Kids program teaches men are ‘greatest threat to women’
The Australian, 25 October 2016
A group running a respectful relationships education program in some of Western Australia’s top schools has been inundated with hate mail after students were urged to consider the proposition that “men are the greatest threat to women’’.
Frame Initiatives, a privately run education provider working in about 30 schools across the state, has been accused of teaching biased material to young people that potentially alienates young men.
The controversial statement, presented on a slide in the group’s Men of Respect workshop at a Perth secondary school last week, was photographed by a student and later posted online, sparking a backlash across social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
Frame Initiatives director Dan McGrechan told The Australian the statement had been taken out of context, adding it was a quote adapted from US comedian Louie C.K. that was designed to “stimulate discussion” and encourage “critical thinking” around the issue.
The furore has reignited concerns that the battle to combat community violence by rolling out respectful relationships programs in schools has been hijacked by gender politics.
The Victorian government faced criticism last week over its latest respectful relationships resources, which teaches students about “male privilege” and that masculinity is associated with higher rates of violence against women.
Founded a decade ago, Frame says its teachings are based on the work of New Zealand policeman-turned-self-defence expert Brent Sanders, author of the 2001 book How Dangerous Men Think.
Students are typically segregated for the sessions, with presentations targeted at girls including: Please Like Me, which deals with peer pressure and self-respect; and Back Off: Sexual Harassment, which discusses the nature of harassment, its impact on victims and strategies to help girls look out for each other. Sessions for boys are designed to help them redefine manhood around “character rather than sexuality”, rethink how pornography shapes their attitudes towards women and understand their legal and social responsibilities in regards to consent in sexual encounters.
Prominent men’s coach and author Jasmin Newman said she had serious concerns about the Frame Initiatives program after visiting its website. She said the starkly differing focuses of the sessions sent a message to girls that was about empowerment and self-respect, but also victimhood, while boys seemed to be told that they were “privileged predators’’.
“It’s a very one-eyed view of gender relations,” she said. “There’s some really damaging messages in there.”
The West Australian Education Department, which does not endorse third-party education resources, distanced itself from the program yesterday. A spokeswoman said it was up to schools to decide on the providers or resources they adopted.
Mr McGrechan, a social worker and church pastor, confirmed he had no teaching qualifications. However, he said extensive research had gone into the program and its sessions. He denied the program was biased, or presented men in a superficially negative light. “The aim of the program is really to promote safe and respectful relationships,” he said.
“We talk about issues predominantly around dating and safety, what respect looks like, the laws around consent and sexual harassment as well as safe drinking and use of alcohol. We certainly aim to address the complexities of male-female relationships. We don’t believe men are always the perpetrators and women are always the victims, as we’ve been made out to have done.”
Schools that have adopted Frame’s programs include Perth’s Wesley College and Rossmoyne Senior High. Rossmoyne head of student services, Nina Nash, said the school had been working with Frame for several years.
Ms Nash said feedback from other teachers, parents and students had been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s hard-hitting but completely factual and the content is backed up with research.”