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Celebrating our Hidden Heroines and Heroes

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As a small charity, support from generous individuals, communities and organisations has a huge impact on the work we do to prevent domestic abuse and reduce the harm it causes. From office volunteers helping to distribute safety resources for survivors, to dedicated fundraisers taking on marathons to raise vital funds for our prevention projects, we’re able to achieve so much more together. To mark Small Charity Week 2019, we’re shining a spotlight on some of our hidden heroines and heroes.  



Lucy supports Equation as part of our events committee. Last year, Lucy played a huge part in the event management of our first ever charity pop-up shop which raised over £1000.  As part of the event committee she collected, sorted and priced up stock, sourced some amazing prizes for a silent auction and without her help the day it simply wouldn’t have been possible to run.  

“I chose to support Equation because of the range of work they do for domestic abuse prevention and to encourage equality in relationships. I believe their focus on education and prevention, as well as crucial support to survivors, is an effective approach. I’ve met some great, like-minded people and had a feeling of great satisfaction from the small part I’ve played in helping to raise money for the fantastic work Equation do.” 



Jeff is a valued member of our freelancer team, primarily delivering our projects for children and young people in Nottingham. As if that wasn’t enough, Jeff also supports Equation in his spare time too! “My son and I have done three bag packing sessions at local supermarkets. We’ve really enjoyed these as, not only are we able to raise funds for Equation, it’s also great fun and customers are friendly and supportive. And we’ve never broken any eggs… yet. “  

Each year we’re invited to do bag packing at various supermarkets around the city. As Jeff says, they’re a fun way to give back and the time flies as you get chatting to supportive shoppers. Last year, we raised approximately £450 per bag pack, that’s enough for around two year groups of secondary school children to receive relationship and sex education, including topics such as sex and consent or digital safety, enabling them to understand their rights and responsibilities.  

We caught up with Jeff recently to ask why he chooses to support Equation. 

“As a man, I’m only too aware that domestic abuse is a big problem in our society and that most of that abuse is done by men to women. I like to help redress that balance by doing all I can for a local charity that works to reduce the harm done by domestic abuse. I particularly like the fact that Equation has a comprehensive education programme because, having worked a lot with children and young people (including being a Childline counsellor), I know not only the harm that unhealthy relationships can cause but also how important it is that children and young people are able to have access to such resources. The fact that I can help supply some of these, is very satisfying.”  



Lisa is another dedicated supporter and volunteer here at Equation who not only pushes herself to raise money for a good cause but considers domestic violence and abuse an issue very close to her heart. During July 2015, Lisa’s Aunt passed away due to domestic homicide. Lisa explained to us that  her drive to support equation comes from her belief that “if we can educate children and professionals to recognise signs of unhealthy relationships…then they have a chance to rebuild a new life”.  

We recognise her bravery to speak up about how domestic violence and abuse has affected herself and her family as an incredible thing to do, so we had a sit down with Lisa to talk about her experience as a volunteer and all she has achieved through raising money for Equation.  Not only has Lisa participated in Ride London 100 Miles, the Berlin and London Marathon, she also faced her phobia of swimming by participating in a half Ironman distance triathlon. “The swim was hardest thing I’ve ever done physically emotionally and mentally but I had to remind myself it was for a charity close to my heart” What Lisa has achieved whilst being a volunteer is a remarkable thing.  Not only has she overcome some of her biggest challenges, she has gone above and beyond to help support a charity in the name of one of her loved ones.  

“I pushed myself beyond what I thought was possible. It gave me confidence within myself knowing I can say to people I have done these events and faced a phobia head on.” 


Thank You!

We’re very lucky to have such wonderful support from all our volunteers and supporters. Without the likes of Lucy, Jeff, Lisa and all our other amazing volunteers, we could not make what we do possible. Therefore, during Small Charity Week, we would like to express our immense gratitude for our volunteers and thank them for making Equation’s work towards equal, healthy relationships for all, in a society free from domestic abuse, sexual violence and gender inequality, possible. 

