Time to 'man up' and become better men

May 02, 2024 - 09:40
A director of a publishing company and a famous musician were made famous over the past few weeks, for the wrong reasons.
Illustration by Trịnh Lập

Anh Đức

There's a phrase that has been circling social networks for a long time: 'All men are bad'.

It has become a point of ridicule by misogynistic people, its obvious generalisation. Yes, not all men are bad, but the actions of many are giving the gender a bad name.

A director of a publishing company and a famous musician were made famous over the past few weeks, for the wrong reasons.

The businessman was accused of sexually harassing a female employee in the workplace. The victim was subjected to verbal harassment and actions, and confided with her relative, a famous author that used to collaborate with the publishing house.

The author announced he was stopping his collaboration with the publishing house, but while the author did not specify the reasons, his fans were quick to disclose an email sent to the publishing house, in which the girl's harassment was mentioned.

Fans flocked to the publishing house's social media accounts to demand an answer, and after a few days, the businessman, using his publishing house's account, posted an apology at around midnight.

He said that he "made some actions that portray his care and love for the girl, which does not cross the moral boundaries... and may have caused confusion, disturbance and may have hurt her."

The post backfired, and thousands of people became even angrier, claiming the apology was 'irresponsible'. Media outlets started to look at the company's dilemma as a case in crisis management, but I do not want to write from this perspective. Let's all look at the situation as what it is: harassment - a wrong thing to do.

The publishing company issued a new statement the following day, officially 'suspending' the director while conducting an internal investigation. The company also pledged to compensate for all mental or physical damage caused to the female employee.

The other incident involved a musician, named T, who was recently accused by his ex-wife of cheating on her as well as neglecting and starving his young child. Furthermore, the man demanded his ex-wife return all of the money he gave to raise his son.

This recent incident sparked comparisons with another famous celebrity named J, who allegedly only gave VNĐ5 million (US$200) to his former girlfriend to take care of his own daughter. But T's actions, were even worse than J's.

A similarity between both incidents is noted: irresponsibility. And sadly, it's emerging among the current generation, and guys, you may not like this, but the trend is leaning more against men than women (at least, perhaps in Việt Nam).

I am not blaming male readers, because this is mostly a product of our upbringing by our parents, and a product of past gender prejudices.

In Việt Nam, families who have a boy are considered 'blessed' and male children are often spoiled by their parents.

Boys are also taught to be tough, never say sorry because it's a weak word (and thus eliminating the admission of fault), and to hide their emotions and thoughts.

Born as the second boy in my family in the times where gender prejudices were high, I was also spoiled by my parents, and I admit that I was sometimes, irresponsible in my past actions. But learning to take responsibility, to say sorry and to mean it, is my first step in becoming a better person day by day.

And a proper, responsible man's apology is to admit his faults, with no reasons on why he was wrong. A wrong decision is a wrong decision, and a 'sorry, but...' is not an apology.

In a paper written in 1992 by Ruben Katzman, titled "Why are men so irresponsible?", the author seeks to find out why men avoid obligations "connected with the formation and maintenance of a family", which leads to an increase in the rates of abandonment of families with children.

The article concluded that the majority of the population in question, which was based in Latin America, "are simply not filled to play the roles of husband and father", due to the fear of failure to fulfil the obligations of these roles might undermine the man's authority, which led to his abandonment of the responsibilities.

When I read this, the first thought that comes into mind is again, that we are all taught to be tough, be brave, but when our male ego is threatened, some of us choose to flight, not fight. Because to fight an ego one must use the heart, the emotions, not logic. And emotion is regarded a very taboo and 'unman' thing for men to talk about.

But the prime rule of empathy is to identify emotions of others, and react in a proper way. If our definition of emotion is a weak, unnecessary thing, it's possible that we can neglect not even our own, but others as well.

A director neglecting an employee's emotion of fear, and a father neglecting his son's cries of hunger,... that will lead to further damning consequences.

To be responsible, is perhaps firstly to be responsible and accept that you have feelings, and that others have feelings too and every action that you take could have a positive/negative influence on them.

In one of the author's books, which is perhaps one of my favourite pieces of literature, he wrote: "Compassion comes from empathy. Empathy is the ability to look at the world through the eyes of another person, and to place yourselves in their shoes... it is the ability to thoughtfully understand a person, their thoughts, to feel their feelings, without judgment."

And in my honest opinion, perhaps this is the key for us men to get better - to have empathy towards others, so that we don't feel entitled, so that we cannot hurt others.

And alas, it's a challenging thought for many that such an 'unman' thing to do is that everybody must be the better man. VNS