MSP evaluation study published in Men & Masculinities

The first academic evaluation study of the Men’s Story Project was published online in July 2018 in Men and Masculinities, one of the world’s leading masculinities journals. It can be found here.

Here is the abstract:

Gender-transformative interventions have been found to help ameliorate gender-inequitable norms and improve health outcomes for women and men. While narrative-based strategies are increasingly being used in public health programs, no evaluation publications exist to date for gender-transformative programming that employs men’s public narrative-sharing as a central means for promoting healthy masculinities. The Men’s Story Project (MSP) creates live productions in which diverse men publicly perform personal narratives that challenge hegemonic masculinity, promote gender equality, and highlight intersections of masculinity with other social identities. This study draws upon six focus groups with thirty-one audience members (AMs), two weeks after an MSP production at a US public university. The MSP led AMs to reevaluate key pillars of hegemonic masculinity, including a singular conception of masculinity, essentialist notions of gender, restricted emotional expression, and use of violence; AMs also gained an expanded understanding of intersectionality. Directions for future research are discussed.

Reflections from MSP presenters

Below are written reflections from a group of MSP presenters. We asked them about what they gained or learned from their participation, as well as ways to strengthen the MSP moving forward. Below are some selected quotes and ideas.

Overall, how was it for you to participate in the Men’s Story Project?

“It was a great experience. I gained new insight into my past, stronger ties to those that were already close to me who didn’t understand or didn’t know my darkest time. I gained confidence. I’ve made connections with and gained respect from people I’ve never met. I saw positive examples of masculinity and maleness. I met men that I wouldn’t mind calling my friends, when all I’ve ever harbored towards it all is resentment and anger. I’ve seen opportunities I hope my brother will have when he goes off to college to do the same. The list goes on…”

“It was absolutely worth the time! I felt better able to articulate my feelings and I gained a lot just from hearing the other stories.”

“I loved this experience.  I left my comfort zone of the world of athletics and entered a completely different forum.  I need this.  We all need this.”

“The opportunity to work with the wonder artists/performers/presenters beside me. I learned a lot from their pieces and their feedback. Singing my song was also very cathartic for me as an artistic expression of my reflections on my childhood.”

“It was a wonderful and gratifying experience. I learned about many ways to think about gender and masculinity, and also had the opportunity to explore my own relationship to gender.”

“It was a great experience, and I’m glad that I did it.  I feel more validated after having the opportunity to voice a lot of my thoughts that I’d held onto for myself for so long.”

“Absolutely loved it, I gained the most from other participants’ stories. Sharing the stage was a wonderful experience.”

“I very much appreciated the opportunity to express myself. I very much enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends.”

“It was fantastic. I feel like I gained insight into my own life and identity, as well as sharing a message that was important to me.”

What, if anything, do you feel you gained or learned from writing your story and sharing it publicly?

“It was a boost of confidence, for sure and incredibly validating, which is something that I still lack across the board (namely, from family). I felt supported by the crowd of friends, acquaintances and strangers that listened and responded and applauded for me. It’s allowed me to make connections with students on campus I may never have otherwise. People have been recognizing me from the performance since. It’s a nice feeling, to be recognized for something I’m proud of.”

“Honestly, I got a lot of affirmation after telling my story, and I really appreciated that. I learned that there are a lot of people on this campus who haven’t heard the ideas expressed at the event in any sort of personal way. People (men less so, interestingly) really want to have productive conversations about masculinity, and performing opened the door for me to have some of these conversations with my friends.”

“I am comfortable speaking to large groups:  it is something I do quite often.  But the topic is typically based on sports / lacrosse.  The Men’s Story Project pushed me to be open emotionally and available to others.  This is not my normal mode of operation!!  I appreciate this opportunity to challenge myself.”

“I further explored that even for me, a cis male, the gender lines are blurred and the man box is constraining to a harmful extent.”

“I learned a great deal about my own relationship to gender and masculinity and the trauma embedded in it.”

“I learned a bit more about my own creative writing process and to be a bit more candid with myself and my experiences.”

“I feel like I was able to succinctly articulate how I felt in a way that was accessible first and foremost to myself (in addition to the audience)”

“I kept thinking, “own what is mine.” The process helped me feel safe and OK about my story.”

What, if anything, do you feel you gained or learned from the playshop and run-through and your interactions with the other storytellers?

“Coinciding with my experiences in the Masculinity101 group I’ve learned that there is a place for me within masculinity and maleness, and that much of what I’ve felt in relation to these concepts that are now part of my identity is not exclusive to someone who is transgender. Not only that, but cis males were able to connect with me through my story despite never having lived my experience. It felt like I had found a community within this group of individuals that had all felt excluded in their own ways.”

“I got a sense of the range of stories and forms possible for the project. I also gained a good sense of the timeline for finishing a good story. Without the playshop, I probably would’ve procrastinated and it wouldn’t have gone as well as it did.”

