Professional athletes play an important role towards ending gender-based violence, by challenging rigid gender roles and toxic masculinity. Rigid societal roles often support the framework that perpetuates gender-based violence. When young boys are raised believing the expression of emotion is considered a weak character trait or they hear messaging that continually objectifies women they are likely to stay silent if they see sexual violence or abuse. To effectively dismantle this platform, young boys need to hear that being “a man” is neither about how many women you “conquer”, nor is it about how a man is “superior” to a woman. Youth need to have these messages challenged and professional athletes can effectively lead these conversations.
Professional athletes meeting with youth and dismantling toxic masculinity, while giving helpful intervention tools is one way to challenge rigid gender roles. Hearing athletes share their stories of “locker room talk”, which usually includes the explicit objectification of women, while explaining how they effectively intervened gives youth a new perspective on healthy masculinity. There is a shared vulnerability when professional athletes disclose their own personal journeys and struggles to effectively lead change both “on” and “off” the field.
There is tremendous social pressure on youth to comply with peer culture. Giving youth an opportunity to hear professional athletes share stories of healthy masculinity builds momentum for change. MentorAction and Interval House of Hamilton are honoured to work with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Hamilton Bulldogs, FORGE FC and McMaster University Department of Athletics, as we work with youth to end gender-based violence.