Sunday, October 31, 2010

Satire - How to Find a Masculine Halloween Costume for Your Effeminate Son

Halloween satire from The Onion - I probably posted this last year, but well, it's still funny in a sadly true kind of way. How many fathers (and mothers) try to do this same thing by getting their "effeminate" sons into sports rather than allowing them to do whatever they want to do?

Expert stops by Today NOW! to show parents of girly sons costume tips to survive Halloween without accentuating their child's obvious homosexuality.

How To Find A Masculine Halloween Costume For Your Effeminate Son

Michael Kimmel - Mars, Venus or Planet Earth

Micheal Kimmel talks on the silliness of the Mars/Venus crap that John Gray has been perpetrating for the last decade or two. Actually, he doesn't talk about that so much as he talks about how things really are as we move into the 21st century.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Part Six:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Failing Boys - Video Debates

Last but not least, some videos related to the series of articles posted by Canada's Globe and Mail.

Videos in Failing Boys

Video Debates Part 1: Are parents to blame?

Video debate: Before assessing blame, U of T's Kathleen Gallagher says you have to ask, 'what is our measure of success'?

Part 2: Are we too quick to medicate boys?

Child advocate Silken Laumann and the Globe panel discuss the assertion from Globe catalyst Judy McGuire that boys are overmedicated.

Part 3: Can haves and have nots co-exist?

The Globe panel discusses the challenges facing boys in today's education system

Part 4: Where are all the male teachers?

We should focus on the quality of our teachers, regardless of their gender, argues Silken Laumann.

Part 5: Are we failing boys?

There are profound differences to educating boys and girls, but the challenge is how best approach these differences within the classroom setting.

Jason Marsh - Gender and Touch

Cool article from UC Berkeley's Greater Good project. This article reviewing some recent research calls into the question - finally - the stereotype that women are more emotionally intelligent than men - rather, it seems that they each have strengths in this realm that look different from the outside.

On the other hand, they found significant gender differences in recognizing three emotions: compassion, anger, and happiness - which seem to reinforce some common gender stereotypes. My argument would be, however, that these differences are cultural constructed differences, not innate differences.

Gender and Touch

By Jason Marsh | October 18, 2010

When it comes to touch, do men and women speak the same language?

Since we published Greater Good Executive Editor Dacher Keltner's recent essay and video on the science of touch, we've had lots of readers write to thank us for calling attention to the profound and varied benefits of simple human contact.

Now here's an interesting twist on the touch research: In a paper just published in the journal Sex Roles, Dacher and Matt Hertenstein, a former student of his who's now a professor at DePauw University, have found revealing differences in the ways men and women communicate and understand different emotions via touch.

Valentin Casarsa

The study revisits an experiment Dacher describes in his Greater Good essay: Two strangers are placed in a room together, separated by a barrier. One of them sticks his or her arm through a hole in the barrier; the other tries to convey one of 12 emotions to that person only by touching his or her forearm. After each attempt, the touched person has to guess which emotion his or her partner was trying to communicate.

Originally, Dacher and Matt found that men and women were equally accurate in their ability to detect emotion through touch.

But in this study, they analyzed their data to determine whether there were any differences when it came to individual emotions.

They found significant gender differences for three emotions: compassion, anger, and happiness. And those differences seem to reinforce certain stereotypes about men and women.

Consider compassion. When both partners in the experiment were men, if one tried to convey compassion, the odds of the other recognizing that emotion were no better than if he'd just randomly guessed an emotion from the list of 12 choices. But when at least one of the partners was female, the odds of detecting compassion were much better than chance - 62 percent, in fact.

Similarly, participants communicated anger at greater-than-chance levels only when one of the partners was male (again at about 62 percent accuracy). Participants were most accurate at detecting anger when both members of the pair were male.

And happiness was communicated successfully only when both members of the pair were women.

The other emotions that participants could successfully communicate - fear, disgust, love, and gratitude - were understandable regardless of the gender pairing, whether it was a man touching a man, a man touching a woman, a woman touching a man, or a woman touching another woman.

So why might Dacher and Matt have seen such gender differences?

They speculate that successfully communicating compassion might be skewed toward women since, according to evolutionary theory, women throughout human history have taken on a disproportionate amount of the caretaking for their offspring; indeed, other research has found that women report experiencing more compassion than men do.

They were also unsurprised that men would be more skilled at communicating and detecting anger, as studies show that men consistently report experiencing and expressing more anger than women. And in other research, participants more accurately and more quickly detect male facial expressions of anger than female ones.

And research has also suggested that women would be more skilled at communicating happiness than men: Studies show that women report experiencing more happiness than men and smile more, share emotions more, and experience positive emotions more than men.

Of course, these corroborate prevalent stereotypes about the sexes. But Dacher and Matt also allow that those stereotypes might have helped to drive some of their results rather than the other way around.

They note that when they asked the people being touched in the experiment to guess whether the person touching them was a man or woman, they were usually correct: Depending on the gender of each participant, the touched person could identify the gender of the toucher anywhere between 70 and 96 percent of the time.

As a result, Dacher and Matt say it's possible that the touched person's knowledge of his or her partner's gender may have affected the meaning he or she assigned to the touch. For example, he or she may have been more likely to interpret a gesture from a woman as a signal of compassion while interpreting the same gesture from a man as a different emotion.

In some subtle, perhaps subconscious way, these stereotypes may have been making the participants more likely to select the emotions typically associated with the gender of the person touching them.

Overall, though, the study does challenge some existing beliefs that women are simply more emotionally intelligent than men - i.e., better at detecting and interpreting others' emotions. Instead, it seems that each gender has its own advantage, depending on the emotion.

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Humor - Unemployed Dad Channels All His Energy Into Creating, Running Haunted House

The Onion is notorious for taking sensitive issues, such as unemployment in this case, and making humor from the situation. This piece is amusing in its own way, but it also points up the need men feel to be useful, to be doing something - anything - that feels productive, especially when their livelihood has been taken away in lay-offs during economic tough times.

There is a sad undertone to this piece, the sense of resignation in the character - and he has sublimated the loss through this fantasy haunted house. There is mention of interviews, resume writing, clearing out work files, and the possible loss of the home, and while "Rome is burning," so to speak, he is making a kick-ass (in his mind) haunted house.

How many of us do similar things when faced with adversity? How easy is it to go work in the yard or in the shop rather than deal with relationship issues? How easy is it to play video games or watch television rather than sit with anxiety, loneliness, or depression?

A little food for though that probably takes all the fun out of this piece of humor . . . .

Unemployed Dad Channels All His Energy Into Creating, Running Haunted House

October 30, 2010 | ISSUE 46•43

Spencer, whose severance pay ran out four months ago, has made several scary bats.

PORT CLINTON, OH—Unemployed father Daniel Spencer, 42, has reportedly spent the past several weeks focusing all his time and energy on transforming his home into a haunted house for Halloween.

Spencer, who was laid off in February when the Silgan Plastics Corp. closed its local plant, has worked long hours each day on schematics for the layout of the haunted house, collecting materials, constructing props, and planning a variety of ways to scare visitors.

"The neighborhood kids are really going to get a kick out of this," said Spencer, who was previously responsible for managing more than 130 employees and once hoped to work his way up to a position at the executive level. "It's going to be scary as heck. I made this really cool dead body by stuffing my old work uniform with a bunch of rags, and then I hung it from the big oak tree out front with a rope."

"And wait until they get a load of the glow-in-the-dark skeleton I'm putting in the attic window," the now-uninsured Spencer added. "It's going to spook the pants off people."