If you’re considering supporting us, head over to our website where you can find out more about the variety of volunteer opportunities we have such as Social Media Ambassadors, Research Assistants and Fundraising Events Committee Members, as well as the many ways you can fundraise school or work fundraising, Quiz Nights, bag packs or becoming a regular supporter.  

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3 Things You Should Know about Men’s Experiences of Domestic Abuse

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We all know that domestic violence and abuse is a huge problem in our society, but do many of us understand how this issue affects men?  

It can be hard to find reliable information about the topic, so Equation’s experts from our Domestic Abuse Service for Men have listed the key points you need to know.  


1) Men experience domestic abuse

“Domestic abuse” is behaviour that someone uses in a relationship to deliberately dominate, threaten, coerce and control someone else. Any person can be a victim of this kind of behaviour whether they are a man, woman or another gender identity. 

Men can experience domestic abuse from a partner or a former partner in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Men can also be abused by family members: adult children, siblings or others. Family abuse against men includes so-called ‘honour’-based abuse, such as forced marriage. 

Domestic abuse against men is perpetrated by both men and women, as well as people of other gender identities.  

Domestic abuse is often discussed as a women’s issue, because the majority of domestic abuse is experienced by women (and perpetrated by men). However, domestic abuse also happens to lots of men. 


2) Domestic abuse against men is not only about violence

Domestic abuse against men can include physical violence, as well as emotional and psychological bullying, sexual violence or financial control and abuse. 

A man who is being abused may experience some or all of the following behaviours: 

  • Bullying: mocking, humiliation, insults, criticism 
  • Control: Being checked up on, followed, or stalked 
  • Threats: intimidation, attacks or violence 
  • Destruction of their possessions 
  • Isolation: being stopped from seeing family and friends 
  • Being forced into sex  
  • Having money taken or controlled 
  • Lying, blame and denial of the abuse 


3) It’s okay for men to ask for help

Men who experience domestic violence and abuse are not to blame, no matter what the perpetrator of the abuse may say. Men who are being abused may feel ashamed or afraid of judgment by others, but it does not make a man ‘weak’ or less ‘manly’ if they experience abuse. Domestic abuse is always a choice by the perpetrator. 

Men who experience domestic abuse are not alone and it is always okay to ask for help. 

Equation’s Domestic Abuse Service for Men offers free support from a friendly advisor. The service can advise men about their safety and legal options and offer signposting to other services including drugs and alcohol support, housing and counselling. 

“I was able to take back control of my life having received support from Equation.  I feel more independent and for once in a very long time I feel more in control. Talking to you gave me a safe space”  


Do you need help or advice?

Equation’s service in Nottingham/shire offers free support for men experiencing domestic abuse 

Call 0115 960 5556 to talk in confidence.  

The helpline is staffed on Monday to Friday from 9.30-4.30. A 24/7 confidential answerphone service is available outside these times.   

Heterosexual and GBT+ men are welcome to call. 


Men outside Nottingham/shire can call: 

Men’s Advice Line 0808 801 0327  

Galop’s National LGBT+ helpline 0800 999 5428. 

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Equation launches #HelpAFriend campaign

This March, Equation is running a bold campaign in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire that could help people save their friends from the harm of domestic abuse. Ordinary City residents will be given tools to recognise if someone close to them is experiencing abuse, and to help their friends reach expert support.

Equation is running the #HelpAFriend project using an attention-grabbing social media and print campaign, and several promotional giveaway events. We hope the campaign will increase the number of women accessing the local 24-hour domestic and sexual violence helpline (0808 800 0340), which receives over 10,000 calls each year.

Sophie Maskell, Campaigns Coordinator, says: “Many people experiencing domestic abuse find it difficult to report what is happening to professional support agencies, which means a huge number of survivors are not receiving any help.

“Their friends and family, who are ordinary people like you and me, can make a huge difference. They are very well-placed to spot the warning signs of abuse, and to help friends or family access support that can keep them safe and well.”

