“Young men are viewed as either the victims or the problems”

The involvement and activism among young men need to be highlighted in the work of promoting equality. This is said by Jeff Hearn, senior professor in gender studies at Örebro University, Sweden. He has researched men and masculinity for 40 years and is one of the keynote speakers at the ICMEO conference.

What will you talk about at the conference?

“Some issues seem obvious when talking about young men and gender equality, such as education, health and violence. I have not decided exactly what I am going to talk about, but I think I will start with the connections between age and gender. In a gender equality perspective, we often see that men tend to be valued higher than women, but when it comes to age, it is more complex. Sometimes youth is valued high in our society, but at the same time, it is depreciated. Young men must navigate this conflict and face contradicting expectations on how to be a boy or a man.”

Why is it important to challenge traditional ideas about what a “real” man should be?

“I do not think there is just one kind of ‘traditional’ ideas about men and boys. The expectations vary greatly, for example, between different social classes and different environments, but in the work for gender equality, and in the work for equal opportunities and justice in general, more dominant social groups must change. Promoting gender equality should not only fall on women and girls to deal with.”

The conference focuses on promoting gender equality through boys and young men. Why is this important?

“There is a risk of viewing young men as either victims or problems. It has to do with school, street violence, gangs, young fathers who lack responsibility and so on. The focus is often on political efforts targeting young men, but it can be tackled from another angle and attract attention to the activism and the involvement among youths.”

What positive effects do you hope the conference will have?

“I hope that it will promote gender equality and at the same time problematise the categories of men and boys. I hope that it does not contribute to further establishing the categories. It is a question of long-term goals – whether our goal is that women and men as groups will have the same power and influence, or if we also wish to work towards a more diverse gender system.”

Charlie Olofsson
Last updated: 10:45 - 03 May, 2018
  • EU
  • Gender equality