International Men’s Day: We Need to Talk
In Egypt, from a very young age, men are raised to be ‘strong’; we are discouraged from crying or complaining as it’s seen as a form of weakness. Society expects men to develop and exhibit symptoms of toxic masculinity, which is seen here in our part of the world as strength, and over the course of a man’s life, he learns to bottle up his feelings, and his insecurities, which are left to fester.
Adding insult to injury, mental health awareness is not prevalent; therefore, problems exacerbate, and all of this put together can only be interpreted as a recipe for tragedy. It is not uncommon to hear of some men projecting their issues on their significant others or their children. In fact, it is one of the staples of our society that we often ignore or sugarcoat. Other men take it on themselves, and this is one of the reasons why men are four times more likely to take their own lives than women.
November 19th marks the International Men’s Day, where people around the world celebrate positive male role models and raise awareness about men’s issues; these envelope topics such as mental health, toxic masculinity, and suicide.
On this day, we wanted to bring men’s mental health to the table and discuss why in Egypt, in particular, and the Arab World, in general, men are forced not to open up about their feelings. It is often said: “Don’t open up, don’t cry. Only women do these things,” but why does our society see these traits as feminine? And if they truly are, why is it so bad for us to be like women? I think it all stems from deep-seated insecurity that most Arabs are unaware of.
Since Egypt is a fairly religious country, suicide is another taboo that is not openly discussed, even though every now and then the media will report on it. The most infamous incidents are those of people throwing themselves onto the metro tracks. It got so bad one year that the Railway Authority issued an official statement that read: “We are not a suicide destination.”
The effort should be mutual; the government and the public should come together to make a difference. There is a need for more awareness efforts and mental health studies, but most importantly, there needs to be a conversation.