While Taiwan is relatively progressive in terms of gender equality and rights, and with many groups and figures working for the betterment and safety of women, it is often easy to forget that men should be just as much a part of the conversation. The Taipei Times yesterday reported about the formation of the Taiwan Men’s Association, whose goal is to “unsettle patriarchy” by inspiring conversations and imagination about “different ways of becoming men.”
“We want to promote the idea that there are all kinds of men out there and help make society more accepting of men with qualities not traditionally associated with masculinity,” association president Shiau Hong-chi (蕭宏祺) told the Taipei Times.
Fighting against male gender stereotypes seems to be a growing trend; for example, the Taipei City Government and the Teacher Chang Foundation in 2016 established a “Men’s Talk” center that provides classes and workshops on relationships, especially in handling breakups and divorces. This is important, because traditional gender stereotypes still generally dissuade men from showing weakness or finding a proper outlet to discuss their feelings, which leads to difficulties in, for example, handling rejection. This is a major underlying cause of countless violent incidents and murders, including last year’s dismemberment cases.
While it is true that women are far more often victims of gender inequality than men and that oppression usually comes from the male side, addressing men’s issues and the societal burdens or expectations placed on them is one area that is still relatively unexplored. Simply accusing men of oppressing women will not help the cause and, as Shiau pointed out, it exacerbates the problem by alienating men from such issues or antagonizing men and women. The association is taking the right steps by examining the roots of why men feel that they have to behave a certain way, which is just as important a part of the puzzle in moving forward with gender equality.
That many men still balk at the term “toxic masculinity” and other insinuations that they need to do a better job is a clear indication that there is still a long way to go as far as gaining a full understanding of what it means to coexist with women in a respectful and constructive manner is concerned.
Those who are still unconvinced should examine the disturbing and hateful discussions and comments on social media and Taiwan’s online message boards. This is not just a Taiwanese problem, as one post that has been circulating on Facebook clarifies that not all masculinity is toxic, but there is one variation of masculinity that is toxic.
However, it is likely that these men’s groups or centers will only attract progressive men who are already aware of the problem and want to do something about it. Someone with traditional male stereotypes ingrained in them will find it “unmanly” to attend such sessions, but it is precisely this segment of the population that needs to be reached. Writing columns, holding film festivals and university discussion groups are great — but it is unlikely that the “traditional manly man” will show up.
That said, getting such a group together is a good start, as society has to start somewhere. However, eventually, the challenge will be to reach the men who still think that talking about these issues will destroy their “manhood.”
Source: Taipei Times