To narrow the gender gap, break the idea of masculinity

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“It is important to empower women, but this does not happen without men,” Nur Hasyim, the Founder and head of Aliansi Laki Laki Baru, a New Men Movement, said in a session of World Press Freedom Day 2017.

The NGO tries to break the old norms and ideals of masculinity, and promote gender equality among the youth in East Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia.

In his opinion, to break the patriarchal society, you need to break the traditional idea of masculinity.

“And that can happen only by addressing men,” Hasyim says.

The New Men Movement arranges discussion groups and radio talk shows (Men’s hotline) to encourage men to talk about their feelings and question traditions.

“We try to create a space where men can freely criticize the traditional ideas of masculinity.”

Men are encouraged to step outside of the narrow roles of aggressive competitiveness and take part in nurturing their children and household chores.

“But the change occurs only if we create space for it,” Hasyim says.

Besides creating space to question old traditional roles, the New Men Movement gives training for anger management.

The work has already had an impact on the traditional societies of Eastern Indonesia, Nur Hasyim says. Alcohol consumption and domestic violence has diminished and there have been positive impacts to whole communities, including women.

“Just recently a woman leader was chosen in one of the communities we are working with. I believe that it is partly due to our work of questioning the gender roles,” he said.

“But besides our grass root work, we need the whole society to cooperate. Some parts of the society feel that the new concept of masculinity is a threat to the muslim society.”

Hasyim reminds that also the media should pay attention to how it presents men and women.

“We need positive stories of men as caretakers. Men who take care of their children and respect women.”

Women in media

How many times do you see a picture with a man carrying a baby or a woman being interviewed about the stock market?

According to a study by the Global Media Monitoring Project, women are often portrayed as victims, source of popular opinion or experience. Men dominate as the experts, spokesperson or eye witness.

In order to change the roles and norms in society we need to change the way we present both men and women in media.

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