According to family sources, Spencer's weekly schedule for the past month has consisted of working two to three hours on the haunted house in the morning, watching television from the couch for a short period after lunch, and then spending the remainder of the afternoon and early evening putting the finishing touches on decorations and his resumé.

The father of three confirmed that after a recent unsuccessful job interview, he went on a shopping run and found a number of discounted Styrofoam balls, which he described as "perfect for making ghosts and spiders."

"And then later, just by chance, I happened to stumble across our cassette tape of spooky sound effects while clearing out some of my old work files from the crawl space," said Spencer, adding that he was glad he had found so much time during the past month to search online for haunted-house decorating tips. "Turns out, a lot of great supplies are right here in our own house. That's what's great about this whole project, you can really make a top-notch haunted house while spending almost nothing."

"Like when I made gravestones in the front yard using pieces of cardboard and spray paint," Spencer continued. "I also had plans to turn our station wagon into a hearse, but we had to trade it in for the hatchback."

According to Spencer, he initially intended to create a haunted house in the garage as part of an effort to cheer up his son Andrew, 11, who was still disappointed that he didn't get an Xbox 360 for his birthday. Spencer said the project gradually expanded to include a basement dungeon and a crypt on the patio.

"I told my wife that we still have the space for the time being, so we might as well use it," Spencer said. "Plus, you should have seen the kids' faces when I told them Daddy was going to turn the basement into a dungeon for Halloween. They just lit up, they were so happy."

After tripling the size of the haunted house, Spencer said, it seemed only natural to open the venue to the public and charge a small entrance fee of $2.

"I'm not in it for the money, of course—this is just so the kids can have a good time," he said. "But if I happen to recoup the cost of supplies, so be it."

Sources confirmed Spencer has also enlisted a number of friends, neighbors, and laid-off former coworkers to help out, with some dressing as monsters and others rapidly turning the overhead lights on and off to create a makeshift strobe effect.

Andrew Spencer, who assisted his father by peeling grapes for the bowl of eyeballs, was impressed by his unemployed dad's efforts.

"He's really good at this, because he used to be a manager at the plastic factory," the fifth-grader said. "Now he's managing a haunted house."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Failing Boys: Part 6 of 6: We can't tolerate failing boys

This is the final installment of what has been an excellent and important series from Canada's Globe and Mail. This entry is a bit of a summing up of the previous five installments. But this article also includes 5 take-home lessons about how we can help boys be more engaged in their education.

I will have one more installment from this series - a collection of video debates that discuss whether or not parents are to blame (this is an obvious "yes, but . . ." situation - the issue is complex, so there are many factors, and parents are one of those factors).

Failing Boys: Part 6 of 6: Editorial: We can't tolerate failing boys

They may require a gender-specific approach to stay engaged. A Globe editorial concludes our six-part series

In 1970, women made up just 38 per cent of Canada’s university undergraduates. Today, men make up roughly the same proportion. For men, it is 1970 in reverse.

Are boys the new girls? Of course not. There is no glass ceiling. There is no rejection of aspirations to powerful positions. But boys are struggling academically, and they act as if their choices are circumscribed. If women were still just 38 per cent of undergraduates, we wouldn’t tolerate it. If women were 64 per cent of high-school dropouts, we would be up in arms. Such poor achievement levels would damage society – all that lost productivity. And it would harm individuals – all that lost potential.

More related to this story

A generations-long push to knock down stereotypes and expand aspirations helped girls and young women rocket forward in education. They have raised the bar for achievement, and that’s a good thing. Now it’s time for a push for boys and young men. It’s an economic imperative for a future in which even manufacturing jobs will require high-school-plus; and it’s in keeping with the moral purpose of education.

Girls’ energy – unleashed – is wonderful to behold. Go to francophone medical schools in Quebec, where 70 per cent of the students are women. Go to McGill University, where women are substantially in the majority in professional schools for law, medicine, dentistry and architecture, and narrowly in the majority in the faculty of management. Go to the University of Toronto Medical School, where there are 1,843 female medical students, and just 996 male ones.

But what if a similar push helped boys reach higher? The number of women who achieved university degrees (graduate and undergraduate) in 2008 was 50 per cent higher than it was in 1992. The push worked. The number of men who achieved those degrees rose just 29 per cent over that same period. (Women had a larger base, too; they were already a large majority on campus by 1992.) It’s as if news of the knowledge economy had barely reached men.

Five key principles stand out in trying to reach the boys:

1. Boys and girls learn differently

There are many individual exceptions, of course. But an understanding of gender differences should inform teaching practice. Boys need a choice of reading materials, some stressing action, war or humour rather than feelings. Non-fiction should be offered. The days of all children in a classroom reading the same novel should be numbered. New technologies should be employed in literacy and other areas of instruction to help boys become more engaged. Boys tend to need some opportunity for movement. Some girls, too, will be helped by each one of those changes, because not all girls learn in the same way. Good teaching practices for boys are therefore consonant with good teaching practices generally.

Several provinces and individual school boards have begun offering guidelines to teachers on male literacy but “what I’m seeing in the classroom on a daily basis is that we haven’t quite shifted,” says Beverley Freedman, an educator who works with boards and education ministries in several provinces.

2. Boys benefit from male educators

It is more than just a matter of role models. Imagine how a girl would feel in a school with all male teachers and administrators. Wouldn’t something be missing from how those schools understand her needs and communicate with her? “Some boys are willing to learn how to be a man from a woman, but some boys aren’t,” says U.S. educator Barney Brawer.

3. Local needs should drive innovation

What works in Lethbridge may not work in Moncton or Montreal. There is no need for a massive growth in single-gender schools, but if some feel it works for them, they should go ahead, as the Toronto District School Board intends to do. Edmonton has the Nellie McClung Girls’ Junior High to instill leadership, initiative, self-reliance and independence. Boys need those qualities, too. More than that, they need to feel supported, encouraged and listened to. Some boards have surveyed boys or set up focus groups to find out how to engage them better.

4. Boys’ aspirations need a push

Junior A hockey players in Oshawa, Ont., and university hockey players in Fredericton have served as reading mentors to boys. It’s a start. What an upside-down country, where boys are taught that hockey is in the blood, but not reading. There are 976 scholarships specifically reserved for women in Canada, and just 192 for men (mostly sports-related). Publishers saw to it that science textbooks for Grades 7 to 10 were rewritten to show girls and women as successes. Role-modelling programs and career days aimed at girls have been widespread. A strong tide lifts many boats.

5. Helping boys should not mean removing supports from girls

The girls’ scholarships, schools such as Nellie McClung, special career programs – they should continue as long as they’re meeting girls’ needs. This is not a zero-sum game.

In retrospect, it was wrong to rewrite textbooks so that in portraying female successes they also cast males in the role of losers. “The unstated assumption was that boys did not need the same degree of encouragement,” one observer said. That assumption was wrong. All young people, boys and girls, need encouragement and support. They need the conditions that nurture academic success.

The choices made by boys and young men do not reflect the natural order of things, any more than 1970 was where women should remain. They reflect the relative lack of nurturance our society provides for male academic success.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lessons from Nature? - How Male Elephants Bond

Cool article from Smithsonian - is there something human men can learn from elephants? There are a lot of added features I have included in the beginning of the post.

How Male Elephants Bond

Bull elephants have a reputation as loners. But research shows that males are surprisingly sociable—until it's time to fight

By Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell
Photographs by Susan McConnell
Smithsonian magazine, November 2010
Related Books:

While sipping tea one morning and enjoying the expansive view of a water hole from my 25-foot-tall research tower, I could see a storm of epic proportions brewing.

