HIGHLIGHTING VIOLENCE:

By Terry Sarten

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A RECENT media piece appeared like a vision in this post-truth era, revealing how to be a modern gentleman.

I read it hoping it would provide some insight. It listed a number of superficial pointers: manners, entertaining, dress and romance. There was no mention of grace under pressure. There was nothing about parenting or about refusing to condone or act in violence, about respecting others or caring for family, wives, partners, children, friends, nephews, uncles, fathers, granddads.

Where were these important aspects of being a gentleman?

Upon closer scrutiny, it became apparent that concealed underneath all the fluff in the article was a consumer directed message. This endorsed the buying of stuff to use as props to support a theatrical, gentlemanly facade rather than anything of value that might define how to be a real gentle-man.

That would require attitude and actually doing something.

I have written in the past about the what I termed the "New Machismo".

This was an attempt to update the old ideas of being "macho". This was a kind of chest-beating, king of the jungle type of thing.

The new version of machismo was about being tough in another way. It was about being strong about the things that really count, such as respect, treating others as you would wish to be treated, and taking on the role of parent and partner with a shared commitment linked by love and thoughtfulness.

It is time to reconsider this, as the role of an alpha male/head of a tribe is playing out in the rise of Trump to President of the USA.

The way he behaves, his alignment with racist, misogynist, power preening male privilege, could be seen as a major setback for society.

That so many voters supported him and many here in New Zealand admire his style is a worry. It has given a clear signal that will be picked up by those men who already had that perspective of the male world and reinforce the notion that this is indeed the way a "real man" behaves, enabling this view to be more openly displayed.

In some ways, it has been good that the rock has been rolled over to reveal what lies beneath. On the other hand, it is yet another influence that men will have to stand strongly against if its destructive power is to be disarmed.

White Ribbon Day is November 25. This is when men are called to march to show that there is no place for violence against women and children in this community.

It is one day. It is the other 364 that require us to walk that talk; 24/7 we need to be aware and willing to speak up if we see violence.

It may mean having a quiet word to a mate or family member. It may mean being straight up and saying to someone "that's not how we do things here so it would be great if you went to talk to someone who can help you".

It may mean reporting violence or threats you have heard or know about to the police. It may mean understanding why, on a daily basis, women must leave their homes to find places of safety.

It may mean showing your children that hitting and abusive behaviour is not the way a real man behaves.

There are 364 days to remember why we march on White Ribbon day. If we act as if each day was a new opportunity to create a violence-free community, then we will truly be walking the talk.

■Terry Sarten is a writer, musician and social worker supporting the vision of a Violence Free Whanganui. Feedback: tgs@inspire.net.nz

- Wanganui Chronicle

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