Men don’t often have the space to talk about their experiences with masculinity and gender, something a group of community members want to change.

Social worker Anneka Westergreen and teacher Derek Lindman are two of the organizers behind Talking about Masculinity, an event for men only on May 10. Emelie Peacock/NNSL Photo

Open only to those who identify as male, an upcoming screening of documentary The Mask You Live In and a conversation about what it is to be a man in the Northwest Territories will be held May 10 at Northern United Place.

“Men are more receptive and more able to participate fully in a conversation when it’s just men in the room,” said Derek Lindman, who facilitates workshops in schools for Strength Masculinites and Sexual Health (SMASH). It is a conversation he said needs to happen in the wider community.

“We’re in this situation where men are in the most need to talk about this because they’re told that they can’t as men talk about things, but they’re the least likely to talk about it,” he said.

Social worker Anneka Westergreen hears many conversations about masculinity, yet very few of them involve the subjects of these debates – namely, men. Wanting to broaden the conversation about gender in the community, she reached out to Lindman, and together with the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre, they came up with the idea for a film screening.

The film and conversation will delve into the messages men get about their identity and how these messages play into their lives and relationships. If discussing these topics is uncomfortable for anyone, there is no pressure to speak up.

Westergreen says in her work, she sees how ideas of what a man should be – such as showing strength instead of sharing emotions – have real impacts on men’s mental health and relationships. As the Northwest Territories has the second highest rate of domestic violence in Canada, Laura Boileau at the Tree of Peace said talking about these topics can help to open up pathways to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Westergreen will include the impact of colonization and residential schools on indigenous men into the discussion, but Lindman stressed the issue that affects all men.

“I just see this as a conversation that needs to be happening across Canada and Yellowknife is no different,” Lindman said. “It’s an absolute need everywhere.”

Organizers want to see men from all walks of life participate, including those who would like to be allies for positive masculinity.

“We were hoping to generate more positive role models for men behaving peacefully, behaving respectfully and being able to communicate well in order to resolve conflict and that’s certainly much needed in Yellowknife and in the territory,” said Boileau.

Talking about Masculinity is scheduled for May 10 at 7 p.m. at Northern United Place. Men 14 and over are welcome to attend.