My colleagues, students, volunteers and I were at Mushara, a remote water source in Namibia’s Etosha National Park, to study the dynamics of an all-male society, bull elephant style. I’d been coming to this site for 19 years to study elephants, and the complexity of the bulls’ relationships was becoming more and more striking to me.

Male elephants have a reputation as loners. But in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, where the longest-running studies on male elephants have been conducted, bulls have been observed to have a best friend with whom they associate for years. Another study, in Botswana, found that younger males seek out older males and learn social behaviors from them. In my previous field seasons at Mushara, I’d noticed that males had not just one close buddy but several, and that these large groups of males of mixed ages persisted for many years. Of the 150 bulls that we were monitoring, the group I was particularly interested in, which I called the “boys’ club,” comprised up to 15 individuals—a dominant bull and his entourage. Bulls of all ages appeared remarkably close, physically demonstrating their friendship.

Why was this group so large and its members so tight? What held them together? And how was dominance decided and maintained? Now, as I trained my binoculars at the water hole, I looked for answers to these questions, and witnessed a showdown.

Like many other animals, elephants form a strict hierarchy, which reduces conflicts over scarce resources such as water, food and mates. At Mushara, an artesian well provides the best water, which is funneled into a concrete trough—a remnant of an old cattle farm built before this area was incorporated into the park. The outflow of the well at the head of the trough, which has the cleanest, most palatable water and is equivalent to the head of a table, was clearly reserved for the top-ranking elephant—the one I referred to as the don.

As five members of the boys’ club arrived for a drink, I quickly noticed that two young, low-ranking bulls weren’t up to their usual antics. Jack and Spencer, as I called them, were agitated. They kept shifting their weight and seemed desperate for reassurance, with one or the other holding his trunk out tentatively, as if seeking comfort from a higher- ranking bull’s ritualized trunk-to-mouth greeting.

Keith and Stoly, more senior bulls, ignored these attempts at engagement. They offered no reassuring gestures such as a trunk over a youngster’s back, or an ear over a head or rear. Instead, they and the younger bulls seemed to be watching Greg, the don. And he was obviously in a foul temper.

Greg, about 40 years old, was distinguishable by two square notches out of the lower portion of his left ear. But there was something else, something visible from a long way off, that identified him. This guy had the confidence of a general—the way he held his head, his casual swagger. And for years now, whenever Greg strutted up to the water hole, the other bulls slowly backed away to allow him access.

When Greg settled in to drink, each bull in turn approached him with an outstretched, quivering trunk, dipping the tip into Greg’s mouth as though kissing a human don’s ring. After performing this ritual and seeing a placated Greg, each bull’s shoulders seemed to relax and each slouched submissively away from Greg’s preferred drinking spot.

It was a behavior that never failed to impress me—one of those reminders that human beings are not as unique in social complexity as we like to think. This culture was steeped in ritual.

Despite the other males’ deference, Greg still seemed agitated. He fitfully shifted his weight from one front foot to the other and spun his head around to watch his back and give his best stink eye to some phantom pursuer, as if somebody had tapped him on the shoulder in a bar, trying to pick a fight.

I scanned the horizon to see if any more bulls were heading our way. Considering Greg’s increasing agitation, I thought he might be sensing an approaching rival. In my earlier research here, I’d discovered that elephants can hear rumbles too deep for human hearing and use their feet and trunks to sense rumbles that travel through the ground for miles. Elephants can even recognize one another through these vibrations.

Perhaps Greg sensed a bull in musth. A male entering the hormonal state of musth is supposed to experience a kind of Popeye effect—the equivalent of downing a can of spinach—that trumps established dominance patterns. Not even an alpha male would risk challenging a bull elephant with a heightened level of testosterone. Or so I thought.

An elephant in musth is looking for a mate with such singularity of purpose that he hardly takes the time to eat or drink. He engages in exaggerated displays of aggressiveness such as curling the trunk across the brow with ears waving—presumably to facilitate the wafting of a sticky, musthy secretion from temporal glands above the cheek, just behind the eye—while excreting urine, sometimes to the point of gushing. The message is the elephant equivalent of “don’t even think about messing with me ’cause I’m so crazy-mad that I’ll tear your head off.” Other bulls seem to understand this body language quite well.

While Greg twitched, the mid-ranking bulls were in a state of upheaval. Each seemed to be showing his good relations with higher-ranking individuals: Spencer leaned against Keith on one side, and Jack on the other, placing his trunk in Keith’s mouth—Keith being a favorite of the don. The most sought-after connection was with Greg himself, who often allowed certain privileged lower-ranking individuals to drink right next to him.

But today Greg was in no mood for brotherly backslapping. Stoly, who ordinarily enjoyed Greg’s beneficence, cowered in the overflow from the trough, the lowest-ranking position where water quality was poorest. He sucked his trunk, as if uncertain how to negotiate his place in the hierarchy.

By now I had been in the tower two hours; it was nearly noon, and the day had turned hot and bleak. It had been a particularly dry year, so the trees were parched and the clearing especially stark. As Greg became more and more agitated, I could sense that nobody wanted to be in the presence of an angry don.

Finally the explanation strode in on four legs, his shoulders high and head up, clearly looking for trouble. It was the third-ranking bull, Kevin, the group bully who frequently sparred with the lower-ranking bulls. I could identify him by his wide-splayed tusks and bald tail. I could also see the tell-tale sign of urine dribbling from his penis sheath, and, judging from his posture and long stride, he appeared ready to take on Greg. Kevin was obviously in musth.

I had never witnessed a musth bull challenging a dominant bull, and as Kevin arrived at the water hole, I was on the edge of my seat. I suspected that Greg had been avoiding Kevin, and I fully expected Greg either to back down or to get the daylights beaten out of him. Everything I had read suggested that a rival in musth had the advantage in a fight with a top-ranking bull. Such confrontations have even been known to end in death.

Female elephants live much of their lives apart from males, in family groups led by a matriarch. A mother, grandmother and maybe even a great-grandmother live together with daughters, nieces, granddaughters and their offspring—on average, about 15 individuals. Young males leave the group when they are between 12 and 15 years old; the females stay together as long as they live, which can be up to 70 years. The matriarch, usually the oldest in the group, makes decisions about where and when to move and rest, on both a daily and seasonal basis.

Read the rest of the article.

Theorizing Masculinities - A Symposium at Emory University

This is part of a symposium on masculinities held by Emory University's Feminism and Legal Theory Project of Emory University School of Law - this is the kind of thing that sets off the guys supporting male studies. On the other hand, there needs to be some rapprochement between feminism and the study of male and masculine lives.

Nancy Dowd gives a very good lecture - and Michael Kimmel is one of the leaders in men's studies, so it's always interesting to hear his perspective. This is from 2009, but it's new to me.
Theorizing Masculinities

Presenters: Nancy Dowd, Michael Kimmel, Fionnuala NiAolain

This panel was a part of the Masculinity and the Law Workshop sponsored by The Feminism and Legal Theory Project of Emory University School of Law.

The workshop explored the relevance of masculinities studies to feminist legal theory and activism and was held September 11-12, 2009.

For more information, visit:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Myth dispelled - Difference between females and males in math skills

So girls do not trail boys in math so much as we have been led to believe - either that or they have pretty much completely caught up. Looking at a huge number of studies, the difference is negligible. This summary of a rather large meta-study comes from Science Codex (a great site for new research press releases and article summaries).

Myth dispelled - Difference between females and males in math skills

Posted On: October 12, 2010

Bad news if you are a lobbyist claiming that females need more funding for mathematical skills than boys — the math skills of boys and girls, as well as men and women, are substantially equal, according to a new examination of existing studies in Psychological Bulletin.

