Where have all the good men gone?
Should the work of changing our country through volunteerism be left to the women alone? Justin Foxton says "No"!
(This article first appeared in the Mercury on 5 March 2012)
Over the years it has become quite fashionable to male bash. We men have become the brunt of many a joke, usually to do with how necessary we are on this planet.
Here are a few to give you the idea:
Men are like blenders…you need one but you’re not quite sure why.
Q: What should you give a man who has everything?
A: A woman to show him how to work it.
Q. What's the difference between Big Foot and intelligent man?
A. Big Foot's been spotted several times.
Is this a case of, ‘many a true word spoken in jest’, or are such jokes unjustified?
Let’s begin with a recent Statistics South Africa Survey on Volunteer Activities. Now you may think that volunteerism is rather a soft entry point into a discussion on the performance of men and women in our society. However, I would argue that the degree to which we are willing to volunteer our time and share our skills freely with others is a fairly accurate indicator of how useful we are to society in general. After all, if we are good at doing stuff for free, we are likely to be even better when paid.
To demonstrate the importance of volunteer work, the survey reveals that the overall value to our society of work done by volunteers is around R4.5 billion per annum. To quote the International Labour Organisation: “Volunteer work is a crucial renewable resource for social and environmental problem solving the world over.”
The survey also reveals that only around 35% of volunteers in South Africa are men. The remaining 65% are women. It would seem that men either care less than women, or they are simply too busy to volunteer. I would like to think that we care. So it must be that we are too busy. If we are too busy to volunteer the question is, what are we too busy doing?
The South African Institute of Race Relations recently reported that nearly half of our children live with absent but living fathers. So our time isn’t necessarily being spent parenting. It’s also not necessarily being spent on bread winning as a recent HSRC survey on adoption tells us that nearly half of our 18.5 million children depend on child grants.
Now we could put some of that down to rampant unemployment. But then in theory we would have more time to volunteer? Not so. The vast majority of people who volunteer in our country are employed.
But let’s not be too hard on us guys. Surely there must be some areas in which we are outperforming the ladies; perhaps areas in which we traditionally feel ourselves to be superior - like lifting heavy objects or farming?
Here are the facts: When it comes to collecting, serving or delivering food or other goods 75% of the work is done by women.
When it comes to helping people to run a business or farm 64% of the work is done by women. 72% of all fundraising is done by women.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. We men are to be congratulated as 77% of all coaching and refereeing of sporting actitivities is done by us. Maybe that’s where all our time is being spent – refereeing football games - because not only are the women outperforming us in historically male dominated arenas, they are also outperforming us in historically more female pursuits:
Just 5% of child minding, 24% of care for the sick or elderly and 19% of housework related volunteering is done by men. These statistics are a sad indictment on us.
I personally get disheartened when I see how few of us involve ourselves with the care and mentoring of children – our own and others. But in truth, when you consider the percentages listed above, us men are not sharing the load for the well being of our society generally let alone in those areas which many still consider to be ‘woman’s work’.
It seems that as women have become more empowered and less dependent on men, we have thrown our hands in the air and said; “Well you do it then!”
But as men we urgently need to regain a place in society. We need to take pride in the fact that we are participating regularly in the improvement of people’s lives and the betterment of our nation. This has to include giving freely of our time and expertise.
So men,let’s man up and change a few nappies or feed a few babies. Let’s mentor a youngster or join our local rate payers association.
It’s about taking equal responsibility for the state of our society and helping to improve it.
About the author:
Justin Foxton is founder of the national awareness campaign Stop Crime Say Hello (www.scsh.co.za).