Something has got to change

Some people may have seen this article in the Telegraph. Short story, it’s a great exercise in how to completely miss the point.

As many will I know I am a volunteer facilitator for The Great Men Project, one of the organizations the author takes a shot at, and I really have no idea where they get the idea we are about indoctrination from. They’ve read the website and……well, that seems to be about it. I’m pretty sure they’ve never attended a workshop so what is his information based on? Probably the same scare-mongering information that many Men Rights Activists (MRA’s) like to spread so here’s what actually happens during a session.

First thing is a word race where the boys write down as many words that come to mind when given a word. Those words given are usually “Man” and “Woman”. The aim is to see what they have in mind when they think about men and women. This essentially drives the conversation from then on. Next up is a discussion session where a statement is given, they stand in different parts of the room depending on whether they agree or disagree with the statement and the conversation goes from there. The role of the facilitator is to essentially keep order and ensure everyone who wants to say something gets the opportunity to do so. We may step in to challenge certain statements if they are homophobic, racist, etc. in nature, but usually it’s just to ask questions to get them to think about the topic of gender equality, masculinity and to ensure a safe space for them to express themselves.

The author mentions videos. Yes we show videos, they’re on YouTube and you can check them out yourselves (they’re here and here) but please do more than the author has done and get beyond the title. The second part after lunch is about thinking about some statistics and since the author loves statistics, here’s some more:

  • Most common cause of death in men under 35 is suicide
  • 1 in 4 girls across the globe have experienced sexual violence
  • 94% of the prison population is men

Towards the end we ask them what they can do to help lower these statistics, to make their schools a much safer place for everyone. And then they go home. Now I don’t have a degree in English language, but none of that sounds like indoctrination to me; but since when has teaching and indoctrination ever been the same thing? The aim is to provide a space for boys to think about difficult issues (most adults struggle with these) to express their views and work through them. There is no exam, there is no pressure for them to say anything, to get involved; but if it gets them thinking about it then it’s job done. The statistics above are shocking, so are the ones in that article, but this is not about men vs women. This is not about putting womens rights above mens no matter what many MRA’s want to claim, this is about making society as a whole a better place for everyone. Indeed 2 of the 3 stats above are about the pressures and issues facing men.

This is not about making them feel bad because they are boys. The exact opposite is true, it’s about breaking down those fears that they are less of a man because they do or don’t do certain things that society expects them to; and the boys openly express such pressure. The notion that groups such as Great Men make boys feel bad for being boys and label them a potential abuser is frankly nonsense and insulting. In the training each facilitator receives it is stressed that we absolutely do the exact opposite because we don’t even see them as that (never even crossed my mind to) we see people who can make a difference and unless you’re happy with the current situation, we need to be empowering the next generation to go out to show a better way. Sadly from the article itself and the comments on it, it seems many are happy with how things are and don’t like people trying to change the status quo (and almost everyone who benefits calls what we do indoctrination) which means we have much work ahead of us.

So why aren’t there programs like this for girls? Probably because no one has set one up so maybe the author should think about starting a Kickstarter campaign and start raising money to do just that. I’ve not exactly been polite to that article, we do seem to share similar concerns regarding the issues men face, but completely misrepresenting organizations trying to do something about it is not the way to go and unnecessarily clouds the issue .

If you want to know more about The Great Men Project, get in contact with them, they’ll be happy to answer any queries and many are covered in the Info section. For me though, I’m going to keep doing what I do because I see a problem; a problem that is affecting men and women and causing great harm to both; and something has got to change.

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