Posted on 01 May 2019
As a few of our articles have sprung to mind lately, this piece started when reading a story on Executive Style. It begins with Phil Barker, the author of Revolution of Man, writing, “It is the role in society, even, I’d argue, an obligation, of every man with a bit of life under his belt, a little grey in the beard (and ears), to become a positive model of modern manhood.” We’re on board. And then egg boy happened. While we won’t go into too much detail on our personal views of the incident, we will elaborate on the precedent it has potential to set and some of the possible effects that might come. But first, let’s take an in-depth look at role models.
Who can influence young boys?
When we think of role models in 2019 it’s fair to say most young boys will look to social media. From combat sportsmen to fashion bloggers, there’s no shortage of men and influencers they could follow. But as for men who would be good role models for them? That’s tough. In my opinion, a lot of the best men young boys should look up to aren’t on Instagram, and the ones that are, they usually keep a low profile.
Having more influencers and role models for young and soon-to-be men couldn’t hurt. However, at 16 and 17 they also might be one of the hardest crowds to please. At that age, there’s a lot going on: you’re learning to drive a car, you’re partying for the first time in your life and hormones are going through the roof. Some boys will begin to be men while some others will try to act like men–it’s an age of wondering and discovery. One thing they have common, however, is that they’re impressionable. They are yet to have the life experience needed to deal with and digest certain people, attitudes and experiences. It’s not a bad thing, rather simply a fact of life. Some will argue you can be more mature at that age than at 30 and they may be right, but you won’t have the life experience–which is often one of the best teachers. This is why Phil Barker is right: Because our actions have consequences, and young boys just might mimic them.
What should we look for in role models?
It’s pretty hard to define the single perfect role model and to be fair, various role models with different great qualities are probably going to have a better influence overall. One thing is for sure, however, and that is we shouldn’t be as supportive of people public figures with shady histories. An example being some of our sportsmen who are known for sexual assault and domestic violence. Retired light-heavyweight MMA fighter Sean O’Connell is a great example of a role model. His good sportsmanship, wit and mixed martial arts skill won him the respect of fans worldwide. He’s not the kind to try and provoke or start a conflict during weigh-ins and press conferences. Instead, he likes to play games. From offering deep-dish pizzas to bouquets of flowers, he makes weigh-ins enjoyable and conflict-free for both his opponent and the crowd.
Like Sean says in an interview with MMA Junkie, “The fight’s already picked. There’s no need to be jerks to one another”. Sure, sometimes a little conflict might is part of the fight game, but very often it’s overboard. In many ways, Sean is the perfect role model for young boys because he shows them doing something as tough and exhausting as being a professional fighter doesn’t mean you have be a jerk nor have washboard abs. At 205lbs, he’s an excellent fighter and a good role model for positive body image. He’s strong, fit and fast–everything a fighter needs to be. Another great example of role model behaviour was that of Spicks & Specks host Adam Hills more recently. After the egg boy incident, he was one of very few in media brave enough to say egging a politician is unacceptable. It takes guts to make a stand like that, especially when at the time it seemed the whole of Australia was for egg boy, painting his picture on murals and applauding him online with followers, memes and even calling him a hero. Adam did this despite knowing he’d lose a number of fans and receive outright criticism. There’s a lot of media and tv personalities who wouldn’t risk putting themselves in the spotlight like that. Standing up for something you don’t think is right takes guts and it’s a great example of a role model.
Is there a fix?
While there’s no set way to ensure what our young boys are reading is good for them, nor should we try and control it, it is important for us to acknowledge bad behaviour. The quieter we are, the more confused they will be. Not standing up to acknowledge wrongdoings, not speaking out when we should and not explaining why something isn’t right leaves our teenage boys confused. In turn, they might do something they shouldn’t because they’ve misread situations. We can’t afford to do that because our young boys are watching and what goes online has an effect on the future generation. It’s not ‘just show business, baby’ as some professional boxers like to say. Applauding poor behaviour is only going to bring about out more eggboy-like incidents, but next time who knows how violent it’ll be.