To unlearn unhealthy gender norms and to address toxic masculinity, will take more than scatter-shot approaches.
Instead, it would take the resocialisation of the society as a whole, which required a developmental and life cycle approach that understood the psychology of development from infancy, to adulthood and also the varied needs of the different members of society.
Psychologist and founder of Caribbean Male Action Newwork (CariMAN) Dr Peter Weller believes this is the only way any society can begin to restore its males.
In a telephone interview with Weller, he said in preventing gender-based violence, there were many different types of interventions at life-cycle levels.
“We can intervene at the point of trying to influence thoughts and attitudes of the adult male or you can intervene at the earlier stages of the development—the level of the individual, at the level of the family, at the level of the community and the level of society,” said Weller.
He said everyone’s behavioural patterns were learned, and formed by an amalgamation of their natural, genetic and temperamental characteristics and life experiences ranging from education, religion, economic diversity and moors, and values, creating their socialisation and expectations of society.
Weller noted, along the life cycle, from before birth to adulthood all persons were being socialised, and men, in particular, were learning how to be a man.
He said understanding the development in the life cycle was critical in knowing how to successfuly resocialise, which called for all interventions to be strategic.
Speaking on the issues of gender-transformative interventions, Weller said while this was good, it was important to emphasise the common, human positive qualities that both men and women should share, rather than reinforce the differences.
In the case of positive and healthy upbringing for a child from birth throughout its growth, Weller said, whatever was being taught or displayed by parents needed to be reinforced through external factors, be it school, religion, peers, or the media. He said when this does not occur, children who become adults learn conflicting behaviours, and their perspectives can now become obscured.
Regarding the male child, Weller said their minds worked in different ways at different stages.
“They are more concrete in their early stages. They are a little more abstract as they get older. The people who influence them change over time which means that our interventions have to be different at different stages and we have to engage these influentials., keeping in mind that those same influentials are part of the society and socialisation,” he added.
He said any change to be made along the life cycle of a male required changes among those who influence them—a parallel process of intervention working with the influentials to get them all on the same page.
Weller stressed this was critical because of the varying racial, ethnic, religious, educational and social diversities in a society. He said any programmes being developed had to be mindful of integrating people’s belief systems because any message that was counter to their religious beliefs, may not uptake.
Listing several male-targeted programmes in T&T, facilitated by both the public and private sectors, Weller said the issue was not that programmes did not exist to help men with their behaviours, rather they all needed to coordinate and collaborate so that their programmes and strategies could be multiplied.
Secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of T&T (APTT) Dr Varma Deyalsingh agreed with Weller that programmes existed to assist men, however, he believes they needed to become more attractive to men, to encourage them to participate. He also said before it got to a resocialisation stage, appropriate socialisation programmes needed to be in place for boys from a young age.