This post is prompted by a recent news story about workplace bullying. One employee was suspended from the workplace for being a bully; another had already left the team due to the acts of bullying.
The workplace happened to be an NFL locker room. The details don't matter (and they're out there for you to find), but what matters is the response. I got a bit curious for a few days, and read a few articles. Of course, the player who taunted and used racial slurs seemed to be known to be a bit of a loose cannon. The other player, for his part, was considered "strange" by some of his teammates.
One commentary on the situation by another player trotted out all the usual "be a man" macho code stuff you might expect. Showing weakness, you see, is against the code. Speaking out, speaking up, daring to be different, all against the code. (The code of "war","warriors", "brothers at arms".)
Unasked for, some "be a man" memories from my school days have popped into my head:
-being in grade 7 and having another boy saying he'd meet me outside after school. I remember how the punches felt hitting the side of my head. I was ashamed. It's not much of a fight when one fighter doesn't know why he's fighting, or even how to fight. As Neil Young once sang, "the punches came fast and hard/lying on my back in the school yard."
-the same thing happened once more that year. Not sure why that happened either. I was still ashamed. I still didn't know how to fight. Maybe I wasn't man enough to know how to fight? Why were my fists not made to swing in collision arc with someone else's face?
I don't know, but I didn't land one punch, nor did I even try.
I've been thinking about "be a man" lately because I have two boys, 1 and 3 years old. When you are a father, you think about things like that. What kind of men will they? Hopefully not ones who need to fight to prove something about being a man. Hopefully not ones who subscribe to ridiculous cliches of manhood (whether they be the "bumbling dad" stereotype from sitcoms, the "tough guy" athlete, the "action hero", or "patriarchal" family head).
Here are some ways they can "be a man":
-bake a cake
-write a poem
-read a poem
-run a race
-turn down a fight
-read a book
-tell their mother they love her
-hug a cat
-admit when they're sad
-pay attention to their feelings
-talk about their feelings
-respect all humankind
-not let anyone else tell them how to "be a man"
Most of all, boys, to thine own selves be true. Become the man that you will be. Don't be denied!
Don't Be Denied