Interview: Melinda Tankard-Reist on healthy relationships, masculinity and the Conviction Group Forums
By Harry Easton
Conviction Group was delighted to welcome writer and social commentator Melinda Tankard-Reist to the Sydney North Young Men’s Health Forum in September.
The Young Men’s Health Forum is an event run by Conviction Group which aims to encourage young males to re-evaluate their perspectives on the pivotal issues concerning young men’s health and provide them with the tools to enhance decision-making.
The forum utilises expert speakers to present to the students, with small group sessions used to reinforce key principles and stimulate discussion amongst the students.
Melinda was invited as a speaker to present to 246 high school male students, where she discussed toxic messages in modern society that impact masculinity and relationships.
“Our boys are growing up in an environment which can be harmful to them,” she says.
“I unpacked messages boys receive from media, advertising, and popular culture which teach them what a ‘man’ should be and how he should act. I examined how these messages can give them distorted ideas about bodies, relationships and sexuality.”
One of these messages that Melinda spoke passionately about was the effects of pornography, a topic she has covered in various books including Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry.
Melinda has become a leading voice on the effects that pornography is having on boys growing up in the 21st century.
“I looked at the harms of pornography and porn culture more broadly. I ended my presentation with examples of young men who had decided to resist toxic messages about masculinity, and act personally and collectively to bring about change.
“In a culture which is frequently harmful to our young men, they need as much help as they can get, and Conviction Group offers that.” – Melinda Tankard-Reist
Additionally, Melinda believes that portrayals of women in the Internet age, driven by the explosion of social media, has also created a toxic environment that makes it difficult for boys to develop positive attitudes towards the treatment of the girls and women in their lives.
“Things like damaging messages conveyed by wall-to-wall sexualised portrayals of women, violent games which normalise violence and treat it as mere entertainment… all of these impact our boys’ abilities to become emotionally literate.”
“My message encourages boys to rise up and resist these harmful ideas, to make positive, life-affirming choices, to aspire to healthy respect-based relationships based on true intimacy and authentic human connection – all of which will benefit them, their female friends and family, and society as a whole.”
Melinda attended two forums this year, Sydney North and Sydney South, with her presentations receiving hugely positive responses from the students who attended.
When asked after the Sydney North Forum if they believed Melinda’s presentation had added to or shaped their perspective on healthy relationships, 84% of the students agreed that it had.
Students at Sydney South were asked the same question, with 91% answering positively.
“The forum, which is clearly in demand, provides an opportunity for young men to receive valuable life-enhancing information and practical skills which will help them navigate the many challenges they face,” she says.
Melinda was also full of praise for the break-out group sessions that the boys had after her presentation, wherethey discussed and articulated their own thoughts on the key messages she spoke about.
“The group facilitated discussion helps to re-enforce key learnings in a safe environment. In a culture which is frequently harmful to our young men, they need as much help as they can get, and Conviction Group offersthat.”
Melinda believes discussing topics like healthy relationships, violence and drugs at the Forums are essential for the well-being of high school boys.
“They’re important topics because of the destructive impact these things have on boys physical, social, emotional and spiritual development, which not only hurts them, but everyone around them and the community as a whole.”
Melinda’s 3 tips on Healthy Relationships
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