14 Steps to Effective Work with Young Men
- Start where young men are at: Young men (and young women) have little opportunity to define the issues of violence they are concerned about and how they want to deal with them. Young people are used to being lectured at, not listened to. It is important to start any work with young men by asking them about their lives and their stories, and creating room to talk about the kinds of relationships, family, and intimacy they would like to be a part of and how they want to see the violence end.
- Stay positive. Young men will assume they're going to be blamed for violence against women, so they need to hear again and again that they have an important and valuable role to play in preventing violence.
- Put trust and relationships at the center. Young men, and young people in general, respond best to people they feel care about them. If part of our goal is to teach young men about the importance of trust and respect in their relationships, it's vital that we model trust and respect in our relationships with young men.
- Meet young men where they are. In doing this work, we want young men to grow in their awareness of the issues and in their willingness to prevent men's violence against women. However, we can't let our vision of where we want them to go obscure our sense of where they are. It's important to let young men teach us about where they are during our time with them. If they can't connect with the music, movies, sports figures, or actors we use as examples, we need to ask them to supply examples. It's important to avoid assuming that young men are incapable of experiencing a wide range of emotions and to check in with them about what they're feeling. And it's important to take into account that young men experience masculinity in different ways, so it's valuable to think of and be sensitive to different masculinities present at a workshop.
- Check your own assumptions. We can't afford to believe we are completely free of stereotypes, especially when junior highs, high schools, and colleges are rife with different social groups of young men: jocks, brains, preppies, queers, thugs, geeks, and so on. Be aware of whether young men from particular social groups seem to trigger strong emotions in you. Use your response as an opportunity to reach past social divisions and assumptions as well as to investigate your own reactions.
- Wait on the tough issues. Don't feel like you have to deal with the hard topics right away. Give yourself time to build relationships with the young men before you tackle some of the issues you think they're going to struggle with most. Some examples of tough topics, depending on the group you're working with, are sexual violence, homophobia, and gender and class privilege. Most of the time it makes sense to start with messages and struggles tied to traditional masculinity, which is a logical segue to more difficult topics.
- Seek leaders. Who are the young men other young people look up to? A young man who started his own business? Someone in a rock or hip-hop group? The student president? Captain of the basketball team? Editor of the school newspaper? Consult with teachers, staff, and other youth-serving professionals to find out. Find ways to connect with these male student leaders. They can have a strong, positive impact on other young men. But also know that male student leaders may be discounted by other guys because of their success or because of their approval by adult authority figures.
- Focus on stories. Don't you like to hear a good, personal story? So do young men-especially stories that relate to masculinity. They live every day with the pressures and expectations of traditional masculinity, and if we share stories of our own struggles, and the struggles of men we have known, it opens the door for young men to share their own struggles. The telling of stories is especially important if we are working to make young men more aware of both the dominant stories of masculinity and the counterstories-those stories that exist in tension with dominant masculinity.
- Make action easy. Asking young men to intervene in everyday situations involving the cultural attitudes supporting violence against women is the most difficult challenge of all, and it may take the longest period of time to realize. So help them along the action path. Assist them in developing structured institutional interventions, rather than relying solely on interventions among individuals. They can sponsor an essay contest about young men preventing violence against women, organize a concert to benefit a local rape crisis center or shelter, or host open meetings at their schools or workplaces to discuss issues related to masculinity and violence against women.
- Be patient. Change is hard-for all of us. Frequently, it requires considerable testing of the waters. Initially, young men are likely to feel safest expressing their new and developing views of a positive, healthier masculinity in the context of your meetings with them. And they probably will sometimes express a mix of attitudes and assumptions, some of which will be tied to the very attitudes we want them to challenge. When we give them the space and support they need to develop a more secure sense of how they can choose to be stronger, healthier, nonviolent young men, they will become positive role models for other young men.
- Have regular check-ins. If you meet regularly with young men, consider instituting a check-in at the beginning of every meeting. Check-ins are basically a go-around where everyone takes a minute or two to tell where he's at-how he's feeling, what's going on in his life, how school's going, and so on. And if important issues come up in the check-in, don't be too rigid about the planned agenda. Allow some space to deal with the young men's issues.
- Provide Incentives. Most of us want something in return, and young men are no different. While it might be gratifying to assume that they will automatically see and embrace the long-term benefits of men's involvement in preventing violence against women, it doesn't hurt to pave the way with some short-term incentives. If you want to form a young men's club, have teachers and staff nominate possible members (this can be a problem if they nominate either the perceived troublemakers or the perceived leaders). Bring popular foods to meetings. Provide T-shirts for members. Give awards for best intervention of the year. And so on.
- Provide male role models. Young men need to see as many positive adult role models as possible to feel they are surrounded by supportive men. Have a Men of Strength Day. Invite four or five men who are doing valuable work related to social justice and ending violence against women speak with a group of young men to explain the ins and outs of their jobs, why they have the values they do, and how they feel they're making a difference.
- Get involved in other ways. Don't limit your interactions with young men to meetings or workshops. Attend a sports event they're competing in. Take them to a movie and have a discussion afterwards. Play video games together. Learn from them about different ways you can be a part of their lives. Getting involved above and beyond workshops and meetings sends a clear message to young men: you matter to me.
Created by admin
Last modified 2004-08-26 02:01 PM
Last modified 2004-08-26 02:01 PM