One portion of the new study looked systematically at 242 articles that assessed the math skills of 1,286,350 people, says chief author Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

These studies, all published in English between 1990 and 2007, looked at people from grade school to college and beyond. A second portion of the new study examined the results of several large, long-term scientific studies, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In both cases, Hyde says, the difference between the two sexes was so close as to be meaningless.

Sara Lindberg, now a postdoctoral fellow in women's health at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, was the primary author of the meta-analysis in Psychological Bulletin.

The idea that both genders have equal math abilities is widely accepted among social scientists, Hyde adds, but word has been slow to reach teachers and parents, who can play a negative role by guiding girls away from math-heavy sciences and engineering. "One reason I am still spending time on this is because parents and teachers continue to hold stereotypes that boys are better in math, and that can have a tremendous impact on individual girls who are told to stay away from engineering or the physical sciences because 'Girls can't do the math.'"

Scientists now know that stereotypes affect performance, Hyde adds. "There is lots of evidence that what we call 'stereotype threat' can hold women back in math. If, before a test, you imply that the women should expect to do a little worse than the men, that hurts performance. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Parents and teachers give little implicit messages about how good they expect kids to be at different subjects," Hyde adds, "and that powerfully affects their self-concept of their ability. When you are deciding about a major in physics, this can become a huge factor."

Hyde hopes the new results will slow the trend toward single-sex schools, which are sometimes justified on the basis of differential math skills. It may also affect standardized tests, which gained clout with the passage of No Child Left Behind, and tend to emphasize lower-level math skills such as multiplication, Hyde says. "High-stakes testing really needs to include higher-level problem-solving, which tends to be more important in jobs that require math skills. But because many teachers teach to the test, they will not teach higher reasoning unless the tests start to include it."

The new findings reinforce a recent study that ranked gender dead last among nine factors, including parental education, family income, and school effectiveness, in influencing the math performance of 10-year-olds.

Hyde acknowledges that women have made significant advances in technical fields. Half of medical school students are female, as are 48 percent of undergraduate math majors. "If women can't do math, how are they getting these majors?" she asks.

Because progress in physics and engineering is much slower, "we have lots of work to do," Hyde says. "This persistent stereotyping disadvantages girls. My message to parents is that they should have confidence in their daughter's math performance. They need to realize that women can do math just as well as men. These changes will encourage women to pursue occupations that require lots of math."

Failing Boys: Part 5 of 6: Is affirmative action for men the answer to enrollment woes?

| iStockphoto

This is the 5th of 6 parts in the series on how we are Failing Boys, from Canada's Globe and Mail. Personally, I don't think 'affirmative action' for boys is the right approach any more than it is for girls. However, I would like to see the playing field for scholarships become a hell of a lot more even.

[As noted in previous articles, however, the real problem is in early education - by the time males get to college age, the damage is done.]

As pointed out in one of the add-on features for this series, scholarships to college for female students outnumber those for male students at around 5:1. In a time of economic challenge, when college costs continue to increase at astronomical rates, females have a huge funding advantage with the scholarship differential (these numbers are for Canada, but I suspect it is similar in the US).
Numbers compiled by, a free database listing 49,000 scholastic prizes offered in the country by colleges, universities, corporations and other private organizations, show 976 scholarships are designated exclusively for women – a number five times greater than the 192 prizes earmarked for men.
To make things worse, the money for females is academically based, while most of the money for males is sports based: "the scholarships for women total more than $1.1-million and cover everything from engineering programs to voice training. The prizes for men amount to $250,000 and most are sports-related."

For example, in medicine, there are 9 scholarships for women, 0 for men; in education, there are 32 for women, 4 for men - and this is a field where there needs to be more men represented.

Failing Boys: Part 5 of 6: Is affirmative action for men the answer to enrolment woes?

Carolyn Abraham and Kate Hammer

For Harold Reiter the tipping point was the entering class of 2002.

As the new chair of admissions at McMaster University's medical school, he took one look at the proportion of women admitted – a whopping 76.9 per cent – and wondered what had happened to the men.

The gender gap at the university's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine was one of the widest in the country and one of the factors that prompted Dr. Reiter to rethink the admissions criteria.

More related to this story

“It was those very numbers that made me start to look at the breakdown of the applicant pool, in terms of the ratio of male to female, and the discovery of what was, I think, an over-emphasis on grade point average,” he said.

Basing admissions mostly on marks, it seemed, had contributed to the decline of men's numbers in medical schools. Dr. Reiter, who was new to the position, decided the school should put less emphasis on marks and broaden its requirements, which eventually it did. The proportion of men has since slightly increased.

Dr. Reiter's candour is rare. Admissions officials are uncomfortable acknowledging that they are even troubled by the lack of men in medical school. During the past decade, men's interest in medicine has hardly budged, while women have been drawn to doctoring in ever higher numbers – a trend many regard as yet another sign of males slipping in the sphere of academics. The imbalance is greatest in Quebec, where women make up more than 70 per cent of students at francophone medical schools.

Medicine has been flagged as a field where the gender imbalance could lead to a shortfall of labour – just as an aging population increases demand. Research shows that female doctors are more inclined to work part-time than their male colleagues, and avoid certain specialties, such as surgery, as they balance demands of raising a family.

Nick Busing, president and CEO of the Association of the Faculties of Medicine of Canada, says “this is a major debate, about getting the right balance of men and women in medicine.”

Asked to explain the sudden 20-percentage-point jump in male students admitted to the University of Calgary's medical school between 2004 and 2005, for instance, Dr. Ian Walker, director of undergraduate admissions, was dismissive.

Dr. Walker said the fluctuations were random. “We had no concerted gender factor in our admissions process whatsoever,” he said. “That is just a statistical blip.”

However, according to Paul Cappon, more than one faculty has done something about the gender factor.

Dr. Cappon, president and CEO of the Canadian Council on Learning, says that for the past five to eight years, some universities across the country have been tinkering with admissions to boost the number of men in medical school – looking beyond marks to give male applicants, in particular, credit for things like community service.

He predicted no one would say it was going on.

Dr. Cappon, who was a vice-president at Laurentian University, a former director-general of the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada and a former professor of medicine at McGill University, says “schools are doing that surreptitiously in Canada, deans of law and medicine. I used to be an academic VP running a university and I know they are doing it.”

Schools are “doing it surreptitiously, because it's politically incorrect to do it,” he says.

Medical education statistics collected by the AFMC seem to support his allegation. While women apply to medical school in record numbers – and make up nearly 60 per cent of students admitted – men still stand a better chance of being accepted in every province but three, according to data from the entering class of 2007. They were Alberta, Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

Women's applications to medical school outnumbered men's by nearly 38 per cent in 2007-2008, according to data from 15 of the country's 17 medical schools, collected by the AFMC Association of the Faculties of Medicine.

Nationally, the statistics suggest that men and women have even chances of receiving an offer from a Canadian medical school. But a closer look reveals that men have better odds than women – in some cases, significantly better – at being accepted at several schools.

In 2009, at Dalhousie University's medical school, 15 of every 100 male applicants were admitted, compared to only 11 of every 100 females. Men seemed to have the same advantage at the University of Saskatchewan's medical school, where 14 of every 100 male applicants made the cut, compared with 10 women.

For decades, medical schools have chased women – highlighting female physicians as role models, offering scholarships, and celebrating parity when it arrived in the 1990s. Even now, when men are in the minority of medical students in Canada – there are at least nine scholarships exclusively for women to become medical doctors, and none for men. Turning the tide is a tricky business and seems to betray years of women's progress.

