Working with boys and men, to educate and inspire them to become part of the movement that will result in a safer world for women and children, is both daunting and exciting. It is challenging, yet so rewarding.
This short article is aimed at introducing some of my learnt experience from working in the domestic violence sector for the past seven years, and I’m starting with a very basic principle: let the men and boys in your audience know that you view them as part of the solution, not part of the problem.
When men and women work together to find a solution to domestic violence, then we will make the greatest progress. We need men to know that our work is not ‘anti-male’ and that they are required to play a significant part in the prevention of men’s violence against women.
I recently worked with the Western Bulldogs F.C community initiative called Sons of the West (SOTW). It is a brilliant public health initiative for men, utilising football as the lever to give men permission to come together to learn about men’s health and wellbeing. Over an eight-week period I presented 12 sessions on the topic of domestic violence to roughly 500-800 men.
I named my presentation ‘Change Makers’ and, as the name suggests, I spent 90 minutes with the audience sharing with them an array of things they could start doing, immediately, to positively influence the attitudes and behavior of the men and boys around them – and they loved it! The topic was ranked as one of their top two of the eight sessions they took part in and I’ve been asked to work with the SOTW Leadership Academy this week to sharpen the skills of the future leaders of the program.
The key messages underpinning the Change Maker theme are based on men reinventing the notion of masculinity in our country. We need to acknowledge that the messages given to young boys by the men in their lives can contribute to the creation of men who choose to use their fists or their angry words to solve their emotional problems. The lessons and examples that we provide to young men and boys through our mentoring – the ones that often set up the atypical male prototype as one of dominance, power and emotional stoicism – can be altered. They can be changed to a more truthful and, ultimately, more wonderful reality and the people who can initiate this change are in the audience.
In this session I challenged men to teach and model to boys and other men the need to embrace our insecurities and vulnerability. To model to boys that it is ok to be ‘emotional’ and to learn to be more emotionally literate. I appealed to them to take the time to explain to young boys and men the harm they do when they use words like ‘slut’ or express negative attitudes toward women. Encourage them, instead, to be the people who will ultimately create a community where boys and girls, men and women are treated equally and respectfully.
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