“Let’s empower men!” said no one ever. It’s 2018 and we’re still struggling with equality and other social stigmas that come from centuries of brainwashing. But if men are so great, why are they vulnerable to depression and anxiety? Why are we glorifying aggression as something innate to males, and why aren’t we doing anything to change it? Today’s guest is Jake Stika, a ‘Next Generation Man’ who wants to rethink what masculinity means and how we can put an end to toxicity.
- Who is Jake Stika and how is Next Gen Men fixing work? Jake Stika is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of this nonprofit organization that is engaging, educating, and empowering men and boys about gender in schools, communities, and workplaces. He has earned recognition from Ashoka, the British Council, the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, and has spoken as part of the Canadian delegation at the United Nations.
- Jake believes that men can do better, but not under the pretense that men are inherently bad. He thinks there’s room for men to improve on how they think, behave, and contribute to what is socially and culturally perceived as masculine. It’s also imperative that the rest of us change the way we think and act to help support them.
- Think about how YOU perceive masculinity. Unless you’re exceptionally progressive, you’re probably part of a culture that has a certain idea of what ‘real men’ ought to be. Males are tough, strong, and able to do everything by themselves. Boys don’t cry. They should “man up.” But it’s these unreasonable expectations that set them up for failure.
- Even the statistics back this up. As a rule, men are incarcerated more often, end up homeless, and are more susceptible to violence. Clearly, something is wrong with the way we raise and treat our males, and in the expectations that we hold for them.
- How does such backward, medieval thinking even exist today? Jake blames it on all the little nudges boys get exposed to throughout their lives. Males have adapted this toxic mindset from years of conditioning, not just from the other men in their lives, but from women as well. It’s a difficult mindset to break for all of us.
- Jake was no stranger to this toxicity. He recounts his own experience growing up. Boys who cannot comply with this social standard end up broken. And these broken boys grow up as broken men. Then they enter the community and end up contributing to the noxious cycle.
It won’t be an easy fix. We all have to contribute to rehabilitating our men so they can become better. In doing so, we are raising men who become champions of empowering all genders to thrive in society. Just as it has taken years to ‘break’ these boys, it will take years to build them back up again. We have to stop isolating men by making them live in accordance with the accepted singularity of masculinity. Instead, we should encourage and embrace their “masculinities.”