Reach out to the boys and young men around you and be a positive role model. Here’s how:
Promote gender equality in your school.
The social well-being of boys includes gaining the capacity to develop healthy and equal relationships with girls and boys, women and men, friends, family and colleagues alike. Accordingly, one of your responsibilities is to provide your students with the means and the tools to develop relationships that are based on respect and equality. Men in Ontario recognize the universality of violence against women and most (78%) agree that violence against women is a public issue (White Ribbon, 2012).[/vc_column_text]
Organize school-wide and/or classroom-based activities to give boys the opportunity to observe or participate in the International Women’s Day (March 8), the International Day Against Homophobia (May 17), Women’s History Month (October), the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25), and Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (December 6). Visit the website of the White Ribbon Campaign to learn how to start a campaign at your school.
Invite your male students and colleagues to convene a committee to plan and organize school and community-based activities to raise awareness about gender equality and violence against women. Model gender equality by inviting female students and colleagues to join the committee and work alongside with you to raise awareness about healthy equal relationships. Actions can speak louder than words.
Provide boys with opportunities to learn and practice gender equal language to help counter demeaning messages promoted through popular culture where women and girls are often objectified, and images of masculinity are distorted. Include in your lessons opportunities to learn about accessible, positive, and equal language that boys can use in relating to girls and other boys. Develop a gender equality glossary and organize discussions about healthy equal relationships.
Boys are exposed on a daily basis to many examples of sexist behaviour, homophobia, and objectification of women. Culture is a powerful tool in reinforcing gender stereotypes both for women and men. Recognize the impact of the media, video games, and popular culture on boys and as such share a new healthier view of masculinity, one that models respect and equality towards women, girls, and other men. Not speaking up contributes to the silence around these issues, and helps to normalize gender inequality and homophobia.
Talk with your students about how consent is created and why it’s so important. Consent is a voluntary, sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement. Consent is an active agreement: Consent cannot be coerced. Consent is a process, which must be asked for every step of the way. Consent is never implied and cannot be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to be sexual with your partner. A person who is intoxicated cannot legally give consent. 98% of men in Ontario believe that both partners in a relationship are free to say if they don’t want sex (White Ribbon, 2012).
Helping students understand their own boundaries and how to assert them is an important step in helping them understand other people’s boundaries and how to respect them. Give your students a chance to make the connection! Check out the learning module in the educators section of this site to get information and lesson plans to address these issues.
Addressing issues of violence and promoting healthy relationships can be hard work and the more support you have from the people around you the easier and more effective your efforts will be. Connect with other teachers; teacher union; principal; equity committees; parents; school board; and superintendent to help you reinforce and promote the message you’re sending to the young people you’re trying to support.
Strengthen your knowledge, capacity and skills in promoting gender equality. Take advantage of professional development programs offered through your equity department, teacher’s union, or school board. Invite a local community organization to provide training to a group of teachers or administrators in your school. Consider programs that address the role that men and boys can play in promoting gender equality.
Your drive to be an exemplary role model sometimes can lead you to feel guilty when you don’t immediately respond to a situation that challenges your values and beliefs. If a person’s safety has been compromised or a serious policy has been breached, act immediately. Otherwise, give yourself time to reflect upon the situation and consider presenting it as a case for collective learning later on. That way you are not singling out a particular colleague or student and you may use the opportunity to reach out to an even greater group of people.
Most violence committed against women is by men. While the majority of men do not condone it, they often do not speak out or make their feelings publicly known. As a result, a culture of silence is created around gender inequality and men’s violence against women. Men need to speak up and reach out to their peers and younger boys to help create a society that values healthy equal relationships. Violence against women is a real concern for all of us. 84% of men in Ontario feel that violence against women and girls is a concern to them and 97% agree that they can personally make a difference (White Ribbon, 2012).
Address difficult situations of gender inequality by referring back to the values, principles, and ground rules you developed at the beginning of the school year. Invite students to provide input into the ground rules and identify consequences. Ensure that those rules establish clear principles and expectations to promote healthy equal relationships among students and colleagues. Review them on an ongoing basis to ensure they are fresh in everyone’s minds.
Promote empathy among boys by creating safe spaces for girls and boys to share personal experiences of violence and inequality. Provide opportunities for youth who have witnessed or experienced the impact of violence to talk about their feelings. Help create a trusting environment, allow students to participate in open respectful dialogue, and teach them about the importance of empathy in creating healthy relationships.