June was Men’s Health Month - a good time for men and women to reflect on the health of brothers, fathers, sons, uncles, mates and work colleagues. Also, a good time to ask what it means to be a man in 2021. We attempt to answer this by combining the thoughts and insights of ten good Kiwi men and ten awesome women.
Our 20 Kiwis are from wide-ranging occupations like construction, farming, finance, healthcare, sport, the charity sector, executives, educators, business owners, an artist and a writer. Like the country we live in, they are diverse across their work, life views and communities.
One theme was striking and consistent across our ten good men and ten awesome wāhine – that in 2021 there are two distinct parts to being a ‘good man’.
The first part is traditional values. Everyone rated these as critical – integrity, honesty, generosity, kindness, compassion and loyalty. These also include being loving, caring, gentle, trustworthy, humble, approachable, supportive and respectful of all. No surprises there, these are simply characteristics of a good human being – man or woman. On this front, a ‘good man’ in 2021 is the same as it has ever been.
The second part to being a good man in 2021 takes things a step further, in a way seen as different to past generations. The majority of our men spoke about ‘vulnerability’ being important, in fact more men than women raised this.
Vulnerability includes not being afraid to ask for help and accepting that emotions are ok - it’s fine to be sad, to be angry or to be worried. The key here is leaning into emotions and how we respond to them.
Women raised ‘communication’ more than men, the need to listen, open up and check in with others. This was highly rated by our men, but even more so by our ten women.
Also, a willingness to learn and better yourself was more frequently mentioned by women. Strive to improve yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Try new things.
Strikingly not one man nor one woman said that being a man in 2021 meant being physically strong, good at sport, macho or the ‘tough guy’. Not one. Physical wellbeing was universally seen as critical to staying healthy, but not one person identified physical dominance as core to being a man in 2021.
In fact the opposite was seen as true - expressions like ‘harden up’, ‘stop acting like a girl’ and ‘stop your crying’ were described as responses to an outdated society where men weren’t allowed to show emotion. Today, good men show gentleness without embarrassment, in the past this was a trait of being ‘weak’ and ‘soft’.
Nor was outsized financial success seen as a prerequisite to being a good man. As one of our men put it - “it is better to have a big heart than to be a big shot”.
What else did our 20 Kiwis value for a good man? Having strong family and community values and acting on them. Being present in the moment, being engaged and attentive. Being authentic, real and content with who you are.
Aspiring to be a good man in 2021 doesn’t sound like brain science or rocket surgery. It’s just being true to ourselves and doing what intuitively we feel is right. Plus let’s take on board a few good pointers from our wāhine.
This is part three of our series. Part One discussed how men have coped with stress over the last 12 months and Part Two provided thoughts on how to stay well. Thank you to our 10 good men and 10 awesome women for generously giving their time and their valuable insights.
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