By now, you likely know about the incident that transpired at this year’s Academy Awards between celebrities Chris Rock and Will Smith. Dubbed by many as “The Slap Heard Across the World,” a wide range of articles, videos, memes, and opinions have been expressed in response. For YWCA Dayton’s AMEND Together program, though, it has also provided an important real-world moment to learn.
“The diversity of perspectives we’ve seen allows us within the AMEND Together program to utilize this shocking event to explore and apply many of the concepts we cover within our programming geared towards young men, both with them and amongst ourselves as adults,” explained Ralph Davis Jr., an AMEND Together specialist.
“Our program seeks to CHALLENGE a culture that promotes violence, CULTIVATE healthy masculinity, and CHANGE the future for women and girls. Topics we discuss include understanding both toxic and healthy masculinity, managing anger, maintaining healthy relationships, challenging male stereotypes, examining the influence of both the media and our peers, and more.”
AMEND Together is a primary prevention initiative developed by YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee dedicated to ending violence against women and girls by engaging men and boys to change the culture that supports violence. YWCA Dayton was chosen in 2020 as one of five YW’s across the nation to implement AMEND in its own community. Last year alone, more than 500 boys participated in programming across nearly 10 schools in the greater Dayton area.
Davis notes that Sunday night’s incident, and the many conversations since, provide a prime example of why discussions about these topics are critical with boys and young men as early as they can be held. Such talks can lead to questions like: Were there healthier ways to resolve the issue? What does “protection” mean and look like? What influences can encourage or discourage behavior such as that displayed by Smith?
“Ultimately, these conversations would hopefully lead young men to make healthier decisions in a variety of situations for themselves, their families, their peers, and our community,” Davis said. “They would also help us become better allies to women in ways that truly support them while maintaining the dignity of us all.”
For Davis, part of the conflict that exists is that many positive and healthy aspects of masculinity have been observed in Smith and the characters he has portrayed, and he has been upheld as a role model for young men for many years.
“However, this situation highlights how we all have toxic and healthy traits within us, and encourages us to challenge ourselves to strengthen those healthier traits so that decisions that were made on Sunday night are not decisions we choose to make for ourselves, or influence others to make as well. Just as much as we’re able to use this event as an opportunity to learn and grow from within our AMEND Together program, we hope that our larger society can do the same.”
Interested in learning more or supporting YWCA Dayton’s AMEND Together program? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing intimate-partner violence, our 24/7 Crisis Hotline is always available: 937-222-SAFE.