Challenging male bonding over disrespect of girls and women

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This activity is designed for use with one or more small groups. Some of the content is sensitive in nature. It takes 35 to 45 minutes.

Consider whether the notes and activity materials are appropriate for the young people you are working with, given factors like their age and stage of development.

Aim

To support young people to critically reflect on instances when men ‘bond’ with each other by disrespecting women, and to encourage young men to respect and foster positive and respectful relationships with girls and women.

Learning outcomes

At the conclusion of this activity, participants should understand that:

  • sometimes, young men bond with each other by being disrespectful, dominating, hostile or aggressive towards girls and women
  • young men are also taught that their relationships with men are more important than those they have with women
  • these types of relationships between men are associated with a higher probability of violence against women. Men may be reluctant to take a stand against their peers’ disrespect of women, or even their use of violence, because they fear rejection from their peers
  • young men should do something when they notice disrespect towards women—they are never the only one who feels uncomfortable in these situations
  • there are positive and respectful ways for young men to relate to other young men and young women.

Preparation

Time required

  • Allow a minimum of 35 minutes and maximum of 45 minutes.
  • Remember to allow time to establish a group agreement or to reaffirm an existing group agreement.

Materials

You will need:

Part 1: Understanding disrespectful male bonding

Duration: 25-30 minutes

1. Outline the aim of the session.

2. Introduce the idea that friendships between young men can be important sources of support. However, sometimes young men bond with each other by being disrespectful, dominating, hostile or aggressive towards girls and women. See: Male bonding over disrespect of girls and women

3. Divide participants into mixed gender groups. Each group should have 3-4 participants.

4. Distribute a different scenario to each group. Ask participants to read the scenario and then discuss the scene by answering the questions provided. Inform participants that questions are there to facilitate discussion, they are welcome to discuss any other points in relation to the scene that they feel are important. Have small groups talk for around 10 minutes.

5. Bring the group back together. Ask groups to read out their scenarios and then share key points of their discussion.

6. Encourage the young men in the room to reflect on whether they can relate these scenes in certain ways to their own lives, or to those of their male friends. Ask young women in the room how these kinds of male peer relations affect their lives.

  • Specifically encourage young men to speak about how they’ve noticed young men bonding through aggression or sexual boasting; privileging their relationships with other young men; or refusal to stand up to other young men who are being disrespectful.
  • Ask young women to comment on how they have felt in those moments—were they scared, ashamed, confused, unimpressed, hurt, angry?

7. Ask the whole group how these kinds of male peer relations might contribute to a higher probability of violence against women in society. Note that these types of negative relations between young men are associated with higher probability of violence against women because:

  • an emphasis on sexual conquest may lead young men to disregard young women’s wishes;
  • when young men are encouraged to privilege their relationships with other young men over those with young women, they may be more likely to excuse other young men’s violent and disrespectful behaviour towards young women; and
  • young men may be reluctant to take a stand against their peers’ disrespect of young women, or even use of violence, itself, because they fear rejection from their peers.

Part 2: New ways to relate

Duration: 10-15 minutes

1. Ask participants to identify the different ways that young men can relate to young women and each other. Write their responses down in a place they can see. If they find this difficult, ask “What does a healthy relationship look like with anyone?” or “what does a good friendship feel like?” Some ideas to get them started may include:

  • Do activities apart from one another
  • Able to express yourselves to one another without fear of consequences
  • Allow and encourage other relationships, such as with friends and family
  • Have no fear of any form of violence or abuse in the relationship
  • Trust each other and be honest with each other
  • Have respect for sexual boundaries and always seek consent
  • Careful and respectful negotiation of different needs, finding healthy and positive ways to accommodate each other’s needs
  • Resolve conflict fairly: Arguments and disagreements are part of even healthy relationships, what’s important is learning to handle and negotiate conflict in healthy and respectful ways.

2. Conclude by emphasising:

  • Sometimes, young men bond with each other by being disrespectful, dominating, hostile or aggressive towards girls and women.
  • These types of relationships between men are associated with a higher probability of violence against women.
  • Importantly, there are positive and respectful ways for young men to relate to other young men and women and others.
  • Young men should consider doing something when they notice disrespect towards girls and women—they are never the only one who feels uncomfortable in these situations.

