Imagine a Man will launch as Scotland’s first positive masculinity programme on Thursday 11th May 2023 in Glasgow.
The programme has been produced by YouthLink Scotland, the national agency for youth work, and is all about building positive masculinity with young people in the midst of what is being described as Scotland’s ‘crisis of masculinity’.
The launch of the programme and its comprehensive education resources follows on from research by No Knives, Better Lives which explored what it was like to be a boy or young man in Scotland today on three key themes:
The results of the research from the first year of ‘Imagine a Man’ provided a broad breadth of understanding of what it was like to be a boy or a young man living in Scotland. The second year aimed at providing more depth to our understanding, with a particular emphasis on what exactly does ‘positive masculinity’ mean to young people.
Three youth groups based in Dundee, Glasgow and Shetland were supported to conduct research on what positive masculinity means in their schools and communities.
All three areas found that although boys and young men demonstrated a willingness to talk about their feelings, they found it difficult because of a lack of space or relevant people willing to create and facilitate these conversations. There was also a distinct lack of positive role models that boys and young men could identify with.
Growing up without these discussions and where antisocial behaviour as the cultural norm at home and in the community, is where things get much worse for boys and young men. In what has been termed a ‘crisis of masculinity’ the outcomes for men can be starkly in contrast to those of women.
These statistics show that men and boys are disproportionately affected by issues such as mental health, violence, and poverty, and that a new approach is needed to address harmful masculinity and promote positive role models and behaviours.
Rather than demonising boys and young men as “toxic,” Imagine a Man is promoting positive masculinity as a way to give boys and young men a vision to believe in and a language to express themselves and their aspirations. The programme aims to create a space where boys and young men can learn about empathy, caring, humour, and strength in a supportive environment. It also calls for more research into the impact of positive masculinity on male behaviour.
Imagine a Man is also calling on politicians, policymakers, and those in education to reframe the narrative around masculinity and to teach positive masculinity in the curriculum. The project also wants to see investment in dedicated funds for youth workers to work specifically with boys and young men in disadvantaged communities.
Vicki Ridley, Senior Development Officer, YouthLink Scotland said:
“This is an important subject, and young people really want to talk about it. Let’s flip the toxic talk around masculinity to the positive. Doing more for boys and young men does not require us to abandon our ideal of gender equality; rather, it extends it.”
Sue Brookes, Director of Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement at the Scottish Prison Service’s (SPS) and former governor of HMP & YOI Polmont said:
“The Imagine a Man research and associated toolkit are an important step towards a more preventive approach which is designed in the longer term to contribute to reducing violence both in general and more specifically to women and girls. Reframing masculinity in a positive way is an inclusive approach which is designed to build on the progressive movement for greater equality for women, providing safe spaces to discuss what a positive Scottish man should aspire to be.”
Colin MacFarlane, National Programme Manager, YMCA and former footballer said:
“If we examine the evidence around men’s mental health, attainment levels and suicide rates we can see that there is a ‘crisis of masculinity’. Men are far more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators of violent acts and have poorer physical and mental health than women and poorer overall outcomes.”
The young men in HMP & YOI Polmont from the Imagine a Man research shared the huge societal pressure they felt to fight both in and outside of prison.
“You see nowadays, like see if you back down from a fight and that, social media and that that’s going to be everywhere now, this guy didn’t do this, this guy didn’t do that. It will eventually come back to you in’it, why didn’t you fight?” (Focus Group 4)