Saturday, August 16, 2014

Help the men!

     My center recently scored 2 fair-sized bags of money to fund programs for women. One is just for a weekend trip (to a Boy Scout cabin) for women & children - Danish & immigrants - who cannot afford a summer holiday. We have done this 3 times before & it's a big success.
The other is more serious: a 2-year program called Woman, Your Life is in Denmark. The goal of this program is to bring immigrant women out of their isolation & into activity, a network of new friends & new skills - like just taking the city bus alone. Too many immigrant women, especially from small immigrant groups from Asia & the Middle East, have such a strong wish to get back to where they came from that they are in denial. Almost total denial. The 2 most common ideas are
1. just a few years, then husband will earn enough money to move back home & buy a new house or
2. just a few years & the political situation will change so we can go home to the house we left ...
away from rain rain rain, cold dark winters, a difficult language & people whose idea of humor is giving each other a hard time. They usually end up in a Danish nursing home many years later with their non-existent Danish & sorrow because their children are busy westernized adults with no wish to install old mum in the extra room.
    Most of us working on this program are well-integrated immigrant women + the odd token Dane. How I hope we succeed & reach a large group. Ours is one of many programs for immigrant women all around - you might have heard of one or 10. I sure have, but I know of exactly one (1) program for men in the same group. Some years ago I taught Danish to immigrants as a semester substitute because their teacher - male - had a workshop class where the language teaching was part of a practical course with carpentry & general do-it-yourself skills in focus.
      We need more like that. A lot more.
      It's easy to feel sympathy & want to help women from macho societies, lack of education & skills, low status & often tyrannical husbands. Just as easy to despise the husbands, the bullies, big jerks, big jokes in the eyes of westerners. Why can't they see our way is a lot better since they all want to charge right up here & make a buck? If they can't figure it out why don't they get their sorry asses back where they came from? Not even their children can respect them when they grow up.
        Right - & neither can I. But ... I can see why they don't have a clue, feel terrified of losing all their status & respect - like the Burmese refugee who was told hitting children is illegal here.
       "How will I keep discipline?" he asked. A smack was the only method he'd ever heard of. Big jerk, big joke ...
      Many refugee women who come alone with or without children beg for a women's only asylum center. I'll say I can understand their wish, but also why it will never happen. Then the men would be even more of a problem, say the authorities. Help ...?
      The problem will never be solved until both sides get our attention. Anybody can figure that out, not? It's just so much easier to concentrate on the women, the repressed ones, the ones who don't make a fuss & admit they need help. Easier, yes, but I think their men need it more now. The ones with jobs do have that status & work is a terrific way to promote integration. Sports likewise, & school, but immigrant girls do a lot better than boys in school so there's one more area of insecurity & loss of status for many men.
      Don't know what to call a helpful program. Man, Get Your Head Out & Stop Acting like a Jerk would be tempting, but don't think many would sign up. Uh ... Man, Guide to Success in (fill in the blank) Society. That might work. Something has to, or else. Male teachers, coaches & pedagogues GOOD IDEAS PLEASE!

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