Summer Session Week Two: Exploring Masculinity

Monday July 11, 2016

The lessons on leadership remain very pertinent as we move through the Men of Code program. Before we can enter into discussions about sexual and domestic violence, bystander intervention, and consent, the boys must be able to see their role of influence on campus and know how use this to better the community.

Week two is designed to give the athletes a chance to talk about a topic rarely spoken about; what it means to be a man. We first give the boys the opportunity to describe what is considered to be “manly” and then compare that to what is “unmanly.” Next, we asked the boys what it means for them, on an individual level, to be a man. Many of the participants had very similar responses to this, talking about responsibility, accountability, loyalty, and respect. These responses regarding masculinity differed greatly from the initial activity, which produced characteristics such as wealthy, strong, unemotional, etc. Here we were able to expose the difference between healthy and unhealthy masculinity. The questions about masculinity on an individual level generated much more realistic and attainable responses, and by exposing this difference, we began the process of rejecting the stereotypical characteristics of being a man.

While this step is important, it is indeed a process. We experienced more push back from the boys during this lesson than the previous, which is to be expected. Thursday’s lesson was with the first year players at Friendship, many of whom did not know each other. Many of these boys expressed not having any friends at the school, and having a complete lack of trust for their peers. It is not easy to discuss things such as anger, sadness, and fear in a room of your teammates, let alone strangers. However as facilitators, it is our duty to break down these barriers, allowing the students to open up and gain new insight from the program. In the coming week, we need to do a better job showing the boys that they are in a safe space, where their differing opinions and personalities are more than welcome. This will allow the boys to critically examine what is being discussed instead of simply going through the motions for the 90 minute lesson. The topics of Men of Code can be very difficult to talk about, which is why they do not get the attention they deserve. Once we break down these barriers, we open the door to very meaningful and necessary conversations that will help change the attitudes and beliefs held by these young men.

— Andy, Men of Code Program Associate