Equation’s innovative campaign shows what abuse can look like to a friend from the outside. By promoting the simple steps involved in responding helpfully to friends or family who are being hurt by a partner, we hope to build the tools and confidence of everyone in the local community to be an upstander against domestic abuse.

If you are worried that your friend is being hurt by her partner, ring the 24-hour domestic and sexual violence helpline to find out how you can help: 0808 800 0340. The helpline is run by Women’s Aid Integrated Services; find out more at wais.org.uk

You can also find out more about how to support a friend or family member on our dedicated campaign webpage: equation.org.uk/help-someone

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Free Domestic Abuse Resources to #HelpAFriend

As part of Equation’s #HelpAFriend campaign in March, we have two awareness resources available for you to order: a set of posters to help people spot the warning signs of a friend experiencing domestic abuse, and a handy guide to supporting a friend who is in an abusive relationship.

Warning Signs: Posters

This set of 6 bright and attention-grabbing posters shows what domestic abuse can look like to a friend from the outside. Each poster explains one of the less well-known “warning signs” (control, jealousy, manipulation, isolation, pressure, and fear). Yes, Ambien aids people who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes after taking the medication or ambien 10 mg online usa Ask your doctor about Ambien to see if it’s right for you The posters direct to the 24-hour helpline as the central point of support for local women survivors and their friends and family. Suitable for all community venues and places of work.

During March 2019, workers and residents in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire can each order a FREE set of Warning Signs posters

Warning Signs posters

How to Help A Friend: Booklet

These quick guides are designed for people with friends or family members experiencing domestic abuse. Concise and small (A6) in size, the handy booklets provide simple step-by-step information about how to help in a safe and supportive way. The booklets give guidance to friends and family about what to say and do, and also helpfully include a peel-out Domestic Violence and Abuse Information Card to give to a survivor of domestic abuse. The cards cover essential safety and support information for women in Nottingham or Nottinghamshire.

The general advice in the guide is also relevant for men and people of any gender.

These booklets are useful for anyone living locally wanting to know how to support someone close to them who is being hurt by a partner or ex.

During March 2019, workers and residents in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire can order up to 30 How to Help a Friend booklets for FREE (post and packaging costs may apply).

How to Order

Order your resources now using our online order form.

online order form


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How to Spot the Signs of a Friend in Trouble

Good friends are everything. But sometimes our closest friends can be suffering in silence. If you spot any of these warning signs, your friend may be experiencing domestic abuse in their relationship. #HelpAFriend. Learn the signs.


Does your friend’s partner call and text her all the time? Does it ever seem like they’re checking up on her?


Have you noticed you get to see your friend less and less, and that she’s also seeing less of her other friends and family? Maybe she seems to make excuses about why she can’t meet up, or you get the sense that your  friend’s partner is taking over her life.


Does it ever seem like your friend won’t make a decision without checking with her partner first? Does she often seem worried about her partner’s reaction?


Have you noticed that your friend is behaving out of character – e.g. dressing, acting, or speaking differently? Do you think she may ever feel pressured by her partner to look or behave in a certain way?


Does your friend change her behaviour to avoid accusations of cheating from her partner? Does it seem like her partner is often jealous for little reason?


Have you noticed your friend treading on eggshells to avoid rowing with her partner? Have you ever got the sense that your friend is a bit afraid of them?

If you are worried about your friend’s relationship, trust your instincts.

Call the 24-hour free local domestic abuse helpline and find out how you can help her.

0808 800 0340

If you can’t get through, use the answerphone. All messages will be answered.

The helpline is run by Women’s Aid Integrated Services. Find out more at wais.org.uk

Find out more about the #HelpAFriend Campaign at equation.org.uk/helpafriendcampaign

#HelpAFriend is kindly funded by Nottingham Crime and Drugs Partnership, Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner and the Home Office.

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Equation Website: Invitation for Expressions of Interest

Equation’s goal as a charity is for everyone to have equal, healthy relationships, in a society free from domestic abuse, sexual violence and gender inequality. Working primarily in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, Equation delivers education to the whole community to prevent domestic abuse and sexual violence, promote gender equality and raise aspirations for healthy relationships. We provide practical tools and guidance to support the well-being and safety needs of survivors.

