Presenting our research at the Houses of Parliament

On 15th March Martin Robb and Brigid Featherstone presented the findings of our research study to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood at the Houses of Parliament. You can read an account of the meeting, and see some photos of the event, over at Martin’s blog.

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While we were away…

It’s been a while since we posted anything here, but that doesn’t mean the ‘Beyond male role models team’ have been taking it easy. Our ESRC funding came to an end in April this year, but we’re continuing to disseminate our findings in a variety of ways – in the hope they’ll have an impact on research, policy and practice affecting boys and young men.

In case you missed it, an electronic version of our final report can be accessed here. And you can watch the shorter version of the film we made, with the help of Action for Children and Working with Men, here.

So far we’ve published one academic article based on the research – and we’re in the process of writing more. The details of our first peer-reviewed article as a team are as follows:

Tarrant, A., Terry, G., Ward, M.R.M., Ruxton, S., Robb, M., and Featherstone, B. (2015), ‘Are male role models really the solution? Interrogating the “war on boys” through the lends of the “male role model” discourse’, Boyhood Studies 8:1

Other publications include an article in Discovering Society and another by Sandy Ruxton at the Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, members of the team regularly speak about the research at conferences and seminars. Watch this space (and follow us on Twitter @beyondmaleroles) for details of these events.

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Anti-sexist work with boys: education or indoctrination?

Martin Robb has written a response over at his blog to Dan Bell’s recent Telegraph article, which described school-based work with boys on gender equality issues as ‘indoctrination…in feminist ideology’.

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Media update

You can now access the final report of the ‘Beyond Male Role Models’ research project online.

And if you missed our end-of-award conference on 12th March, you can listen to a complete audio recording of the event here.

To coincide with the report and the conference, The Open University has issued a press release which you can read here.

We’re hoping that this will lead to some thoughtful discussion of our findings in the media. Community Care has already responded with this article.

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Some photos from our end-of-award conference

Our end-of-award conference last week in Milton Keynes was a stimulating and hugely enjoyable event. Here are a few images from the day:

The title screen from our presentation

The title screen from our presentation

Kate Mulley from Action for Children

Kate Mulley from Action for Children

Martin Robb introduces the research study

Martin Robb introduces the research study

Mike Ward describes the research process

Mike Ward describes the research process

Sandy Ruxton discusses the importance of 'third spaces' for vulnerable young men

Sandy Ruxton discusses the importance of ‘third spaces’ for vulnerable young men

Brigid Featherstone reports our findings on the importance of relationships of care and trust

Brigid Featherstone shares our findings on the importance of relationships of care and respect

Steve Hicks from Manchester University responds to the study's findings

Steve Hicks from Manchester University responds to the study’s findings

The 'Beyond Male Role Models' film

The ‘Beyond Male Role Models’ film

David Morgan and a panel of practitioners prepare to discuss the film and their involvement in the research study

David Morgan and a panel of practitioners prepare to discuss the film and their involvement in the research study

Lively group discussion about the relevance of the study's findings for policy and practice

Lively group discussion about the relevance of the study’s findings for policy and practice

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Coming soon: conference, report, video….

It’s just two weeks now until our end-of-award conference on 12th March in Milton Keynes, when we’ll be sharing the findings from our two-year research project, exploring gender identities and work with young men.

The same date will also see the publication of our report on the research project – and the first showing of a video film that we’ve commissioned, highlighting some of our key findings, and featuring young male service users and staff at an Action for Children project in the West of Scotland and a Working With Men centre in London.

So – a busy and exciting time for the ‘Beyond Male Role Models’ team. We’ll be reporting on the conference here in due course, and posting details of how you can receive a copy of the report. And we have plans to make the video film available online – either through our website, or by some other means.

Watch this space!

And in the meantime, if you’re on Twitter, you can follow us @beyondmaleroles – and follow our conference in ‘real time’ by searching for the hashtag #BMRMconference

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New website

At long last, we have a ‘proper’ website for the research project – where you can find detailed information about the study, as well as a link this blog. There’s not a lot to see at the moment, but in due course we’ll be posting details of our research findings – and of dissemination activities for 2015.

Here’s the link:

http://www.open.ac.uk/health-and-social-care/research/beyond-male-role-models/

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Our research project represented at National Consultation with Women

GEO event 10.11.14

Martin Robb, principal investigator on the ‘Beyond Male Role Models’ project, was invited to take part in a panel discussion at the annual National Consultation with Women, organised by the Government Equalities Office on 10th November. You can read Martin’s report on the event over at his personal blog.

