What are the norms that affect the behaviour of boys and men? Are boys free to be who they are? Is there peer pressure? Who takes a stand against bad behaviour in a group? When should adults intervene? These and other questions were debated on 29 November when the Espoo Equality Committee hosted a Men’s Day event at Entresse Library.
The young participants for example pointed out that the division of people into girls and boys still has a strong foothold at school. If you stand out, you are in trouble. This is why many boys still do traditional “boy stuff” even if their true interests lie elsewhere. Boys whose hobby is dance often get snide remarks from other boys. Peer pressure is strong and affects an individual’s choices. Boys who do not do well at sports may get bullied, and differing opinions may be overlooked in conversations.
On the other hand, the debaters also mentioned that guidance counsellors at school have encouraged them to choose a field of study that genuinely interests them. Everyone agreed that adults, such as teachers, must intervene in bullying at school. Everyone must be able to feel safe!
The event also addressed hate speech. The Youth Services of the City of Espoo have produced a video called Stop vihapuheelle! (“Stop hate speech!”) , highlighting the Espoo For All project that aims to help people recognise hate speech and intervene in it. The project won the 2018 TASSU prize awarded by the Espoo Equality Committee. Hate speech means saying things that hurt other people, but it may sometimes be difficult to recognise. The key point is that it hurts and insults the person at whom it is targeted.
Some elected officials were shocked to hear that the gap between girls and boys remains that wide. Boys should also be allowed to be who they are. As the discussion went on, the elected officials highlighted the importance of intervention and tolerance. Whenever someone notices something negative, they should intervene immediately to prevent it from escalating into a more serious conflict. Hate speech cannot be tolerated at all, and for example at schools, immediate intervention is a must. When it came to sports, the elected officials thought that physical education should leave pupils with a good feeling and nice memories. It seems that physical education lessons at school are a nut that we have not yet cracked. The audience also actively participated in the discussion.
The event was hosted by Hannu Heikkinen. Niko Ahonen, Joshua Piipponen and Oscar Smith participated in the debate which was organised as a fishbowl discussion. The following elected officials participated in the event: Samuel Sylf (Centre Party), Aki Saariaho (Green League), Tuomas Tiainen (Liberal Party), Markku Sistonen (Social Democratic Party), Tere Sammallahti (National Coalition Party), Jyrki Lohi (Finns Party) and Hannu Laaksonen (Christian Democrats).