A few months ago, Kate from Airbnb's Engagement Team got in touch with us about running one of our workshops for their London office as part of their Lunch and Learn gender equality series. Of course, enter the novel coronavirus and a very large spanner in the works. Thankfully Kate and the team at Airbnb are well accustomed to remote working and we agreed that the workshop could go ahead online.
We ran the workshop with over 30 Airbnb employees from across Europe, looking at toxic masculinity and feminist allyship. Thanks to fantastic technical co-facilitation with Kate, it was a smooth process, incorporating time out for meditation, journaling and reflection exercises, as well as space for more in-depth discussions in break-out rooms.
We began with a word cloud created by the group in response to the sentence "A stereotypical man is... ". As you can see below there are a variety of answers that portray a narrow and often dominant definition of masculinity, with several entries for strong, macho, and confident.
We have all been impacted by this kind of man, maybe we know a man who exhibits these behaviours, or maybe we have at some point been this man. We know that the very real impact of toxic masculinity in statistics on VAWG and men’s mental health, but it is fair to say that we also know lots of men who are not like this.
We then gave a second prompt, “Men are…” where we invited participants to share qualities of the men we actually know and love. These results show a complex character that is both affectionate and fragile. It is heartening to see how plural masculinity can be, and how many of us recognise these characteristics in men that we know.
The acknowledgement of both the negative experience of masculinity and the diversity that we know it can represent allows us to imagine a future where men are not confined to narrow definitions of masculinity. It also helps to think about what steps we can take to reach that future. After a reflective discussion on the gap between these two word clouds we then asked the group to identify steps that they could take to create that future.