Karl Stefanovic is not the hero men have been looking for

Trigger warning: the following article will address themes of gender based violence and self harm.

Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a well-intentioned guy – and along with his Today co-host Lisa Wilkinson (whose takedown of 50 Shades of Grey will go down in television history) have created a really heartening voice in the maelstrom of commercial TV recently landed in hot water over Karl’s arguably racist quips (this article was in edit by the time Karl made his initial comments).

In November Karl announced that he’d been wearing the same suit on air for a year in order to highlight the double standard in the appearance of TV presenters. After the stunt, Karl donated the suit  which was auctioned off for $10,000 for White Ribbon, an Australian campaign to stop violence against women.

But it’s an article in Sunday Style on March 22 Karl Stefanovic talks weed, women and why he’s bringing back the bloke that raises red flags that Karl might not be the role model men need right now.

”I think they’ve gone soft,” Stefanovic says of Australian men in his interview. “I think they’re confused. I think their idols, a lot of whom are only in their twenties, are confused and male identity is being watered down.”

Karl continues to present a list of things he doesn’t think are quite masculine enough including shaved chests, pre-mixed drinks, and not gambling (responsibly). ”I lament that down the pub these days guys are drinking Vodka Cruisers – I mean watermelon Cruisers? Give me a break.”

Unwilling to accept the truth that people of all genders drink Malibu and pineapple juice because it’s fucking delicious, Karl continues to make his boldest statement.

“I just think that over the last decade we’ve become so preoccupied, and rightly so, with trying to ensure that women are OK with us and that we’re OK with women, but I think we’ve done that now. Yeah, there’s still a long way to go for women in this country, in this world; but I think as men, well, you don’t have to give up being a man, or give up the elements of being a man.”

Actually, Karl. I think we do. According to Destroy the Joint, 24 women have already died to violence throughout Australia in 2015. White Ribbon (the same White Ribbon to whom Karl Donated his suit) state that intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability, and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44.

According to the organization,
“One common cause of men’s violence against both men and women is in the way we currently express masculinity – rigid masculine norms promote and excuse aggression and this has the potential to damage and limit both young men and women.”

When you take ‘being a bloke’, and strip out all of the parts that make for ‘good people’ generally, you’re only left with negative, or arbitrary attributes. Yet from an early age we teach our boys that men shouldn’t be emotional, should always be in charge, and should not stand lightly by if their honour is impugned. Centuries of arbitrary re-enforcement have led to a point where in 2012, men accounted for 75% of all suicides. It’s possible that if those men felt like they were able or allowed to seek help, that more of them would be here today.

Our idea of masculinity sits at the heart of so much human suffering in Australia. And that’s why it’s so disappointing to see well-intentioned-Karl sticking up for ‘blokedom’ in such a dismissive way. While the feminist movement has revolutionized the way Australian women live, there has been no popular equivalent movement for men. In fact, the most common complaint about feminism from men is that it’s not inclusive of us, or doesn’t directly stand for our betterment.

If we want to really start a change in men, we need to do it ourselves and utilize our intrinsic male traits inherent human traits of determination, perseverance, bravery, and grit. All it takes is for us to realign our thinking. Let’s do good things not because we’re men, but because we’re good people. Conversely let’s stop feeling negative about not being a ‘good man’ if it’s anything beyond ‘being a decent human being’.

Change as a gender will never come unless we’re willing to embrace new ideas in our daily lives — these changes can be as small as drinking a delicious piña colada at the pub or as courageous as calling out sexist or abusive behaviour among male friends or in the workplace. We should cherish the women in our lives, and make sure that we concede the space for them to act, speak, and express themselves fully.

Karl hasn’t turned out to be the inspiration that men need right now — Instead, we need to find the inspiration within ourselves, and a vision of a better world for everyone.

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