“We’ve been called upon, it’s time to answer the call.” So reads a Facebook event for a men’s group in Yellowknife that plans to discuss, and take action on, sexualized and gender-based violence.
Jason Boast, who is organizing the event, told Cabin Radio: “This is meant to just get the ball rolling, it’s meant to just be a start. I’m not an expert. I have no qualifications, per se. I’m just someone who would like to see my community be safer.”
Boast (who is a volunteer Cabin Radio host) said he was inspired by women in Yellowknife who have called on men in the city to create such a group. Nancy MacNeill recently wrote a public letter encouraging men to address the root causes of violence and abuse, saying women and femmes don’t feel safe in Yellowknife.
These are issues Boast has been thinking about for a long time, he said, but until now he was hesitant to take action as he questioned whether he was the right person for the job.
An image created as part of a call for men in Yellowknife to take action to end gender-based and sexualized violence.
“I felt like it’s such a hard thing to do well, and it needs to be done right. But I think that more than that, it just needs to be done,” he said.
“I just felt like I couldn’t look people in the eye any more if I didn’t at least try to help, and try to acknowledge what Nancy wrote in some way.”
At this Thursday’s event, Boast said he plans to discuss MacNeill’s letter – which he described as a “good blueprint”– and ask attendees about their response and what they’re hoping the group can accomplish.
Boast said he wants the group to be a place where men can address their own behaviours and attitudes and how they might contribute to misogyny. Where the group evolves from there, he said, will depend on “who shows up and what they want to do.”
“I’m not naive enough to think that there won’t be men there who are defensive about the issue, who have engaged and may continue to engage in problematic behaviour,” he said.
“What I’m hoping is that there’ll be a community who may be able to talk to them about that, who may be open to calling them out when they see it, who may challenge some of their thoughts, and that that process might have a positive spin-off effect.”
The group is currently open to anyone interested in attending but is focused on men and masculine people.
Boast said the response to the group has been mixed. He said he understands some people’s skepticism and is looking for resources and advice on how to address concerns.
“I don’t think this is a silver bullet. I don’t think it’s a magic solution,” he said. “I think that what Nancy has identified is that it’s a problem that might even be getting worse. And men aren’t stepping up to do enough about it. So we have to start.”
The Answer the Call event will be held on Thursday at 8pm at Northern United Place. Mask-wearing is encouraged and Boast said other measures will be taken, like social distancing and hand sanitizing, to comply with public health rules and recommendations.