When the British Medical Journal ran a 2008 article entitled “Are there too many female medical graduates? Yes.” The backlash was swift. Female physicians note they still make up just a fraction of certain specialties, and that it is backward to assume men should never have to share more home duties.

In Canada, women are now poised to become the dominant face of doctoring – more than half the physicians in Canada under age 35 are female, and most retiring doctors are male.

“There was such a strong stereotype of physicians being male,” said Dr. Busing. “I think that we have to be sensitive that we are not perpetuating another kind of stereotype.”

He said all of the medical schools are broadening their admissions criteria, realizing that marks alone don't predict a good doctor, but whether gender also is driving the change he says he is not certain.

Dr. Busing said more work needs to be done to understand why men are not as interested as women in medicine, that it may be they are choosing other higher-paying professions, in the fields of finance, for instance.

A 2004 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal warned that “planners and policy makers should be proactive” in accommodating the female majority in medicine in order to stave off a crisis in health care.

The notion of a stealth policy of affirmative action for men is not new. It first surfaced south of the border in 2006. That year, the dean of Kenyon College wrote an op-ed in The New York Times lamenting that she had to pass over “glorious stacks of girls” in favour of less qualified boys in order to keep some semblance of a gender balance at the school. She said the trend is widespread in postsecondary schools in order to keep themselves marketable.

Dr. Cappon says it's an image issue here too: “If it looks like a woman's program, you'll have trouble attracting both men and women.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TEDx Houston - Dr. Brene Brown: Feeling Worthy of Love and Belonging

Excellent TED Talk (from Houston) on interconnection and the major blockage - shame. Dr. Brown talks about interconnection as our basic human need. Yet many people - especially men, I think - often do not have many or deep connections with other people.

This often comes down to shame, which is the fear of not being worthy of love and belonging. On the other hand, those who are most connected have let go of the fear of not being enough, have embraced their own vulnerability, and live as authentic a life as possible.

This is a great talk - and a great lesson on how to have a happier life.
Dr. Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown - University of Houston
Dr. Brené Brown is a researcher professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, where she has spent the past ten years studying a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness, posing the questions: How do we engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging and joy?

Brené is the author of I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power (2007) and the forthcoming books, The Gifts of Imperfection (2010) and Wholehearted: Spiritual Adventures in Falling Apart, Growing Up, and Finding Joy ( 2011).

More Information:

Failing Boys: Part 4 of 6 - Red-flagged as problem pupils, are boys misunderstood?

This is the 4th of 6 parts to this excellent series from the (Canadian) Globe and Mail. What do you think of "no fail" classrooms - an extension of the no-one-loses games kids are now forced to play (where everyone gets a trophy and sometimes they don't even keep score)? Here are some reader poll results:

By a creating a "no-fail" environment for children, schools and parents undermine the competitive nature of boys and turn them off learning

83% Agree - 6058 votes
17% Disagree - 1237 votes
Seems the readers think that children - especially boys - need competitiveness in order to be interested sometimes. Although I know a LOT of women/girls who are very competitive.

Failing Boys: Part 4 of 6: Red-flagged as problem pupils, are boys misunderstood?

Erin Anderssen

Viewed as too difficult to teach and too disruptive to control, the less help the male 'problem' pupil gets – especially in language skills and reading – the worse he does. Part 4 of a six-part series.

For most her eldest son's school career, Nicole Stamos has made so many trips to the principal's office she felt like she was getting a detention herself.

More related to this story

Alexander Gleeson writes on a smart board during a math lesson in teacher Daniel Rolo's Grade 5 class at Monsignor Uyen Catholic School in Chatham, Ont.
Photos - Inside a boy friendly classroom

And although his math and science marks weren't bad, he was steadily falling behind his grade level in reading; his parents worried about his future and blamed themselves. They were hard on him, too. “You are so busy getting upset with your child not learning, and all of a sudden he's in Grade 5.”

This is the all too-common tale of the boisterous, restless boy “red-flagged” as the problem pupil that nobody wants in their class. Viewed as too difficult to teach and too disruptive to control, the less help this boy gets – especially in language skills and reading – the worse he does.

For his parents, it was one complaint after another from the school: Noah was ripping up erasers at his desk, making a mess. Noah interrupted the teacher. Noah wouldn't sit still. Noah had to stay in at recess. One teacher put his desk in the front so he was facing the rest of the class.

Another teacher parked him in the back. While the rest of the pupils worked as a group, Noah worked alone. He would come home and tell his mom that the teachers had yelled at him – again. “He would just suck it up, and go,” she says. “But when he was sick he was so happy to stay home.”

Ms. Stamos read books and made suggestions. Maybe Noah could walk around when he gets restless, or the teacher could ease up on the shredded erasers. But the school was reluctant to accommodate one child. At home, he'd get the same lectures about listening and behaving in class.

Nature is certainly a player in these stories – boys tend to be more active than girls, and mature later – but studies have found relatively small overall brain differences between girls and boys. The bigger player may be environment – the nurture side of a boy's life, where parents and teachers have a major influence to either help him reach his full potential, or box him into a role that holds him back.

To boost math scores among girls, the youngster had to get the message that their hardwired brains weren't holding them back. “Now we are doing the opposite to boys: Boys are immature, boys can't sit still, boys can't read and write. That can't help them,” says Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist studying gender difference. So in large part, the solution for boys may be changing that message.

Whether parents want to admit it or not, they treat sons differently than daughters, right from birth. Parents, especially fathers, are more physical with baby boys. Early on, boys get the message that certain “girly” toys aren't the best choice. Boy babies tend to be fussier than girls, but studies have shown that parents respond more gently to their infant daughters, while shushing their infant sons – a trend that continues into preschool and beyond. Barry MacDonald, a parenting expert in British Columbia and the author of the coming book Boys on Target, watched it happen at the door to a kindergarten class last week – an embarrassed father pushing his sobbing son into the room. “If it's a girl, parents bend down and support her, sometimes even taking her home.” Boys, he says, are subtly told to “buck up.” A world of Superman and sports ambition outlines the male image early: “What is everyone going to think?” the father asked, when Mr. MacDonald counselled him to accept how his son was feeling.

“My husband and I always say just to soften your heart and don't expect them to be like little men. They have just as much right to cry as little girls,” says Kerry MacLeod, a mother of three boys in Lavington, B.C. Each of her boys, ages 3, 8 and 11, is a unique personality – so she rejects the idea that one school solution would help all boys.

Ms. MacLeod had to study up on her sons, to learn that even when they don't make eye contact, they are still listening to her. But Ms. MacLeod worries about society pushing the nurturing side out of her sons. At school, she has observed, “people are a little more snappy with the boys. Quicker to judge them.”

The most worrisome weakness boys demonstrate in school is in language and reading – they have always lagged behind girls in this area. But parents have a major role to play in developing those language skills in their sons. Imagine, says Mr. MacDonald, the exhausted mom and dad on a Friday evening, with their daughter quietly colouring in the room with them, their active son banging Lego blocks in another room. “They think, ‘let's just leave him well enough alone' – and partly it's survival.” But it's also another opportunity lost for their son to hear and participate in language and social nuances. The same thing happens with reading. Research suggests that parents start out reading as much to sons as daughters, but they tend to read for shorter spells to boys. Their sons may fidget or find a toy on the floor, and the mom abandons the story. In fact, experts say, parents should keep reading; that, in most cases, their sons are still listening. And they should keep reading aloud to their sons, says Dr. Eliot, even when boys can read on their own – to jump-start their interest in a new book.

