Father’s Day holds a special significance here at Men Can Stop Rape. As one of the leading organizations working with men and boys to prevent violence and promote gender equity, fathers and fatherhood come up often in our discussions of masculinity with young people. In one of our exercises, we ask young people to name the “Strongest Man” in their life: the man who has always been there for them and helped shape their values. It is truly heartbreaking to see young people who were eager to list why James Bond is a “Real Man” fall silent when asked to name a man who made a real difference in their lives.
Fortunately, this is not the norm. Young people will tell stories about how their father, uncle, grandfather, coach, teacher, or other male figure taught them the importance of kindness, showing emotions, or standing up for what’s right. The Strongest Men in their lives aren’t strong because they are stereotypically masculine; they’re strong because they stand as an example of inner-strength. The most important lesson to take from this exercise, I think, is that we are all fathers and mothers to the young people in our communities. As men and women working toward creating cultures free from violence, we all have a responsibility to be active in the lives of young people, be it through volunteering, practicing healthy fatherhood, or role modeling bystander intervention in the face of sexism and violence against women.
As the Men of Strength (MOST) Club celebrates another Father’s Day in its storied existence, I reflect on the countless young men I and our other MOST Club Mentors have impacted. I’m proud to say that many young and adult men would call me the Strongest Man they know. I’m proud to say that many young and adult men would call their MOST Club Mentor the Strongest Man they know. I’m proud to say that the young men I met at our very first MOST Club meeting in 2001 are being called the Strongest Man by boys and young men they’ve impacted in their communities. I’m proud to say that every May and June, we send off graduating MOST Club members who will be strong fathers, coaches, scientists, business owners, artists, and leaders of the future. They will bring about a society where men and women work together as fathers and mothers of a world without violence.
This year is an opportune time to look to the future as issues like the presidential election and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act ask us to examine our priorities. We must prioritize children and young people if we want violence to end. We must ask ourselves how we can be better parents on every level: to our own children and to the children of our community, state, nation, and world.
This Father’s Day, give for one of those young men who cannot name a strong man in his life. Give in honor of the strongest man in your life. Give so that the next generation of fathers can model healthy masculinity and strength without violence. Give to Men Can Stop Rape today.
Men Can Stop Rape
P.S. Help spread healthy masculinity by supporting the Healthy Masculinity Action Project and attending the Healthy Masculinity Summit October 17-19 in Washington, DC. Learn more here.