Scenarios

Below are the scenarios, questions and facilitator notes for this activity. To download the scenarios and questions as a printable handout for participants click here .

Jeremy at a house party

Jeremy and his friends are at a house party. They are all having a few beers. Jeremy gets a text from his girlfriend, Flo, saying she is sick. Flo asks Jeremy to come over to her place. When Jeremy tells his friends that he needs to go, Nazeer says: ‘No way, we just got started, she’s just on her rags and wants you to herself’, and Steve says: ‘Yeah, don’t you dare pike out’.

This scenario shows how male peer relationships often take precedence over other relationships in a man’s life, as well as that male and female relationships are often portrayed as based on conflict.

Note: If the role of alcohol is brought up, note that alcohol does not “cause” violence or abuse. While alcohol can increase the frequency and severity of violence, the use of alcohol does not explain why it is overwhelmingly men committing violent acts against women. Whether a man drinks or not tells us nothing about his likelihood of using violence – not all men who drink are violent and many men who do not drink use violence. What does predict violence more consistently is whether a man agrees with sexist and sexually hostile attitudes. If he drinks and holds those attitudes, the problem can be magnified.

Wei the apprentice

Wei is an apprentice carpenter. Jess, a new female apprentice, has just started and has been partnered up with Wei. After some time working together, Wei starts making comments to Jess like: “Can you hurry up? You’re making me look bad”. Wei escalates the banter by stating: “I’m serious, Jess, I haven’t got time for you to carry on like a princess”. A group of young tradies aged 17-20 walk past and a few of them wolf whistle. The leader of the pack yells: “You got her under control, Wei?”

This scenario shows that men often want to show their peers that they are in control of situations involving women, and that their peers sometimes encourage this behaviour.

    Liam at his supermarket job

    Liam is at his job at the local supermarket. He and some of his male peers are talking about a female workmate, Helen, he’s attracted to. Liam is saying things like: “Boys, I’ve just got to say, she’s a rig” and “Check out her rack! I think I’m in love!” His peers make several lewd comments like: “You gotta tap that, man.” Liam replies: “She can get in line!”

    This scenario shows how men bond by disrespecting and objectifying women and boasting about sexual conquests.

    Vijay at the football

    After the game, Vijay won “best on ground” and he’s talking about the best moments on the field with his mates. As a group of girls walk past, Vijay yells out: “Any you girls in the mood?” The girls reply: “Get lost!” Vijay gets aggressive and says: “F**k you bitches, you couldn’t handle what I got to offer. I’m too good for you skanks anyway!” Vijay’s mates laugh out loud and the girls walk away quickly.

    This scenario shows that men’s peers often do not challenge disrespectful behaviour towards women and often encourage and support that behaviour.

      Ryan at a BBQ

      Ryan and his mates are having fun at a BBQ. Ryan likes one of the girls at the BBQ, Yumi. He walks by her and says: “I’m gonna find you tonight”. Throughout the night, whenever Ryan sees Yumi, he winks at her, makes lewd gestures and says things like: “You’re mine later, baby”. Yumi laughs it off or ignores Ryan, but asks her friends not to leave her alone.

      This scenario shows that men’s peers often do not challenge disrespectful behaviour and often encourage and support that behaviour.

        Bill’s night out with the boys

        Bill and his mates are hyped up for a night out. Bill organised to meet his girlfriend, Rani, at a friend’s house down the road later in the night, but was two hours late and didn’t text Rani. Rani tries to talk to Bill about not meeting her as planned. Throughout the conversation, Bill’s friends yell things like: “Don’t keep his nuts in a vice” and “If you love him set him free”. Bill cuts Rani off and says: “Yeah, back off. Why are you so uptight?”

        This scenario shows how male peer relationships often take precedence over other relationships in a man’s life, as well as that male/female relationships are often portrayed as based on conflict.

          Costa at games night

          Costa and his mates are playing video games together one night after school. Costa’s sister Elena walks into the room to get something from the fridge. The boys start wolf whistling. Costa tells his sister to go back to her room and stop causing trouble. Elena is upset and opens her mouth to say something, but Costa turns his back, so she just leaves the room quickly.

          This scenario shows how male peer relationships often take precedence over other relationships in a man’s life. It also shows that women are often blamed for men’s behaviour.

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