“A lot of problems come from misunderstanding a boy's energy,” says Daniel Rolo, a teacher in Chatham, Ont. And then when boys fail – or fall behind – “it often gets normalized.” In fact, Mr. Rolo says, the best advice for parents is to step in quickly, and early, before a reading delay widens the grade-level gap, and before trouble in school turns a boy off learning altogether.

This year, Mr. Rolo has a Grade 5 class with six girls and 19 boys. Noah Stamos, whose family moved to Chatham this year, sits among them, and for the first time, says his mother, “I can breathe.” She has already had several meetings with his teacher, not to discipline her son but to help him learn. Mr. Rolo is known for his boy-friendly teaching style. “When I work with kids, it's so apparent that girls learn differently than boys.” In group work, he says, girls discuss and plan; the boys jump in and make mistakes until they get it right – so he gears the work to accommodate a variety of approaches. There are medicine balls and soft toys for any children who'd like to use them, and pupils throw balls at a smart board to select math questions.

These days, Noah is coming home from school a happy kid – not a perfect student, his mother says, but benefiting from a teacher who wants to understand him. Her son was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, and she is now waiting to see what happens this year in school to decide whether he needs medication. Before, she says, “he was shoved to the side.” But through a combination of a good teacher and a vocal parent, he's being treated not like a boy, or a problem pupil, but like an individual. Says his mom, “Now I feel like he actually has a chance.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

J.H. Kellogg on Masturbation

The founder of the Kellogg breakfast cereal empire had some less than progressive thoughts on masturbation - he was a medical doctor and his dietary advice was in part concerned with reducing sexual stimulation (corn flakes were supposed to help with that, somehow).
In solitude he pollutes himself, and with his own hand blights all his prospects for both this world and the next. Even after being solemnly warned, he will often continue this worse than beastly practice, deliberately forfeiting his right to health and happiness for a moment’s mad sensuality.

—J.H. Kellogg, M.D., Plain Facts for Old and Young, 1888
Wow - me thinks he doth protest too much.

XY: Men are Changing - An International Look at How Men Live

XY posted this research report from International Planned Parenthood Federation - I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing, but it looks like an interesting study of male experience from around the world.

They tackle the need for changes in how culture and society relates to men - not just here, but around the world. In almost every culture, men are trapped between cultural expectations of masculinity and their own experience - and the conflict between inner and outer leads to stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as unconscious and violent ways of trying to embody the cultural expectations.

We see it here in youth gangs, and we see it around the world in youth soldiers, whether in African nations of the Middle East. The report also lays out ways to change these destructive patterns.

Men are Changing: Case study evidence on work with men and boys to promote gender equality and positive masculinities

'Men are Changing' seeks to strengthen and broaden the evidence base on working with men and boys. It describes and analyzes 12 programmes from around the world that sought to alter the attitudes and behaviours of men in relation to sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, violence and relationships.

The report discusses challenges in this field, provides an overview of emerging good practice, and makes recommendations for improving existing policy work, programmes and services.

Its findings are clear: working with men and boys is effective, men are changing, but greater efforts are still needed to scale up gender-transformative interventions with men and women.

IPPF, Men are Changing 2010.pdf659.47 KB
Here is some of the Executive Summary that highlights the main points in the study and report.
Executive summary

The lives of women and children are intertwined with the lives of men. Without understanding how men’s gendered experiences affect them and those around them it is impossible to promote sexual health and achieve reproductive rights for all.

Interest in understanding masculinities and working with men on gender issues, and especially on gender equity, has increased enormously in recent decades. There has been a great deal of academic, media and community-based activity which is now bearing fruit. For example, masculinities now regularly appear as a topic in social science university courses. What were small-scale local movements – such as the White Ribbon Campaign founded by a group of men in Canada following the brutal murder of 14 women engineering students in Montreal – are now global in scope. There are a burgeoning number of programmes committed to engaging men as partners in achieving gender equality.

Not only is more being understood about different ways to successfully engage with men to challenge harmful expressions of masculinity and promote gender equality, but also more is being understood about men’s ability and desire to change. More and more men are seeing not only the benefits to their wives/partners, mothers, sisters and daughters in working towards gender equality but also the benefits for themselves.

The contribution of this report
This report contributes to the emerging evidence base on working with men to effect change in their lives and the lives of those around them by describing the outcomes of a piece of research that examined the effectiveness of 12 programmes and interventions. The men involved in these programmes are diverse; they reflect activity on all five continents and they cover sexual and reproductive health, violence and healthy relationships.1 The findings of this research are presented as case studies, each of which describes one of these programmes. The use of case studies enables us to outline the methods used and the outcomes achieved, and also describe the processes by which these happened. By presenting the work in this way we are aiming to:
• strengthen the international evidence base on interventions seeking to engage men and boys
• broaden the focus of existing research on working with men and boys through focusing on areas specific to IPPF’s priorities; namely, sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, violence and healthy relationships
• discuss challenges in working with men and boys on sexual and reproductive health and rights and on seeking to address their specific health needs
• provide an overview of emerging good practice when seeking to work with men and boys in the context of programmes focused on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, violence and healthy relationships
The report concludes with some recommendations for improving existing policy work, programmes and services. Collecting the case studies and producing the evidence The 12 programmes described in this report were drawn from a pool of 26 identified by placing requests for information with organizations and networks that IPPF works with, alongside internet searching. Fourteen of the programmes were excluded from our analysis for three reasons: because they had not been evaluated, because no evaluation report was available or because the evaluation did not report any impact.

Information about each of the 12 programmes was written up into a standard format to allow comparative as well as intra-case study analysis. Using the same criteria as those used in the World Health Organization review of 58 programmes and interventions seeking to engage men and boys,2 programme effectiveness was rated by assessing evaluation design, giving more weight to quasi-experimental and randomized control trial designs; and level of impact, giving more weight to interventions that confirmed behaviour change on the part of men or boys. Combining these two criteria, programmes were rated as effective, promising or unclear. As well as examining effectiveness, we categorized the case studies using the Gupta framework3 to
identify them as one of the following:
• gender-neutral – distinguishing little between the needs of men and women, neither reinforcing nor questioning gender roles
• gender-sensitive – recognizing the specific needs and realities of men and women based on the social construction of gender roles
• gender-transformative – seeking to transform gender roles and promote more gender-equitable relationships between men and women
Main findings
The 12 case studies explored working with men from a range of backgrounds, took place in a variety of settings and addressed a range of issues. They include sexual and reproductive health programmes with men in the military in Namibia, transgender sex workers in Indonesia, men who have sex with men and male sex workers in Indonesia and Bangladesh, and men in the military in Benin; violence prevention programmes with men in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, men in Liberia and young men in Northern Ireland; and healthy relationship programmes with young men in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda, men in India, girls and boys in Canada, and men in Brazil.

The main findings were:
• In all areas – sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, violence and healthy relationships – the interventions led to behaviour change. This further strengthens the existing evidence base showing that interventions with men and boys actually work.
• The majority of programmes were found to be either effective (42 per cent) or promising (50 per cent) in reaching men and boys, addressing their needs and changing their attitudes and behaviours. Only eight per cent of programmes were found to be unclear.
• Seven of the programmes were gender-transformative, four were gender-sensitive and one was gender-neutral.
• Gender-transformative programmes were found to have a higher rate of effectiveness.
• Although the gender-transformative programmes were found to have a higher rate of effectiveness, programmes that adopted a gender-sensitive approach were also effective.
• Those interventions that combined good practice from a range of health issues (for example sexual and reproductive health and violence) were more effective.
• Although there is insufficient data from these case studies to conclude categorically whether some intervention methods are either inherently gender-transformative or more appropriate for gender-transformative work than others, the data does show some recurrent themes that warrant being reflected in future practice. These include:
– using a mix of methods such as training peer leaders, educational workshops, service provision and awareness campaigns
– undertaking extensive baseline work to establish the current situation, priorities for target groups, and to inform the materials and format of the programme
– ensuring that programmes create a context in which men can discuss what it means to be a man without fear of ridicule and where reflection and the exploration of alternatives was actively encouraged
• Few of the programmes had been scaled up from a pilot stage. This highlights the importance of a greater focus on ensuring interventions with men and boys are integrated into existing organizational and government strategies and workplans. Please see the Appendix for a full table of results.
These findings clearly suggest a strong link between programme effectiveness and the utilization of a gender transformation approach. Interventions seeking to engage men and boys should therefore seek to adopt this approach, and move beyond only gender-neutral or gender-sensitive programming.

