In one of our Grade 10 Respectful Relationships workshops this past week, we spoke with youth about our 5-month social justice youth facilitator training that we do on Monday evenings after school. Our R+R Youth Team co- facilitate sessions with the Adult Facilitators when we deliver workshops at the middle school with Grade 7 and 8’s.
In this particular Grade 10 class, several young men had agreed to show up for our orientation meeting. One of the young men didn’t come and in our session with him the following day we asked where he had been. Several young men piped up, “Yesterday was the release of Grand Theft Auto 5!” The young man shared that in making the choice between R+R Youth Team and Grand Theft Auto- he had chosen the latter.
These are the moments that I enjoy in our circle. Entering into a deeper conversation about these young men’s choices and reflections on pop culture, video games, masculinity and self awareness are always a great opportunity for me as a facilitator to balance deep listening with respectfully encouraging critical thinking amongst my students. And of course, moving in these conversations from a place of believing that as an adult and a creative edge walker, I must moment to moment create questions that do not create further divide between us, but rather support learning on all fronts.
I had heard on CBC just before arriving to class that the makers of Grand Theft Auto had spent $125 million dollars on the creation of version five. One of my students offered that in the first day of release over $500,000 in sales were made. I asked youth to think about what demographic would be making the purchase on the first day of it’s release and we explored topics including internet addiction, sexualized violence against women, how we might enter into a conversation with the CEO of Grand Theft Auto about the profits, and how they might be distributed in support of peace and violence prevention work.
As always, the conversation was lively and provocative. Youth wanted us to hear that just because someone plays a violent video game that it does not mean they will then move out into the world and use violence against others. Kevin and I asked youth if they were willing to consider that while that may be a possibility, the media representation of violence against women creates a culture where people become desensitized to real life incidents of violence. We also explored technology’s impact on individual and family health and well-being.
I left the conversation feeling confident that some great questions has been posed and that we all got to practice reflective listening. By engaging in these conversations around respect, healthy masculinity and how individual actions effect the collective culture, we continue to foster peace in the making.
Christina Antonick, R+R Adult Facilitator