MVP, or Mentors in Violence Prevention, centers around men’s violence against women. We recently had a training with Foundation Year in this curriculum. The 90+ students split up by gender and went into break out groups to talk about the topic of Men’s violence against women. Ricardhy and I worked with the young men, opening dialogue and conversation about this subject. Having the safe space of a single gender group, we started to dive deeper and deeper into what masculinity means.
The day was challenging and filled with differing views and perspectives. We started to see the idea of manhood that these young men were learning from society. This “culture of manhood” that tells men that they need to be dominant, controlling, or strong has been exemplified through the recent Miami Dolphins hazing/bullying case. We often think of bullying as something that occurs between younger boys and teenagers, but through the Richie Incognito case we see that bullying can be in the locker room as well.
“Bullying is a learned behavior. It is when a person or group tries to hurt or control another person in a harmful way and has three defining characteristics. Deliberate – a bully’s intention is to hurt someone. Repeated – a bully often targets the same victim again and again. Power imbalanced – a bully chooses victims he or she perceives as vulnerable”
If you have been keeping up with the news, you may have heard about the actions that Incognito are accused of. However, regardless of if these allegations are true, we have learned a few alarming things about sports culture. The Miami Dolphins and Incognito have commented on the allegations, saying that this was the culture of the team. Incognito, in an interview, had also commented that this was how his friendship was with Martin.
The sports culture that the Dolphins spoke of may have been to blame for the uncomfortable situation that Martin experienced. This, however, is not an uncommon occurrence. Martin may have been the one to speak up recently, but it is common knowledge that hazing happens on most levels of sports, be it High School, College, or Professional.
It seems as if the topics of manhood that we speak about at MVP is one that can be applied to why these hazing incidents occur, and why young men are victims of it. If this idea of manhood has become the norm, does it make it okay? Are all men expected to act in this way? If we don’t, should we be bullied and hazed until we fit that expectation?
My personal opinion, and my definition of manhood would disagree with the “social norm”. To draw from a recent training I had with middle school students, one of the boys stated that just because you don’t fit the definition set out by society, it doesn’t mean that you’re not a man. And it doesn’t mean that you are a man if you do meet those expectations.
This case has begun to show me the real world application of the trainings we do. Though progress is being made, there is still a lot of work to do. Though this case can be seen as a negative, there have been some positive reactionary elements to it as well. The NBA took the opportunity to remind its players that bullying will not be tolerated. Athletes everywhere will continue to be viewed as role models and leaders, whether they want to or not. Whether its the sports culture, the culture of manhood, or just a personal belief that guides the actions of athletes will inevitably become mindsets and lessons to the young men of society who observe them with a watchful eye. Let’s just hope that it’s positive.