Good practice and lessons learned
We have also identified a number of factors that underpin good practice when working with boys and young men, as listed here.

• Target women as well as men and boys when working with men. This is because gender norms and the associated inequities are not maintained and produced by men alone but through relations between the genders.
• Some men, but not all, are resistant to change. Equally, some women, but not all, are supporters of change. Programmes should reflect these nuances in their implementation.
• Plan for sustainability of programmes from the outset.
• Programmes benefit if they include both mixed and single sex group work.
• Provide programme staff with training that aims to equip them with skills and confidence in working with men.
• Interventions with men should combine both challenging and supporting them.
• It is important for interventions with men to have goals and outcomes that are concrete, meaningful and useful to men.
• Equip men with skills that allow them to make changes to their behaviour as well as to address knowledge and attitudes.
• It is beneficial to base work on men’s and women’s needs and to involve them in consultation from the beginning of programme development.
• Interventions should ‘go where men are at’; that is, to take interventions to settings where they are to be found rather than expect them to access interventions in settings with which they may be unfamiliar or in which they may feel uncomfortable.
• Consider how programmes can be integrated into existing structures and systems, for example subjects in school curricula, and teaching and professional training.
• Ensure that programmes seek to acknowledge and validate men’s willingness to change and celebrate these changes when they occur.
• Recognize that some men are extremely marginalized – especially men who have sex with men and male sex workers – and that interventions to reach these men need to recognize that their marginalization is in part derived from stigma and homophobia.
• Recognize that the public face of masculinity is often completely at odds with the private face of masculinity and that many men need the tools to negotiate the tension between the interface.
• It is important to set out with a positive message – aiming to correct the ‘faults’ in men does not appeal to them.
• Recognize that many men are struggling to come to terms with social and cultural change that undermines previously-held certainties about male power, authority and roles, and are actively seeking new identities in relation to other men and women and children.
• Accept that men’s engagement with programmes may be inconsistent and irregular. This is often because other activities take priority.
• Be aware of the importance of transitions in men’s lives and the impact that these may have on their willingness and ability to engage with programmes and effect change in their lives.
Furthermore, the case studies suggest some topic-specific factors associated with effectiveness.

With regard to sexual and reproductive health and sexuality
• It is important to use targeted information, education and communication materials and culturally appropriate educational materials to reach men.
• Availability of free condoms and water-based lubricant should be made a priority.
• Peer education is important, especially in reaching the most vulnerable groups of men (and in developing acceptance and trust among such groups).
• Awareness campaigns and advocacy work are necessary to encourage take-up of HIV voluntary counselling and testing, and to dispel myths, stigma and discrimination.
• Safe spaces are essential. These provide a place for men and boys to discuss issues of male sexuality, sexual identity and gender equality.
• It generally does not matter to men whether the service provider is male or female. The key issue is training and support for service providers and counsellors to address male-specific sexual and reproductive health needs.
• Discuss gender and equality issues, and couple communication with men at every opportunity – effective approaches seek to ‘sensitize’ men whenever they use services.
• Provide a broad package of male sexual and reproductive health services including, where possible, information, counselling, testing and treatment for HIV, sexually transmitted infections, male cancers and sexual dysfunctions.
With regard to violence
• Develop effective role models and ensure that leaders use their position to support addressing violence.
• Community outreach is an important strategy for seeking to engage men and boys in addressing violence, and should be scaled up.
• It is important to balance support and a challenging environment for men – interventions must hold them accountable, and recognize their power and privilege while, at the same time, cultivating compassion.
• Deal with perpetrators. It is important to balance values of accountability and compassion, while negotiating safety issues.
• Programmes that linked violence prevention to service provision were found to be more successful in achieving behavioural change.
With regard to healthy relationships
• Local and district governments provide an entry point to work with men and boys on healthy relationships, and activities should be integrated into both district plans and those of implementing partners.
• The integration of comprehensive sexuality education at a national level (in schools) is essential to building better relationships in the future.
• Programmes may work better when they provide sessions for young men only at the outset, and then move into mixed groups.
• Working with community-based organizations and community associations is essential to reaching the most vulnerable young men, particularly those involved in drugs and violence.
• Incentives are an important way to ensure that young men and boys attend and participate in educational sessions.
General conclusions and discussion
As with any new and emerging area, recognition of its benefits does not come quickly or easily. A long process of testing and retesting methods has taken place over the course of a decade with amazing results. Men and boys are, however, not a new area of focus in themselves; rather, the focus on gender is the missing part of existing work with men and boys. Gender is not, and never was, just about women – the time has come for the missing part of the gender equation to be included in the struggle to achieve gender equality in our world.

Men and boys, like women and girls, greatly impact on one another, and their attitudes and behaviour in connection with the role of men and women in a society can have devastating consequences for health, relationships, violence and even war. Ignoring or not seeing men as part of the gender equation and not addressing their needs as well as women’s in policy and programme design is a risk shown to have detrimental results. By including men as part of the gender equation in policy and programme design, we have shown the amazingly positive impact on men’s and women’s lives. This includes opening men’s eyes to how rigid gender norms have constrained their lives, finding ways to achieve more intimacy with their partners and families, understanding the need to support women’s access to health services, supporting women who have been raped, finding alternatives to being involved in violence, and showing greater responsibility through attending voluntary testing and counselling for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, thereby preventing their spread.

Working with men does not, however, mean isolating women, particularly young women and girls. Interventions and efforts to increase service utilization among men and challenge their behaviour should not be at the cost of essential services for women (both young and older) but should be in addition to these services. The acknowledgement that gender is relational – with a male and female side – means that services and interventions should seek to work with men and women and address both immediate need and underlying behaviours.

For example, policy, programmes and associated budgets to tackle issues such as domestic violence and the spread of HIV need to expand to ensure this wider focus on both needs and behaviours, ensuring services are provided to women and children fleeing domestic violence as well as programmes to challenge the harmful behaviour of male perpetrators of domestic violence. Programmes encouraging women to negotiate safer sex should also include programmes to encourage men to have safer sex, acknowledging unequal power dynamics and challenging harmful gender norms that equate masculinity with multiple sexual partners and risk-taking. In addition, involving females is essential to increasing their support for work with men, and will provide them with the opportunity to explore the ways in which they may reinforce traditional ‘masculinities’, as well as develop their understanding of the wider social benefits of addressing male sexual and reproductive health.

Recommendations for the future
Based on this analysis, a number of specific recommendations can be made regarding how to improve future interventions and programmes seeking to work with men and boys.

