One of the most important reasons why I work with youth around gender, stereotypes and healthy relationships, is that I get the opportunity to engage in complex and thought provoking conversations with young men. Speaking of self- esteem, emotions, conflict resolution, and peer pressure with young men, we create a learning environment where masculinity as an ever evolving notion, can be explored and reflected upon.
We break down stereotypes and look at their ideas around what it means to be a powerful guy and how that contrasts and compares to the images media often attempts to convey to them as young men. We encourage critical thinking as it relates to identity, equality, and emotional intelligence. One of my favourite parts of our Respectful Relationships program is having Grade 11 and 12 young men come into Grade 7 and 8 classes to co-facilitate conversations with their younger peers. They talk about gender stereotypes and the importance of being able to express feelings and ask for help, as part of what makes a guy powerful. We are living in exciting times and my work with young men encourages me to keep providing these learning opportunities for social change to flourish.
Christina Antonick – R+R Adult Facilitator
Jennifer Quam is the Mentor Supervisor for the Pass It On Project in Valemount/ McBride, British Columbia. McBride has a population of 710 while 90 kilometers away is Valemount, with a population of 1100. The school population for both communities hovers around 100 students for grades 7-12. Hard economic times have taken its toll on both McBride and Valemount. The major industry for both communities had been logging and pulp mills. The mills are now shut in both communities which has resulted in many families having one parent commute to work in Alberta while the rest of the family remains in their home community. Tourism in Valemount and McBride is promoting snowmobiling in the winter as a way to stimulate the economy.
When determining how to entice young high school females to be mentors to younger girls, Jen really emphasized the vulnerabilities of younger students.
“I asked them to remember what it was like to enter high school; how scary and lonely it is sometimes.”
This resulted in the biggest draw being the idea of becoming a friend to a younger student.
It’s not surprising that the biggest challenge is the distance between the two communities. As cited from other communities, positive partnerships with and support from the host schools is key to the success of such a project. This has not been consistently evident in this situation, which contributed initially to lower numbers. Additionally, as is the case with any new program, trying to get the girls excited about something they don’t know anything about can also stall the enthusiasm and stunt the numbers.
And yet, the young female students never fail to inspire. One of the mentors watched her buddy engage in some illegal substances, while both were at a mutual friend’s house. This presented an ethical dilemma for this young mentor. Reflecting back on Jen’s suggestion to consider what it is like being a young middle school student, the mentor saw herself at the same age and wanted to help her buddy. In order to make a difference she is now committed to bridge the distance between them, by aligning their moral compass.
With stories like this, we know that Pass It On is making a difference in the lives of young girls and women in these two small communities. Thanks for planting the seeds of hope, Jen.
Chris Gay – Pass It On Coordinator
I was shocked when I heard that retail giant Wal-Mart is launching a new line of cosmetics for 8- 12 year-olds. The array of around 70 cosmetic products called Geogirl, contain an anti-aging component. Marketed as all-natural, the cosmetic line is for girls who want real cosmetics, but with natural ingredients – a beauty line for tweens.
Canadian filmmaker, Sophie Bissonette, has created a powerful documentary called Sexy Inc.-Our Children Under the Influence. In it Bissonette analyzes the hypersexualization of our children and youth through marketing and advertising and the toxic effects that this has on our young.
Marketers are going after younger and younger audiences, and in some cases eroticizing children. This is a scary phenomenon and raises the question- When are girls allowed to be children?
Lynda Laushway – SWOVA Executive Director
Retailer launches beauty line aimed at 8-year-olds – Fashion, Life & Style – The Independent