What our young boys / men are subjected to | HMA

What our young boys / men are subjected to

Forty years ago, I joined a number of projects that worked with the restraints that gendered restrictions placed on boys and men, and how these flowed through to behaviour towards girls, women, and men. I was hopeful that in my lifetime we would realise the dream of gender equality by making inroads into issues such as toxic masculinity. This included creating groups such as Men Against Rape (this morphed into the STOP program which worked with men and adolescent boys around sexual violence) and Stopping Violence Services, which targeted domestic and family violence. 

We knew that changing long-held patterns of privilege would not be easy. How right we were. We knew that there would be pockets of resistance to the very idea that we could find a balance in gender relationships. I was therefore distressed this week to read the article by Karen Nimmo exploring how readily available misogynist ideas are in social media.


Of course, I knew this reality exists. Given the amount of consumption from social media that young boys and young men, in particular, are exposed to, it got me thinking about how we inoculate against the diatribe of gender hate. 

She gives the example of British-American Tate, a former kickboxer and reality TV star, who shot to internet fame this year with his violent and misogynistic video rants. As described in the article Tate says “Women belong in the home, can’t drive, and are a man’s property.” He talks of hitting and choking women and says rape victims need to “bear responsibility” for their attacks.” 

This is a classic example of ‘othering’. Othering creates distance as opposed to connection. Rather than creating empathy, it creates entitlement. As Alan Jenkins says, ‘A passionate connection to otherness is the antithesis to violence.’  

I was left with the question of how can we support our young men to inoculate against the rants of hyper-masculine role models such as the Tate’s of this world? It comes back to talking about how ideas influence us and how we are invited to respond to our anxieties. It is becoming aware that when we give attention to one aspect of an idea, we can close off attention to other aspects. 

When was the last time you sat down and talked with a young person about how they make sense of a world that sends them misogynist ideas? Like the Ken of forty years ago, how can we support our young men to take a position of resistance to these toxic ideas? How can we support them to create their own gender projects around respectful and safe relating?


Published on Thursday, October 6th, 2022, under Family violence, What Ken thinks, Youth offending

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