Gender studies expert Grace Skahan among leading line-up of speakers at Congress 2022, Canada’s largest humanities and social sciences conference, taking place virtually May 12-20
Montreal, ON, May 3, 2022 – Every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner and on any given night, close to 3,500 women sleep in shelters because it isn’t safe at home – prompting an urgent call to end gender-based violence in this country. Yet, there’s a critical piece missing when it comes to designing and implementing effective prevention strategies: men.
That’s the preliminary finding from educator and Gender Studies expert Grace Skahan, a Master’s student in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University, who is on a mission to understand why so few men express an interest in gender issues and what can be done to grab their attention, including the development of more structured educational initiatives for youth.
Skahan will be sharing this message as a featured speaker at the upcoming Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (Congress 2022), Canada’s largest academic gathering and one of the most comprehensive in the world, taking place virtually this year from May 12-20.
Billed as a leading conference on the critical conversations of our time, Congress 2022 will serve as a platform for the unveiling of thousands of research papers and presentations from social sciences and humanities experts worldwide. With more than 6,000 visitors expected to log in, the event will focus on reimagining the future following two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and other life-altering world events, with the goal of inspiring ideas, dialogue and action that create a more diverse, sustainable, democratic and just future.
“Men have a lot of power relative to women in society, which places them uniquely and strategically in a good place to be able to advance gender initiatives, however, there are very few men who are actually interested in doing this work – it’s almost always women,” said Skahan.
By studying a small group of men in Montreal who are already doing gender-based violence prevention work, Skahan aims to gain a better understanding of the paths that led them there and how that information can be used more broadly in education policy to create more inclusive, sustainable prevention initiatives.
“We know that when men are involved, it reduces their likelihood of not only perpetrating violence, but also increases the likelihood of them standing up in their own lives to stop it,” she explained. “What we need to understand better is the best way to get more of them to take a seat at the table.”
Skahan recently completed the first phase of her data collection process, using an arts-based approach to elicit information from her study subjects. Each participant was given 10 minutes to create a clay model that related to how they came to be interested in gender-based violence prevention, and Skahan then used the models as a springboard for one-on-one, intimate conversations.
Her initial findings show that men are more likely to be interested in gender issues when they have “impactful women” in their lives, family members, friends or mentors who call gender inequity into question and get them thinking about it in their own lives. More importantly, she found that formal structures also played a significant role, such as enrolling in high school classes in feminist literature or social justice, joining spiritual youth groups that create a safe space to have gender-based conversations, or taking part in school-based gender equity awareness activities.
“Simply asking men to think about their own gender and to be critical of themselves is not necessarily an effective entry point to involvement because it can trigger defensiveness,” said Skahan, who will conclude her study later this year with concrete recommendations for future education policies to support gender-based violence prevention.
“The more we can build structured, inclusive initiatives, like school-based programs that we all participate in together, the closer we’ll be to ending gender-based violence,” she said.
Organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Congress 2022 is sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Mitacs, SAGE Publishing, Universities Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and University Affairs.
Registration – which includes 100+ keynote and open Congress 2022 sessions (with recordings available until June 3, 2022) – is $55. Visit www.congress2022.ca to register for a community pass and access the program of events open to the public.
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