Child on mans shoulders

Coimbra observatory encourages ‘healthy masculinities’

Men who grow up (happily) believing in equality, showing respect and expressing empathy

The Masculinities Observatory, created within the Centre for Social Studies (CES) at the University of Coimbra, has been created with the aim of promoting and valuing healthy masculinities.

“There is no map for building healthy, caring masculinities. As there is no map, (today’s) young men regulate themselves by old maps, and the result is frustration at not being able to achieve everything that the old maps dictatedbeing a provider, having a wife, being successful,” researcher Tatiana Moura, who coordinates the observatory together with Rosa Monteiro, explains.

At a time when men’s frustration is “palpable” and phenomena promoting an idea of “dominant masculinity”, such as Andrew Tate and Jordan B. Peterson are growing on social media, Tatiana Moura believes it is essential to create tools to promote “healthy masculinities”.

According to the researcher, this type of masculinity promotes “an equitable man, who believes in equality, who is respectful and empathetic, who takes care of himself, who grows up used to expressing his feelings“.

At the moment, says Moura, more men are dying from preventable deaths, they have a higher suicide rate compared to women, and they are “angry” and “depressed” at the possibility of losing privileges they (feel they should be) used to.

To this end, the Observatory, which will be presented later this month during an advanced training course on the social construction of masculinities, aims to aggregate scientific knowledge resulting from research in the area and monitor policies and actions that could be transformative.

To this end, this new structure aims to work with education and health professionals to promote healthy masculinities, which must be started at an early age, explains Lusa.

Between the ages of three and five is when children are defining stereotypes, and by the age of five, they are already absolutely marked. There’s a study of 4,000 children which concludes that boys already know what they can’t do: they can’t cry, and they can’t show sensitivity,” emphasised Tatiana Moura.

According to the researcher, society has managed to “explain to girls that they can be whatever they want”, but at the same time, it has failed “to tell boys that they too can be whatever they want, that they can cry, be sensitive and that they should take care”, noting that education professionals have a lot of interest in the subject, but little material or training.

Tatiana Moura recalls a survey carried out as part of a recent CES research project in which parents were asked what qualities they thought society valued in their child (a boy).

At the top was ‘professional success’, ‘studies’; at the bottom came ’empathy’, she said.

Regarding the need for early intervention, Moura highlights the abrupt change that happens between kindergarten and primary school.

Up until the age of five, children play with each other, hug each other, express feelings and emotions. At the age of six, there is an abrupt cut-off, they are sitting on a chair with a table in front of them, and it seems that the transmission of affection is no longer allowed,” she says.

The Masculinities Observatory (which will have a website available from October 30) will provide resources, promote debates on the subject, communicate the knowledge that comes out of the various research projects on the subject, as well as recommending changes to public policies and monitoring those that are being implemented.

Source material: LUSA