During the first term of this school year, three of our project leads – Stefan, Harry and Bayo – worked with a group of year eight boys from our FBB Schools programme at Totteridge Academy in North London on a project that examined what masculinity means to them.
Every Tuesday our project leads met with these young men to discuss societal interpretations of masculinity and the effects these interpretations have on their lives. From these discussions, it became clear that stereotypes and societal narratives around masculinity have a large impact on the perceptions of young men. Through this project, the young men were able to unmask what the term actually means to them and to develop their own positive narratives around masculinity.
“There are still many negative aspects of masculine identity which can be seen in the behaviour of men at all levels of our society; from the playground to the workplace and, indeed, from our supposed leaders” said FBB project lead Stefan when asked about the project. “We wanted to provide these young men with the space to explore the topic of masculinity at a time in their lives when they are already beginning to make crucial decisions about the kind of men they want to be.”
Rather than only focusing on the negative aspects of masculinity, FBB participants also discussed positive aspects that can be associated with masculinity. Throughout the project, these young men were able to reflect not only on their own lives, but were also able to highlight the special attributes of their peers, and even draw from positive male role models, to represent the men they hope to become. They looked at positive statements from footballers such as Danny Rose, who spoke out about his struggles with depression, and discussed the bravery required to show vulnerability in public.
“I’ve learned how to define myself without letting other people define me,” said Fernando, one of the year 8 participants of the Masculinity project, who has worked with FBB for eight weeks. “It kind of lets me down and makes me more vulnerable when I give society the opportunity to make me whatever it wants me to be. I’ve learned how to do that on my own.”
Fernando was not alone. Many other students chimed in as well and spoke about how they have reclaimed their voices through working with FBB. Project lead Stefan was hugely impressed: “Their willingness to look at themselves openly and to share their thoughts and emotions as well as their bravery and desire to grow, learn, and take responsibility for their own futures and the future of the world they inhabit is testament to the best of young men that we should champion and be proud of” Stefan said.
This is just one example of how FBB utilizes the power of football to create a safe space for young people to authentically discuss how they feel. Through these therapeutic sessions young people are not only able to recognize the positive attributes of their peers and role models, but also those positive attributes within themselves.
Discussions like these translate into positive habits that provide young people with the tools that help guide them on their path to becoming the man they want to be versus the man society has taught them to be, ultimately guiding them to reach their utmost potential.
If you’d like to read the final product, a magazine that these young men created, you can do so here: What makes a man – magazine