“I admired the men who truly gave of themselves and their internal dilemmas.  My talk did not go deep into me, as I simply scratched a surface or two.  I now better appreciate the ability of these men to bear their souls.”

“I learned how unique everyone’s interpretation is of the limitations caused by masculinity, gender binaries, homophobia, and transphobia.”

“I met many other wonderful people with rich stories to tell and we appreciated each other and our vulnerability.”

“I didn’t notice it before the run-through, but my writing style in poetry uses a lot of rhythmic changes and pauses that I don’t think I would have otherwise noticed if feedback didn’t include slowing down.”

“I was very much helped with delivery and edits. I felt it was special to share stories in that way. Also, it was a reaffirming process–helping me to feel safe and OK about my own tale.”

Additional Comments Included:

“I thought this space was really important, both for me personally to write and present a story and more generally for men/masculine people/people with experiences with masculinity to share their experiences publicly in a shame-free and nonjudgmental way. Keep up the good work. :)”

Suggestions on ways to strengthen the MSP included:

  • Changing the project name so it doesn’t emphasize the binary notion of “men” but rather masculinities more broadly
  • Creating more opportunities for feedback and workshopping pieces
  • Keeping in mind that the experience of writing can be emotionally challenging for some presenters, and ensuring that they are supported, including after the production
  • Creating opportunity/space for ongoing community and friendship amongst MSP presenters after the production
  • Creating space for the exhibition of multimedia art at MSP productions

Congrats to Emory MSP director on 2015 Emory Humanitarian Award!

Warm congratulations to Alex Plum for his receipt of the 2015 Emory University Humanitarian Award! Alex directed the Emory Men’s Story Project production in Spring 2015 while completing his master’s degree at the Rollins School of Public Health.  Here is the award description:

“The Humanitarian Award was created to recognize students who have qualities of honesty, integrity, courage and responsibility which are fundamental to effective leadership.  The criteria used to determine the recipients are as follows:

•  Consistent living of one’s own life with honesty, integrity, responsibility and a sense of the welfare of the community
•  Special acts of courage benefiting others
•  Unusual commitment of time and energy in service to others
•  Special gifts of friendship

Alexander Plum is the 2015 Emory University Humanitarian Award recipient for his work addressing health disparities globally and at home among adolescent populations, specifically young men.  Alex continues that work today at Emory through his collaborative leadership with the Men’s Story Project, where men from Emory came together to tell their own stories about growing into healthy masculinities.”

Men’s Story Project Evaluation Study

This conference poster shows key findings of a qualitative evaluation study of the Men’s Story Project. It was presented at the 2nd Global MenEngage Symposium in New Delhi (11/14). The findings were also presented at the International Conference on Masculinities in New York (3/15). The work is being written up as two journal articles; one will focus on effects of the MSP for audience members, and the other for MSP presenters.

Download the poster

22nd Annual Conference on Men and Masculinities

Dr. Lehrer gave a workshop and presentation on the Men’s Story Project and the promotion of healthy masculinities at the 22nd Annual Conference on Men and Masculinities of the American Men’s Studies Association. The conference took place at the University of Washington – Tacoma, March 27-29, 2014. Drawing researchers, practitioners, students and activists from the U.S. and abroad, the conference theme was: “Considering Culture: Masculinities in International and Regional Contexts.”

University of Oregon Men’s Center to create new MSP Production!

Hurray for the amazing University of Oregon Men’s Center, which will be creating an MSP production in Fall 2014! Dr. Lehrer gave an evening talk and daylong MSP training at U. of Oregon. Here’s some feedback:

“I live in a fraternity house of 36, 18-22 year-old men. I wish each of us shared with each other like those in the Men’s Story Project.” –U. of O. student
“More people need to be exposed to this; it has great value to all people and breaking the paradigms people hold onto that put others or themselves in pain. Thank you for doing all this!” –U. of O. student
 [woothemes_testimonials]
“Love that your presentations and MSP is deeply rooted in research and empirical evidence as well as emotional response! Can’t wait to participate this year, but REALLY can’t wait for the years of MSP at UO in the years to come.” –Keith Frazee, Assistant Director of Orientation Programs
“As someone working in preventing sexual violence on campus and often feeling hopeless, this idea jazzes me and I am just so excited that it will be happening here…Kudos and thank you.” –U. of O. student

MSP at AFSC Convening on Masculinity, Healing and Peacebuilding

The Men’s Story Project was honored to be invited to the Convening on Masculinity, Healing and Peacebuilding organized in Philadelphia by the American Friends Service Committee. Participants included scholars and activists/advocates who are doing evidence-based and innovative work in areas including violence prevention, promotion of healthy masculinities, economic empowerment and peacebuilding. Participants reflected on how to support healthy masculinities among young men facing structural oppression, learned from each others’ work, and envisioned potential partnerships. We look forward to next steps!