Men At Work and the importance of sex-based language, data and strategies for transformation.

Men At Work trains professionals who work with boys and young men to facilitate constructive dialogues with them about safety, empathy and respect – for themselves, for their male peers and for women and girls.

Our mission is to empower – through knowledge, skills and confidence – a widening range of professionals to help boys and young men achieve their potential as positive assets to their peer-groups, their places of education, their communities and, in time, their own partners and any eventual new families. The goals: fostering violence-free relationships, families and communities and helping to remove obstacles to safe, empathetic and respectful lives – all through constructive, reflective dialogue.

Despite some progress in recent decades, sex-based stereotyping (i.e. ‘gender’) and the spectrum of negative outcomes it feeds into – persist. This comes at tangible costs to women and girls – and to boys and men in different, but related ways. This is not inevitable. We can imagine – and work to realise – a society that is much safer, fairer and more human. To do this we must name the problems, in order to address them. This means spelling out the range of issues manifesting in our schools, colleges, universities, online and in person, and in our communities. Being serious about this work requires absolute clarity in our language, our data and our strategies. Sex is – by definition – the fundamental axis on which sexual harassment plays out. Sex is the key determinant of who does what to whom in terms of sexual assault, voyeurism, stalking, image-based abuse and intimate partner violence. Sex is a key determinant in types of criminality, mental health challenges and radicalisation. This is not reasonably disputable.

Whatever the role – teacher, social worker, counsellor, youth worker, law, family support etc – of the professionals we work with, the issues below are familiar, to varying degrees:

  • Sexual Harassment of (mostly) girls and young women in schools, public spaces and online by (mostly) boys, young and adult men
  • Coercive Control (mostly male to female) starting to manifest itself in early adolescent relationships
  • Porn is ubiquitous and consumed by ever-younger children with inadequate societal intervention, protection and challenge
  • Domestic Abuse of all kinds is a daily reality for huge numbers of women, some men and – of course – many children, for whom it may seem like a ‘norm’
  • Image-based abuse of (mostly) girls and young women by (mostly) boys and young men – and, of course, adult men
  • Boys and young men being at risk themselves from aggressive behaviours of other males
  • Boys and young men being at risk of grooming and radicalisation into criminal or extremist behaviours and beliefs (e.g. #gangs #incels #religiousfundamentalism #countylines)
  • Boys and young men having elevated vulnerabilities to some mental and physical illnesses and conditions – often linked to a fear of seeking help, the constraints of gender stereotypes or lack of expressive vocabulary
  • Boys and young men having elevated incidences of risk-taking behaviours, often part of seeking the approval of others or being unable / unwilling to resist negative peer-pressures

The list, sadly, could go on. We look at all of this, in the media, in our schools, our charities, our organisations, our public services and our own families and social networks and think ‘what can we do about it?’

We believe it is true that the overwhelming majority of professionals working with boys and young men…

want:

  • to proactively support the safe, healthy and empathetic development of boys and young men
  • to optimise their organisation’s work around #Safeguarding #Equality #MentalHealth
  • to develop their skills and abilities in facilitating vital, constructive dialogues with boys and young men

see:

  • that #sexism #misogyny and #maleviolence are powerful social influences negatively affecting the lives of girls and women, primarily, but also, in different ways, those of boys and men
  • that offering boys and young men an innovative, single-sex space and structure in which to reflect on social and cultural messages about ‘being a man’ would be a concrete step forward
  • that their organisation needs to ‘do something‘ and that the time is now

Let us, together, name the problems. Let us, together, acknowledge the sexed basis and dynamics of so many of these problems. Let us, together, do the work.

Thank you.

On TV. Needed more time…

I was offered a slot on GB News, which I took. It’s hard to get a message with any depth or complexity across in a very short time – especially when you have no idea how short it will be. I’d rather not have left this segment where it ends, as you will understand if you watch it, but that was out of my hands. In any case, hopefully, the case is made for constructive preventative work with boys and young men.

Street lights and and the rest of the mitigating strategies are of course useful in the immediate here and now where #maleviolence against women and girls is rampant – but they are no answer to the root cause of this violence. We urgently need concerted, constructive, evidence-based, frank and challenging work with boys and young men, addressing values and beliefs around the value of women/girls relative to men/boys and all the harms that flow therefrom – to prevent the development of adult perpetrators.

Prosecution once identified and arrested? Yes.

Out of social circulation once convicted? Yes.

Preventative work to strategically reduce / end incidences of perpetration in the first place? YES!!

A Plea for a Reality Check. Fingers Crossed…

I was invited to speak at an All Party Parliamentary Group the other day. I was one of several other speakers, experts in Sex Ed, Safeguarding and how heavily lobbied institutions can get it badly, wrong.

I spoke about:

1. The scandalously minuscule amount of strategic, programmatic work with boys & young men aimed at unpicking societal conditioning around #sexism & #misogyny

AND

2. How the misogynistic, irrational quackery of #queertheory jeopardizes that vanishingly-rare work by destroying the language needed to make any sense of our material, lived experiences as males and females within patriarchy.

I had 6 mins, so did what I could.

Michael Conroy of Men At Work C.I.C. speaking APPG, Sept 2021

#10Dialogues for Boys and Young Men (and Those Working With Them)

Men at Work C.I.C. has produced 10 CORE Dialogues for Boys and Young Men (and Those Working With Them) a FREE manual for educators, youth workers and other professionals and volunteers working with boys and young men. It is the fruit of 6 years of focused and intentional work with teenage boys and young men in education and other youth settings. Each of the dialogues have been used many times and you are guided, step by step, in facilitating them.

It is a sequential, self-consolidating programme, thematically split, aimed at facilitating constructive and meaningful dialogues around the social messages to which boys and young men are exposed in multiple ways. Its exploration of themes of respect, personhood, safety and empathy, directly engages with the root values of sexism and misogyny and has a relentlessly practical focus on ways in which boys and young men can support both their own healthy development and be a positive and respectful presence in the lives of women and girls.

The #10Dialogues are available FREE to those working with boys and young men – download here.

The follow on materials – ‘MORE Dialogues’ come as part of a training package (in person or online) for those wishing to take efforts to engage boys and young men in these vital ongoing dialogues further and deeper.

Contact menatworkorganisation@gmail.com if you would like to discuss training for yourself or your colleagues.

Thanks and best wishes

Michael Conroy

Men At Work C.I.C.

“Men At Work’s #10Dialogues programme provides boys and young men with a space where they can exercise their individual agency to reflect, learn and make crucial decisions about what it means to ‘be a man’. All boys and young men deserve to have a choice about the values and beliefs they want to carry with them through life. I am excited for boys and young men who take part in this Men at Work Programme.”

Sarah Wigley, Domestic Abuse Consultant and Trainer

“A timely, engaging and practical toolkit for engaging boys and young men in positive conversations about the world around them. In over 20 years of experience of working with men and their violence, the consistent response I have heard is ‘why haven’t I been encouraged the talk about this before?’. Well here is that opportunity – with a range of accessible materials, training and support to enable boys and young men to engage in this dialogue and to make a positive contribution to those around them.”

– Alan Garner, Facilitator of Perpetrator Intervention Programmes

Romeos and Red Flags

A sample worksheet for a discussion group with boys and young men in which a recent media article originating in https://thetab.com/uk/nottingham/2020/08/18/uons-romeo-sent-over-100-handwritten-letters-to-find-his-juliet-49043 but then picked up by national media outlet @DailyMirror (whose now-deleted article was screen-shotted to create this worksheet) is looked at critically in terms of language, values and behaviours.

Click here for PDF download – text clearer than in jpeg featured image /above