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Man Cave founder calls for on-going funds to promote healthy masculinity programs

Man Cave founder Hunter Johnson says a "multi-faceted and structural shift" is required to support the dissemination of healthy masculinities among young men.

“In terms of addressing some deeply patriarchal multiple thousand-year-old complexes that we’ve inherited .. a school intervention program is not going to be a silver bullet but it’s better than nothing,” he tells The Age senior writer Melissa Fyfe in a profile and podcast feature for the Good Weekend's February 17 edition. 

“This is an important time not to waste. What are the behaviours we want to let go of as men and what are the behaviours we want to evolve into? It’s about keeping our masculine traits, and looking at what do we need to develop to create a more equal world?”

The Man Cave provides ‘healthy masculinity’ workshops for boys and young men, and has impacted the lives of around 60,000 teenagers. “We don’t have many healthy environments teaching healthy values that lands with teenage boys,” Johnson says.

The sessions are delivered by 28 facilitators who are trained to walk into a room and gain the boys’ trust.

Commented Fyfe, who sat in on the Man Cave workshops as part of her research, “I felt positive, a sense of hope. The facilitators that you had are so wonderful. You’ve cracked the code for teenage boys.”

She also describes healthy masculinity as ‘having a moment’ – noting the Federal Government’s recent $3.5 million allocation for a three-year heathy masculinity project trial to help “combat harmful gender stereotypes perpetuated online.” These will be delivered via a range of mediums, both face-to-face through sporting clubs or other community organisations, or digitally on social media platforms.

Read:Helping young men to have healthy, respectful relationships

In a release issued by the Hon. Amanda Rishworth MP last October, research found that 25% of teenage boys in Australia looked up to social media personalities who perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes and condoned violence against women.  

Hunter Johnson says You Tube influencers like Andrew Tate resonated with young men because they provided tips and advice on how to move through challenging times.

They were able to engage with their audience over long-form content, building strong attachments with followers. “Cult leaders have such a conviction and a belief, that they put a spell on people,” he says.

“They speak with this level of knowing and conviction, it seems to do something that creates this hypnotic effect on the masses. Tate has loyal followers that will go above and beyond.”

The Man Cave, says Johnson, teaches emotional intelligence and respectful relationships, providing a space for boys to be themselves and take off their masks, drawing on the experience of facilitators who know who they are and “who can be with the chaos teenage boys can throw them.”

“We have to go preventative to grow large-scale systemic change,” he says.

“We need hundreds of millions more [dollars] if we are serious,” adding that a multifaceted structural shift in attitudes and behaviour would involve working with government, influencers, online environments and schools. “Australia is making solid ground on this compared to overseas, we are leading other countries.”

Download the full article: ‘What’s bubbling underneath’: Showing teen boys how to master emotion and empathy

Listen to the Good Weekend podcast: How Hunter Johnson helps young men navigate the ‘manosphere’




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