’s issue just as much as a woman’s issue, with both genders benefiting from a more equitable world
- Restored is an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women. They ask the question – where is the church and where are men in ending violence against women. They also highlight that violence in women happens in churches too.
- There’s even a jewellery & accessory chain for men called William Henry in the US who are running a ‘what is a real man’ campaign. They produced a great video challenging the stereotypical response to that question.
Now, William Henry is running this as a marketing campaign, likely to connect with and broaden their customer base, but it shows how pervasive and relevant this question of ‘what is a real man?’ really is. As you look at these campaigns (and there are many more), there are so many positive things being advocated for. There is a significant push for paid parental leave for men as well as women. There are initiatives to encourage and equip fathers to be more actively involved in pregnancy, birth and child raising. There are many initiatives addressing gender based violence, which is not limited to men, but they do form the vast majority of offenders.
At their heart, all of these campaigns are asking questions and attempting to give answers around the identity, roles and stereotypes around being a man, or a real man, in today’s society. And many also seek to address the negative and destructive behaviours that often stem from or are justified by these stereotypes.
William Henry state in their campaign that it’s a complicated subject. And yes, it is, but at the same time it isn’t. It’s complicated because no two men are the same, because we all bring our own worldview and experience to the issue, because our world is so much more global and connected, and because there has been centuries of stereotypes and assumptions. And some will argue that even the helpfulness of the term ‘a real man’ can be debated.
But for Family Impact it’s also not that complicated…..
At Family Impact we believe that the family is core and that God’s plan for family can transform individuals, families, communities and nations. Our desire is to see people experience the fullness of life, freedom and wholeness that comes from being part of a strong family. But over the past couple of years we have been challenged by the fact that when we offer trainings on marriage and parenting, which is core to what we do to build strong families, we struggle to get men in the room. We believe this is related to both the format of the training and the content. It’s not that men don’t care about their families or about their role as men in their family and community. But they often feel that they are being made out to be the ‘bad’ parent or spouse. The one who doesn’t care enough, or spend enough time or express their feelings enough. Yet often they are really feeling the pressure to provide for their families in what is an extremely challenging economic environment. And they would probably love some help, encouragement and inspiration in their role as a husband, father, colleague, son and friend. But they just don’t want to sit in a room and feel like they are being ‘lectured’ or ‘talked at’ about it and they especially don’t want to be pressured into attending by their wives.
So after much thought, prayer and planning, Family Impact decided we needed to add our voice to those around the globe who are inspiring, challenging, equipping and encouraging men to be the best son, father, husband, uncle, friend and colleague they were made to be. In February this year we launched the Real Man – Living the Life of a Champion campaign. It’s a digital campaign focused on men in Africa, with a dedicated Facebook page and a section on the Family Impact website. The campaign has its own brand and tone and it draws on Family Impact resources and messages. But at its heart, it’s inspiration for what defines a ‘real man’ comes from the one place where we all can go to find our identity and learn who we were made to be – God’s word. We bring these messages in a variety of packages – we share good stuff that others are writing, we generate content ourselves, we interview men to give them an opportunity to share their wisdom and experience and we are encouraging men to write content for us. And we have a bit of fun while we do it.
Some may argue that there’s already enough being written on this topic, but for Family Impact we see a gap in Christian organisations speaking into the lives of African men and reaching them through the digital space with a message on God’s plan for family and men’s role in family and communities. We are passionate about our strategic plan goal of reaching 1 million men, women and children in Sub-Saharan Africa with the message of God’s plan for family by 2019 and the Real Man campaign is a big part of that.
To find out more or support the campaign, visit the Real Man page or contact us here.