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Men and gender equality: a report from Helsinki

Emma Watson at the United Nations (via indiewire.com)

Emma Watson at the United Nations (via indiewire.com)

Engaging men in the struggle for gender equality appears to be an idea whose time has come. In September Harry Potter star Emma Watson made a widely-reported speech at the United Nations, promoting the HeForShe campaign, and among a number of forthcoming events on this theme, next year’s conference of the American Men’s Studies Association, to be held in New York City, will be a joint event with MenEngage on ‘Engaging men and boys for gender equality’.

Back in June, Sandy Ruxton and I took part in a seminar on a similar theme at the Government Equalities Office in London, at which I talked about the ‘Beyond Male Role Models’ project and our research on gender identities and work with young men. One outcome of that event was an invitation to take part in a European Commission ‘exchange of good practice’ seminar in Helsinki, on the role of men in gender equality, which took place last week. The event was attended by representatives from 15 European countries – from Italy to Ireland, and Luxembourg to Latvia – and I had the privilege of being invited to represent the United Kingdom as an independent expert, alongside Barbara-Ann Collins from the Government Equalities Office.

During the seminar three countries – Finland, Iceland and Austria – presented examples of their policy and practice, and representatives from other countries discussed the issues raised by these initiatives and their transferability to their respective national contexts. When I first read the discussion papers, I had some reservations. There seemed to be a strong emphasis on structural change, specifically on policy relating to paternity leave, but less emphasis on changing attitudes and behaviour. Despite one or two notable exceptions, there was also very little focus on ‘hard’ topics such as men’s violence against women. I was also concerned about proposals for a ‘ministry of men’, or similar structures to represent men’s interests, and the risk of giving comfort to the ‘me-too-ism’ of the men’s rights lobby.

Helsinki: last Tuesday evening (author's photo)

Helsinki: last Tuesday evening (author’s photo)

However, the actual seminar went a long way towards dispelling these anxieties. Despite the enormous variety of policies and practices across Europe – from the egalitarian welfarism of the Nordic nations, through the ‘familism’ of Italy and other southern European states, to the young democracies of the Baltic ‘accession’ countries – there was a reassuring degree of common ground, among the academics, activists and civil servants present, on many key issues.

For example, there was a definite consensus in favour of the model of dedicated, non-transferable and preferably paid paternity leave, pioneered by countries like Iceland. However, it was heartening that participants concurred that the aim of encouraging fathers to take paternity leave was not simply to support women’s re-entry into the labour market, but to encourage the development of caring masculinities. There was also a shared sense that equal parental leave was as much about the rights of children to care from both of their parents, as it was about the employment rights of adults. And there were some interesting discussions on the need to influence culture as well as structure, and the complex interplay between the two.

Another key topic at the seminar was gender segregation in the workplace and the absence, which seemed to be common across the continent, of men working with children, whether in education or in welfare services. However, it was refreshing that a number of participants echoed the critical perspective on this issue that we’ve tried to articulate as part of the ‘Beyond Male Role Models’ project, cautioning that the ‘problem’ of boys can’t simply be attributed to the absence of men from the family or school, and that simply employing more men won’t necessarily improve outcomes. At the same time,  claims that men contribute something distinctive that women are unable to provide risk falling back on outworn stereotypes, and undermining the positive work of women teachers and welfare workers.

There was also a great deal of agreement about ways of engaging men, and about the problems involved in doing so. There was a shared nervousness about simply focusing on ‘men’s issues’ in a way that might set them up in a competition for resources with women, or encourage a belief that men were victims of gender inequality to the same degree as women. Instead, there was agreement that the process of engaging men must happen in the context of supporting and promoting gender equality. But how to convince men that these processes were of interest and relevance to them? One way forward appeared to be persuading men that current gender relations were bad for them, too, imposing on men a limiting model of masculinity, and that more equal relationships could be good for the wellbeing both genders – for example, by giving men the opportunity to be more fully involved in the care and welfare of their children.

I left Helsinki feeling pleased and privileged to have met so many interesting and committed people doing important and innovative work, often in very challenging contexts, and also feeling cautiously optimistic about a developing consensus around the importance of engaging men, if campaigns for gender equality are to be successful. Closer to home, I also came away reassured that the issues thrown up by our work on the ‘Beyond Male Role Models’ project were finding an echo with other researchers, activists and policy-makers and that our research could make a timely contribution to this important debate.

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Save the date! (Thursday 12th March 2015)

We’re pleased to announce the date of our ‘end of award’ conference, when we’ll be sharing the findings from the ‘Beyond Male Role Models’ research project with practitioners, policy-makers and academics. Make a note in your diary – more details to follow in due course.

Save The Date BMRM flyer

 

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