Our work currently includes:

  • Work with professionals to improve the frontline response to domestic abuse and violence. 
  • Work with children, young-people and educational professionals to educate around healthy relationships and enable young people to access support for domestic abuse.  
  • Operating the local frontline service for men experiencing domestic abuse 
  • Campaigning in the community to raise awareness of domestic abuse, related issues and signposting support.  
  • The production and distribution of resources that signpost local survivors of all forms of domestic abuse and sexual violence to local support services.

The charity has received funding for a web development project to improve it’s current online offering and are currently inviting Nottingham-based web agencies to provide expressions of interest.

Improvements to the website will deliver improved experiences for it’s users including:

  • Improved access to support and information for survivors of domestic abuse.
  • Improved quality of content and online experience delivered to professionals interested in Equation’s professional services.
  • Improved user experience for individuals and community groups interested in learning more about domestic abuse and supporting equations work.


More details about this project can be found here, including full application details.

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International Women’s Day High Tea and Fizz

‘There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish’ – Michelle Obama

Enjoy a decadent Middle Eastern inspired afternoon tea at Nottingham’s fantastic jazz venue Peggy’s Skylight, and celebrate how to achieve a more gender-balanced world #BalanceforBetter

In support of Equation, Nottingham’s leading charity preventing and reducing the impact of domestic abuse across Nottingham city and county.

Please note this is a women-only event: all women are welcome.

The venue is accessible to anyone using a wheelchair.

How much? Tickets are £25 per person (+ Eventbrite fee if booked online)

Any questions?

Email our fundraising team and we can tell you more: fundraising@equation.org.uk

How to Book 

Book online via Eventbrite or download a booking form (editable PDF) and return to us by post or email.

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We’re Hiring: Secondary Schools Healthy Relationships Coordinator

Hours: 30-37 hours per week

Fixed term contract: 12 months. Maybe extended subject to funding.

Salary: Equation Scale Point 26, £22,937 Pro-Rata.

This is an exciting opportunity to join Equation, a Nottinghamshire-based, award-winning and innovative charity dedicated to preventing and responding to domestic abuse.

Equation needs an enthusiastic project coordinator to work as part of our Children and Young People team. This is a fantastic role for someone who is passionate about domestic abuse prevention. You will be leading and developing Equation’s healthy relationships and domestic abuse awareness project in secondary schools. You will be responsible for establishing and maintaining relationships with schools and facilitators, ensuring high quality service delivery and for continuing the development of the innovative package secondary schools receive.

The successful candidate will be joining the charity during an exciting period of growth and will be able to play a role in shaping the future direction of healthy relationships education.


Applications deadline: 1st March 9am

Interviews: 11th and 12th March

To apply for this role, please download all the application documents below. When completed please send you application by email to admin@equation.org.uk


Secondary Schools Healthy Relationships Coordinator Role Description

Secondary Schools Healthy Relationships Coordinator Person Spec

Secondary Schools Healthy Relationships Coordinator Application Form

Secondary Schools Healthy Relationships Coordinator Equality and Diversity Monitoring Form

Equation’s Vision, Mission and Values


Got a question?
Any enquiries about this role or our recruitment processes can be sent to admin@equation.org.uk or give us a on 0115 9623237

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A year of challenging violence against women and girls: 2017-18

From the 25th November (the International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls) and the 10th December (Human Rights Day), groups around the world commit to 16 days of action to end gender-based violence. But work to keep women safe from men’s violence continues all year round. This year, during #16Days, the organisations in Nottingham who provide specialist domestic and sexual violence services look back together on some recent hard-won successes. Here’s what we’ve achieved over the past year that help keep women safer in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

Nottinghamshire’s Misogyny Hate Crime policy to be debated for national rollout

This year, Nottingham Women’s Centre’s Misogyny Hate Crime campaign celebrated its biggest milestone in its movement towards national rollout. Following on from the flagship work in Nottinghamshire by Nottingham Women’s Centre and Nottinghamshire Police, Labour MP Stella Creasy called for the introduction of misogyny as a motivating factor in relation to the ‘Upskirting’ Bill. Whilst ministers decided that this wasn’t the right vehicle for seeking such a change, they announced that they would fund a Law Commission review into how sex and gender characteristics should be considered under hate crime law, and whether new offences (notably, Misogyny Hate Crime) are needed. This is a hugely exciting national statement against misogyny, and Nottingham Women’s Centre are extremely proud to have been part of setting the bar high in Nottingham.

