Volunteering at Regent Park got me reacquainted with heinous attitudes and mentalities that reveal the scary standards/principles/values teenagers sometimes subscribe to willingly, or at times are forcibly subjected to.
Growing up in Scarborough has afforded me numerous occasions to come face to face with identical conditions. Male chauvinism coupled with misogyny resides heavily amongst teenage boys exposed to poorer qualities of life, possibly contributed by other existing social ills in the community.
Not having enough positive examples has shut off the acceptance to
ordinary possibilities in the lives of some boys and girls from the area.
The boys were incessantly making cracks about one another and above all, even more lewdly taking jabs at the women that appeared in the film. My fellow mentors and I would object with a plain warning every now and then telling them that it wasn’t suitable conduct for the class. A female mentor from another group came up stairs to our class to ask about the television we were using and when her group would be able to use it. The boys took this opportunity to direct their commentary towards the female mentor all at once, and one boy specifically took it too far with his most filthy performance behind every other mentor’s back.
With the exception of me,
I caught his obscene performance in all its vulgar insensitivity.
He did something so unreservedly disrespectful, something so unmentionable it was a plain-to-see statement declaring he didn’t see a female before him worthy of respect. His singular action, inspired by something pornographic, in those 5 seconds demonstrated respect for women might be completely beyond him. I started to believe in that moment that even the most basic morals hadn’t been instilled in him. Whether or not society had conditioned his disposition and was responsible for his behaviour, I couldn’t stand the fact that this would come to pass without mention or disciplinary action.
I was overcome with intense anger and I flipped my motherfriking lid.
Luckily, the female mentor had made her exit at a most opportune time.
“YOU THINK THAT’S FUNNY?” I said in a dead serious tone that cut through the chatter in the immediate radius. Instantly all eyes were either on me or him, including the other mentors from the group who I assume must have thought I had gone berserk from all the relentless chatter.
But I digress...
I think he could read my thoughts because his smirk disappeared and he didn’t really respond except for a few mumbles to his cohorts sitting next to him. And I just want to point out here no one was beaten, nor were any verbal or physical threats made at any point in the session (contrary to the cartoon image below), excluding those made in my head and imagination.
Regardless, he and the rest of his group still show tremendous potential.
The only upside of my anger was the discussion the class was willing to have about race and gender, after witnessing my eruption. But I might have lost any respect those kids might have had for me; all the kids might remember now is my maniacal face. They inform us during orientation “youth are often not thinking of what an adult needs in the mentoring relationship and may not express appreciation, even when deeply felt.” I can see more clearly now that the deed is done, what I did was unwise, pointing out one student when the others were all doing the same sort of thing but to a lesser degree.
I can’t sit and watch it; I would hope your reaction would be swift if you witnessed an injustice to a person’s character, or an attempt to slander someone’s values regardless of their creed.
Just remain composed when you do it, unlike me.
Note: some of the ideas expressed were "lifted" from the Pathways mentoring manual.
Also note: motivation to speak on this incident came from the brother who emails thoughtful reminders and who runs the following website -> http://emanboosters.iscool.net/