Conceptual framework
• A clearer conceptual framework is required for this work. In particular, it is important to:
– clearly define what is meant by gender equality (and that this relates to women and men)
– link with work to empower women and girls – ensure the integration of men without being counter-productive
– understand which methods work best in different settings and subject areas, for example health or violence
• The debate on masculinities and working with men and boys should be broadened from primarily focusing on gender and rights to include a stronger focus on male sexuality.
All health areas
• Interventions must be multi-sectoral.
• More clarity should be provided within programmes on the role that women can play. Women and girls, individually and through women’s organizations and the women’s movement, must be advisors, participants, partners and monitors of this work.
• There should be a clearer articulation of the benefits to men and boys through engaging in this work, and a better understanding of these benefits among men themselves.
• Specific training on gender issues should be provided to men, especially young men and boys.
• The critical role that men can play as partners with women and as agents of social change should be affirmed.
• Teach men to listen better to others, especially their partners and families.
• Take interventions to men – ‘go where they are at’ – as well as try to make services and institutions more appealing to men.
• Staff should be supported with appropriate training to work with men.
• Interventions targeting men and boys should address structural issues, such as laws and policies on gender equality, as well as working at the individual level.
Sexuality and sexual and reproductive health
• There is a need for training and capacity building with service providers and counsellors on the needs (clinical and non-clinical) of vulnerable men and boys, and to ensure confidentiality.
• Develop sexual and reproductive health service packages for different age groups of men following the stages of the lifecycle.
• Devise clinical guidelines for men’s sexual and reproductive health.
• Include a greater focus on social mobilization when working with men and boys on sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality.
• Models of male-friendly clinics should be considered, especially for men who have sex with men, male sex workers and transgender people.
• Consideration must be given to the names of health services. Terms such as ‘maternities’ should be renamed to be more gender-neutral, although not in a way that would isolate women and girls. An example would be to use a broad name such as ‘sexual and reproductive health clinic’.
• The distribution of condoms should be central to sexuality and sexual and reproductive health programmes.
• Existing sexual and reproductive health services should, where necessary, include a greater focus on the specific sexual and reproductive health needs of men and boys.
• More efforts are needed to link sexual and reproductive health and HIV interventions that seek to target men and boys, for example linking HIV voluntary counselling and testing with management services for sexually transmitted infections.
• It is important to work with the military and other groups, and support them to integrate sexual and reproductive health and rights into their existing training.
• Validate men’s caring nature and desire for positive masculinity, and understand how violence is caused both by male privilege and men’s feelings of powerlessness.
• Provide specific actions for men to take forward in ending violence, particularly violence against women.
• Develop models for the most effective integration of working with men and boys into existing gender-based violence prevention programmes.
• Promote a greater awareness of how conflict impacts on masculinity and the use of gender-based violence as a weapon of war, making sure that programmes address these specific needs.
• Link violence prevention interventions to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention services.
• More efforts are needed to integrate a focus on gender issues and couple communication within sexuality education in school curricula.
• It is crucial to create a supportive environment for effective work with men and boys on relationships, and ensure sustained change in attitudes and behaviours.
• More work needs to be done to challenge prevailing masculine norms of detachment and stoicism, which impoverish the ability of men to have intimate relationships with their partners and children.
• There is a need for additional work on homophobia and violence against homosexuals, as many young men are unwilling to challenge the often prevalent societal norm that being gay equates to ‘not being a real man’.
• More efforts are needed to develop a larger cadre of qualified and well-trained facilitators who can train trainers and work with a variety of groups of men and boys.
Campaigns and advocacy
• Ensure the development of well-formulated advocacy strategies to challenge the status quo and encourage policy review that seeks to further engage men and boys in achieving gender equality.
• Train staff in advocacy to enable programmes to have a wider policy impact.
• Campaigns should be designed by representatives of the target community and should use methods appropriate to the country setting to reach that community.
• Organizations and individuals working on engaging men should develop stronger links with those working on sexual diversity and other social movements – work on masculinities should not just be about gender, but also about class, race, etc.
• Put pressure on governments and UN agencies to implement existing commitments on engaging men and boys.
Research is needed to fill the following gaps found throughout the course of this study, on a number of topics.
• Masculinities and sexuality.
• Homosexual men, men with disabilities and men living with HIV.
• Engaging men in safe abortion and post-abortion care.
• Safe motherhood and fathers as caregivers.
• Men and conflict/post-conflict settings.
• Reasons for low condom use among some men.
• The role of men in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Monitoring and evaluation
Monitoring and evaluation was a key factor in being able to show both effectiveness and behaviour change among the programmes in this analysis. We found great variations across programmes as to what data was collected, and how.

Recommendations to improve monitoring and evaluation in future programmes include:
• Promote effective follow-up after programmes, putting in place evaluation plans with key indicators at the beginning of programmes.
• Longer-term changes need to be monitored to better understand the link between intervention and impact on behaviour over the longer term. With larger-scale programmes, this data should be captured at different intervals to assess when the effect might be lessening, for example at six months, one year, two years.
• Some outcome measures should move away from relying solely on self-reports by participants, to include other more objective measures (for example sexually transmitted infection status for sexual and reproductive health programmes; reports from women and other men about participants for violence programmes; and reports by partners about participants for healthy relationship programmes).
• A common evaluation framework for interventions with men and boys is required, with training for organizational staff on utilizing this framework. This will enable programmes not only to show impact more effectively, but will also allow greater comparison across programmes to better identify good practice and other areas that require more focus.
• More research is required on the costs associated with these programmes, and organizations should be encouraged to record this data to allow such analysis. This will enable funders to make working with men a funding priority with a clearer idea of the costs associated with doing so.
Policy approaches
• Work with men and boys should be incorporated into all gender mainstreaming policies and tools4 to ensure that these resources encourage a gender relational approach (that focuses on both men and women). Without also focusing on men, it will be impossible for gender mainstreaming to truly empower women and girls.
• Organizational policies on sexual and reproductive health, HIV, violence and relationships should be updated, based on the above mainstreaming approach, to include men and women.5
• Policy approaches are central to this work being scaled up, making interventions more systematic and longer term. Governments, non-governmental organizations and funding organizations should urgently review their policies and priorities to include work with men and boys.
• Efforts to update government policies to include a stronger focus on working with men and boys should be undertaken at both national and local levels.
• Promote opportunities for cross-sectoral dialogues on engaging men and boys in gender equality (among men and women).
• Link this work to livelihood support for men and women, addressing poverty, employment and urban/rural differences in the developing world.
• Interventions with men and boys remain local in scale, limited in scope and short-term. It is essential that these programmes are scaled up (in other words, to move beyond a small and limited scope). As such, all new programmes and interventions should incorporate a plan from the outset on how their intervention will be broadened and expanded on completion, including through integration within national health systems.
• Long-term funding is essential for this work, especially when addressing gender issues with men and boys. Activities should be undertaken with donors and funders to encourage them to provide more financial support to this area.
• Scale-up should also look at structured opportunities for men and boys to explore many of the issues they have learned about in interventions, and address their behaviour.
• Working with young people and youth organizations at the optimum time to reach boys is essential to ensure ongoing support for this work.

1 We define healthy in the case of relationships as relationships that are caring, non-violent, non-abusive, open and honest.
2 See Instituto Promundo and World Health Organization (2007) Engaging Men and Boys in Changing Gender-based Inequity in Health.
3 See Gupta GR, Whelan D and Allendorf K (2003) Integrating Gender into HIV/AIDS Programmes: Review Paper for Expert Consultation.
4 See Chant S and Gutmann M (2002) ‘Men-streaming’ gender? Questions for gender and development policy in the twenty-first century. Progress in Development Studies.
5 See International Planned Parenthood Federation (2010) Men-streaming Gender in Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS: A Toolkit for Policy Development and Advocacy. This tool has been designed as part of this project to incorporate men and boys into non-governmental organization and government sexual and reproductive health and HIV policies.

Read the whole 80-page report.