Find out more: http://www.nottinghamwomenscentre.com/misogyny/misogyny-hate-crime-policy/


There was a large increase in the number of survivors of domestic abuse accessing support

Women’s Aid Integrated Services (WAIS) directly supported 6,189 women in 2017-2018. That’s a 22% increase on the number of women WAIS supported the year before. Although on the surface increasing call rates may seem to signify a rise in domestic abuse incidents, this is far from the truth. Under-reporting of domestic and sexual violence is one of the most prominent problems due to the wide-ranging number of barriers survivors face in disclosing. The local increase in calls speaks as a reassuring tribute to the local sector’s progress in reaching, signposting and empowering more and more survivors to speak out.

Find out more: https://wais.org.uk/


#TimesUpNotts was launched to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace

2018 has marked the year of ‘Time’s Up’: a global, women-led movement that is working to end sexual harassment in the workplace. It is a movement born from the Weinstein effect and #MeToo. Amidst this powerful feminist outcry for change, Nottingham Women’s Centre founded the #TimesUpNotts Network to support women to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace in Nottinghamshire. This network consists of key volunteers from a range of backgrounds who have united to develop solutions to this issue.

#TimesUpNotts has organised its launch event for Saturday 24th November. The objective of the event was to facilitate a conversation with women around the challenges and solutions of tackling sexual harassment at work. Going forward, the network will use women’s voices to inform the development of its trainings and resources for workplaces.

Find out more: https://www.facebook.com/timesupnotts


New services were funded for survivors of rape and sexual violence

Notts SVS Services are delighted to have been awarded further funding to secure and enhance their Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) Service and Survivors’ Support Service. The two services are of key importance to survivors, helping them to access the Criminal Justice System and the Notts SVSS’s Survivors’ Support Service. This service supports those who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse, including those who are sharing their experiences with the IICSA Truth Project.

The new funding means that there will be:

  • An increased number of ISVAs working with adult survivors in Nottingham/shire.
  • A dedicated Survivors Support Worker to support adults affected by Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
  • A new exciting opportunity for Volunteer Support Workers to join the ISVA team.

Find out more: https://nottssvss.org.uk/funding-secured-for-two-services/


Nottingham men took a stand against men’s violence against women

Having taken a pledge to never use, excuse or remain silent about violence against women, this action was in aid of the male-led White Ribbon Campaign against all forms of men’s violence against women. Coordinated by Equation, local men now gather year on year during 16 days to promote women’s safety to other men through handing out white ribbons, statistics and information on how to help female friends at City Centre tram and bus stops.

Councillor Toby Neal, Portfolio Holder for Community Protection at Nottingham City Council, said: “It is the responsibility of every man and woman to take a stand to end violence against women. No woman should ever be made to feel afraid, intimidated or threatened. I would like to encourage anyone suffering from this type of behaviour to come forward. Nottingham City Council will treat any report extremely seriously and ensure support services are available to help those in need.”

Find out more: equation.org.uk/menagainstviolence/


The ‘No More Rape Myths’ Campaign was launched

We know that the way the media covers sexual violence and their use of ‘rape myths’ can have a direct impact on the general public’s perception and understanding of rape and sexual violence. In March 2018, Notts SVS Services launched a new social media campaign @NoMoreRapeMyths to directly challenge poor reporting and press for wider change, whilst also recognising good media coverage on this issue.

Early statistics from the reports we covered showed that:

  • 41% of the articles minimised rape as ‘sex’; with 89% of these being about attacks on children.
  • only two articles from the first 22 included support information.

