Reducing Sexism and Violence in Maine: 2015 Grantee Boys to Men

Boys to Men

Reducing Sexism and Violence in Maine: 2015 Grantee Boys to Men

What’s in a greeting? A group of middle school boys wander around a classroom considering whether to greet each other with a wave, handshake or a hug. Sam Eley, a Trainer for the Reducing Sexism and Violence Program (RSVP) explains, “The boys have to decide how to greet each other and then practice reciprocating with the least physical contact.” It’s a bit like rock-paper-scissors. A wave beats a handshake, a handshake beats a hug and a hug only wins when both participants offer one. “It’s an exercise in consent, and it gets the boys all talking about why there’s so little hugging going on. At first they always say that hugging is awkward. But why is it awkward?” The group inevitably comes to the conclusion that hugging is ‘what girls do,’ a physical manifestation of affection associated with the feminine and this insight segues into a conversation about gendered expectations and the purpose of RSVP—to challenge masculine stereotypes.

 “This group is an opportunity to talk about very important topics that don’t get talked about or addressed anywhere else.” - RSVP High School Participant

Boys to Men, the organization behind RSVP, is on a mission to reduce interpersonal violence, specifically male violence against women and girls, and to support the development of emotionally fluent, civically engaged boys. In order to help break the cycle of interpersonal violence, Boys to Men offers unique programs like RSVP that challenge traditional gender stereotypes and support the healthy development of boys and men.

In middle schools, the RSVP curriculum is broken into three, one-hour segments and it’s expanded at the high school level into a twelve-hour training. Both versions empower students to take an active role in creating safe and caring communities, enabling young men and women to recognize and challenge sexist attitudes and behaviors that are disrespectful and lead to harassment, abuse and violence.

As a 2015 Maine Women’s Fund grantee, Boys to Men’s programs are rapidly expanding through the development of collaborative partnerships across the state.  As a result, they will reach as many middle and high school students this year as they have reached in the prior nine years combined.

Recently a Mount Ararat Middle School student told Eley that after the end of their third session, the school’s hallways and classrooms were already a nicer place to be, with much less name-calling. One small step towards a big goal: a world where every boy reaches his potential to become an emotionally healthy, respectful, non-violent man.

Posted 01.02.2016 under News and Resources