Young Adults

NFF Youth Blog: Action & Accountability Through Healthy Masculinity

September 12, 2022

We often get this question how can men help when standing up to violence aimed at women and other marginalized groups? 

When we talk about gender-based violence and how men contribute to it, we can see some clear patterns. For example, research shows that women are more likely than men to experience sexual violence. As we continue to evolve and challenge gendered norms, sexism, and violence, many young men understand that they must also be advocates for equality. This means recognizing systemic gender inequalities, standing up for gender justice when discussing gender-based violence against women and marginalized groups, and intervening when necessary. Advocates that aim for healthy relationships are vital to creating space which is respectful and inclusive. 

Sometimes it may be difficult for young men and boys to break the norm of traditional masculinity. Being the first to break away from a normalized tradition will always be difficult. Fear of isolation and embarrassment may be strong factors that restrict young men from breaking out of traditional forms of masculinity. This is why it is important to have conversations around vulnerability, respect and consent when discussing masculinity. As a community, we should engage in a dialogue that encourages the message that acting in a non-traditional way does not make you any less masculine or less of a man. 

These conversations will be most effective when introduced early in a young man’s life. The result of positive conversations can help in breaking the gendered norms and help in fostering healthy relationships with people of all genders.  

What is “healthy masculinity” and how do we promote it with actions and accountability?  

The term Healthy Masculinity generally means being honest with oneself about feelings and needs. Trust is a characteristic that is a part of healthy masculinity, as well as respect. It is when we engage in a discussion with our peers and hold them accountable for their actions that we can lead on a path of healthy relationships. As a society, we can embrace and discuss masculinity by:

  • Modelling and expressing a full range of healthy emotions.
  • Discussing vital issues surrounding gender-based inequalities in our community.
  • Making sure equality is prominent in our workplace/classroom and at home.
  • Encouraging and celebrating self-expression within masculinity.
  • Teaching younger generations about consent in healthy relationships.
  • Using healthy methods of intervention when witnessing a threatening situation and aiming for a peaceful solution.

Accountability must accompany these kinds of actions. Men and young boys must discuss and think about how they can do their part to help end harmful ideas about masculinity. Steps should be taken to ensure trust and respect in all healthy relationships. Recognizing you may be a part of the problem is an important first step towards a space where you are part of the solution.  

Where can discussions that relate to masculinity occur?  

Two settings where important conversations about masculinity can occur are in the classroom and at home. When we strengthen inclusion and encourage critical conversations about gender stereotypes at home and at school, we work towards lowering restrictions based on gender and we encourage exploration of a wide range of skills, interests and identities. This can be effective in changing the narrative as to what masculinity truly is: respect, equality, inclusion, and consent. As members of the NFF Youth Advisory Council, we aim to provide information about preventing gender-based violence which also means supporting youth in leading to a healthier and more inclusive future. Some other organizations working towards a future without gender-based violence in our local region include Anova (including their Man-Made program) and Changing Ways 

Everyone can be an advocate for change and can encourage a healthier form of masculinity and expression within our communities. Intervention is important to growth and inclusion; we should always aim for a healthier form of expression, breaking harmful social norms.