The campaign is already making an impact; we have advised IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) on the development of their leaflet for survivors and are conversing with them regularly about concerning articles.

Find out more: https://nottssvss.org.uk/no-more-rape-myths/


Survivors influenced key domestic abuse policy changes

A group of WAIS survivors met with the Victim’s Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, in April 2018, which led her to make 14 recommendations to transform the government’s response to domestic abuse. Her recommendations include that high risk domestic abuse offenders be placed on a ‘Domestic Abuse Register’ and that where a perpetrator has been convicted of a domestic abuse offence, the presumption of shared parenting to be reversed.

Find out more: https://wais.org.uk/


Prevention work with children and young people being expanded in Nottinghamshire County

Local charity Equation has recently received funding from the National Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund to deliver 12 domestic abuse prevention projects across 6 secondary schools in Nottinghamshire over the next 5 years. At any time, 1 in 10 children are living with abuse with 16-18 year olds being most at risk, making work with this age group particularly crucial. The projects are designed to raise awareness of domestic abuse, curb the development of abusive behaviours, build young people’s aspirations for their own relationships, as well as develop their resilience, confidence and self-esteem in order to best equip them for the choices they face in their formative years.

Find out more: equation.org.uk/young-people/


Tender was successful to provide support at the Children and Young People’s SARC

In April 2018, the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) provision changed across Nottinghamshire, with one SARC providing support for children and young people and the Topaz Centre assisting adults.

Notts SVS Services worked collaboratively with other organisations to tender for the provision of the East Midlands Children and Young People’s Sexual Assault Services (EMCYPSAS). The tender was successful and now trained and experienced staff provide Crisis Worker support in this new provision, helping young people feel reassured after an assault and during forensic medical examinations.

Notts SVSS also provide Therapeutic Support Worker provision to young people aged 13 and above who’ve attended the EMCYPSAS. This service offers non-judgemental and affirming support, with referral pathways into other services, ensuring young survivors are supported following an assault.

Find out more: https://nottssvss.org.uk/sarc-provision-nottingham-changed/


The Misogyny Hate Crime impact evaluation report launched showing overwhelming public support for policy

In collaboration with the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, July marked the launch of Nottingham Women’s Centre’s Misogyny Hate Crime impact evaluation report, making national headlines. Over 87% of people surveyed thought that classing misogyny as a hate crime in Nottinghamshire was a good idea. The report also highlighted the extent of misogynistic hate incidents in the everyday lives of Nottinghamshire women but suggests that the policy has effectively worked to empower women to report.

Of the 679 participants in the evaluation, 93.7% had experienced or witnessed street harassment in Nottinghamshire, including unwanted sexual advances (48.9%), groping (46.2%), sexually explicit language (54.3%) and indecent exposure (25.9%). Yet due to the on-going work of this project and its collaboration with Nottinghamshire Police, of those who reported, 75% had a positive experience and 100% would report again.

Find out more: http://www.nottinghamwomenscentre.com/press-release-9-07-2018-overwhelming-public-support-for-misogyny-hate-crime-policy/


Ground-breaking work with women who have complex needs was celebrated nationally

WAIS’s ground-breaking work with women who have complex needs relating to drug, alcohol and mental health needs was nationally celebrated at both the Women’s’ Aid national conference and Welsh Women’s Aid conference. WAIS’s Response to Complexity work also fed into the All Party Parliamentary Group on Complex Needs.

Find out more: https://wais.org.uk/


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Top Lad or Toxic Stereotype? The Hits and Misses of Hollywood’s Male Role Models

In the run-up to International Men’s Day, where men are encouraged to come forth and discuss their gender, relationship dynamics, and talk about what it means to be a man in 2018, looking backward — and forward — at what masculinity means in Hollywood is a useful exercise. The past is littered with examples of how not to behave: Steve McQueen slapping his (real) wife Ali Macgraw in The Getaway, or Han Solo’s casual sexual harassment of Princess Leia in Star Wars 

The traditional movie hero – particularly the one that many of our grandfathers or fathers will have admired – has a very particular brand of masculinity, even machismo. From James Bond to this year’s Deadpool 2, where women characters are casually killed off to advance the story, women are too often collateral damage for these men to advance their own stories. ‘Toxic’ male protagonists are often aggressive, violent, and/or sexually predatory. They may be dressed up in a nice suit or carrying a cool gadget, but a la Connery in Goldfinger, it dismisses women as lesser beings and slaps them on the ass as they leave the room.  

