Redefining Healthy Manhood | City of Ideas

Posted 12/02/2012 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
“Man Up” is a two-word phrase that is loaded with meaning.  For many boys and young men, their identity and masculinity are defined by that phrase, and they are bombarded daily with messages reinforcing this belief.  Society has defined “Man Up” to mean being physically strong, emotionally stoic, aggressive, and dominant.  While these character traits are not inherently problematic, they can be taken to extremes, such as misogyny, violent behavior, drug abuse, and murder.  Most young men who perpetrate violence do so because they do not have healthy outlets to display their masculinity (Kimmel, 2004).  Due to racial and socio-economic inequalities, young men and boys of color are even less likely to have appropriate venues to demonstrate their masculinity, which makes them even more susceptible to violence and unhealthy behaviors.  To improve the lives and futures of black and brown boys and young men in Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury, we must address the underlying causes of unhealthy decision-making.  By creating opportunities to redefine masculinity and by offering healthy alternatives to the messages that young men receive, we can reduce the violence that they perpetrate toward themselves and others, and foster the positive life outcomes that they so deserve.

Project Proposed:
We aim to redefine the meaning of “Man Up” by building on the strengths of each partner.  We engage young male athletes and their mentors in dialogue and training, and support these messages through a media campaign.  Through the medium of athletics, we will shift the way sports and athletes define masculinity in our culture.  Young men must have a voice in creating new messages of masculinity.  Trained mentors will lead guided reflection and education to help young men identify harmful perceptions in their thinking.  In the process, they will redefine masculinity, thus building their ownership of such messages and ensuring that the media campaign will resonate with their peers.  While educating young men and boys about healthy masculinity is important, so is the education of adults who influence them.  Developing healthy masculinity through sport requires that mentors within sports organizations have the training to support socially and emotionally healthy athletes.  By educating those who coach sports, we can encourage positive masculinity through it.  To sustain this initiative, the partners will provide a train-the-trainer program to sport-based youth development programs that serve young men and boys. The media campaign will reinforce and more widely disseminate these messages of healthy masculinity.

Role of Collaboration:
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and the Boston Police Department will provide connection to young athletes, as well as their mentors and coaches.  Sport in Society will provide the topic area expertise, curriculum, and trainers.  The John D. O’Bryant African American Institute will help select and train Northeastern students - particularly black and brown males - to serve as trainers and mentors.  A Northeastern University research center will conduct evaluations and measure the initiative’s impact.

The funding will allow us to engage boys and young men in a sustained and meaningful way, utilizing Sport in Society’s Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) training.  MVP’s approach is shaped by the idea that men who have status with their male peers are well-positioned to influence the way boys and young men view masculinity. This approach challenges participants to repudiate any definition of masculinity that equates being a man with being sexist or violent.  The project goals are:
- Raise awareness about the negative effects of hyper-masculinity
- Challenge thinking by countering messages about gender and violence
- Open dialogue by creating an environment for participants to share their opinions and experiences around masculinity
- Inspire leadership by empowering participants with concrete options to effect change

MVP-trained Northeastern students will serve as positive role models for young men of color in this program.  Having African American males involved in this initiative is critical, because it enables them to be active participants in the conversation about positive Black masculinity through articulating personal standpoints and experiences. By utilizing African American college students, this initiative presents a contrast to hegemonic notions of Black masculinity, often perpetuated by our cultural emphasis on Black males as athletes.

Other information:
The young men of Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury will redefine the characteristics, values, language, and behaviors of masculinity, providing the key voice in the creation of a healthy manhood campaign. This initiative will use the power and appeal of sports and athletes to promote healthy masculinity in the city. The mission will be to spark a public conversation about the harsh realities that our current concept of masculinity promotes. The Man Up campaign will leverage the sports community to encourage teens and young adults to speak up for victims, confront abusive peers, and promote healthy masculinity.

Primary Contact:
Established in 1984, Sport in Society educates and supports emerging leaders and organizations within sport with the awareness, knowledge and skills to implement innovative and impactful solutions for social change. Topical areas of work include: leadership, healthy development, diversity and inclusion, violence prevention, community building, community service, and civic engagement. We achieve our mission through socially responsible leadership education and professional development, consulting and capacity building.

Partner 1:
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is a Major League Baseball youth outreach program designed to:
- Increase participation and interest in baseball and softball among underserved youth
- Encourage academic participation and achievement
- Increase number of talented athletes prepared to play in college and minor leagues
- Promote greater inclusion of minorities into the mainstream of the game
- Teach the value of teamwork

Partner 2:
The Boston Police Department is dedicated to work in partnership with the community to fight crime, reduce fear and improve the quality of life in Boston’s neighborhoods.  Their Mission is Neighborhood Policing.

Partner 3:
The John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute is committed to intellectually, culturally and socially inspiring students toward excellence, success and service. Through programs, resources, services and activities the Institute fosters a nurturing, supportive and welcoming environment focused on students of African origin.

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