The bullets men cry becoming the flowers we plant

Mike Abrams

The dawn of democracy in South Africa was a chance to put years of oppression and horribleness behind us building equality and peace between our people. What we never understood in that moment of new power was that oppression overwhelms the emotional and physical resources of people and communities. Three-hundred and fifty years of conflict over resources, power and control had scarred the nature of our society. Brutality and violence, revenge and shame, loss and dispossession, repeated over and over again, across generations have ripped apart the psychological skin of individuals and communities leaving human bonds fragile and dislocated especially across divisions of race and gender. The effects of this trauma linger on and are added to by globalization and the resulting poverties and lack of access for the majority of people.

Toxic masculinities are deeply embedded in the intergenerational trauma and violence that has come to dominate all our relationships, institutions and organizations in South Africa. Through our focus on GBV and toxic masculinities we also need to transform the systemic and institutional contexts which allow it to thrive.

Our struggles for gender peace and equity, will of necessity require us to understand how our past has scarred our sense of masculinity and how our systems and institutions have come to normalize, adapt and promote these forms of toxic relationships.

We will need to mobilise all sectors of society to introspect and understand how our systems and institutions promote GBV, how our individual behaviors are adding to this. We will need to ensure sustained and deep systemic and individual change. This will require a mass movement, a long march of activities, that include national campaigns to individual programs for boys and men to heal and grow new identities.