It’s true that many of the buzzwords and phrases that fly around the internet and colour cultural commentary can be off-putting to casual readers. ‘Toxic masculinity’ is probably one of those phrases: picking up on its exact meaning is unique to each person. But to define it in a cinematic sense, you might say that it’s: decorative female leads treated with casual disdain; ‘romantic stalking’; the idea that ‘might is right’ and dominance or aggression must win the day; that men can womanise, act terribly, and be thought of as ‘antiheroes’, while female characters would be detested for the same behaviour.  

Beyond onscreen representation, toxic masculinity is also rampant in the structure and edifice of Hollywood itself; women are still regularly treated as sex object and  paid less than men. Coming forward with their stories of sexual assault and exploitation by powerful, megalomaniacal men like Harvey Weinstein has proven difficult until the recent wellspring of #MeToo and #TimesUp over the past twelve months. But along with those movements, there have been some onscreen shifts. Aside from the vital calls for gender parity in female directors and in encouraging telling women’s stories, the portrayal of men and what a male hero should be is also changing.   

The truth is, there are some increasingly complex portrayals of heroic men in Hollywood these days. Take the entire career of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, in which he has rarely – if ever – been a perpetrator of sexist or stupidly macho behaviour, unless he’s playing an out-and-out villain. The reason I use him as an example is because, on the face of it, that might seem unlikely. Johnson is an A-list ex-pro wrestler whose enormous size and toughness are used in much the same way that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s once were, and his starring roles as a brawny action hero of films like The Fast and the Furious franchise would seem to lend themselves to the label of ‘toxic masculinity’. Yet Johnson is self-deprecating, kind and unthreatening — while never sacrificing his traditional ‘manliness’ onscreen.  

In some recent comedies, things have also been looking up. Take Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in silly family comedy Daddy’s Home, where two men childishly compete with each other for the affections of their kids and wife (ex, in the case of Wahlberg) only to take on cheerful co-parenting duties where the family gets to keep both fathers in their lives.  

When the Marvel Universe comes into the discussion, it’s worth saying that it’s a surprisingly fair-minded franchise. But MCU male superheroes still far outnumber female ones, and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is allowed to be far more obnoxious than any woman Avenger would dare to be, for fear of losing the audience. Maybe with the upcoming release of next year’s Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, this gender imbalance will begin to shift.  

But there have been paradigm-shifting superheroes too, like the hangdog everyman Paul Rudd in his role as the comical Ant-Man. In this year’s sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, he continues in the vein of the harmless and funny hero who uses his power to shrink himself and outwit the enemy. He hasn’t got super-strength or magical abilities, but he’s a man whos willing to – literally – reduce himself to get what he wants. No wonder he seems humble!

When it comes to toxic masculinity on our screens this year, smash-hit Black Panther offered a complete antidote. Chadwick Boseman’s character T’Challa comes from Wakanda, a highly-advanced matriarchal society where its warriors are women. Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, and Letitia Wright play T’Challa’s love interest, mother, and sister respectively, and yet each of them are fully fleshed-out personalities who never exist solely to prop up their leading man. They are warriors, tech geniuses, and wise queens, with a fierce sense of honour.  T’Challa is shown to be deeply respectful of women, leaning on them for partnership, advice, and friendship with an attitude of total equality. Revolutionary on both race and gender fronts, Black Panther is an excellent example of the way forward in terms of mainstream success and progressive ideas of manhood.   

Nonetheless, retrograde ideas about violence and male strength are still omnipresent in most of the aforementioned films, and it will take a while before gendered differences are not coded in this way. At least, for now, male leads who are abusive to women seem less and less acceptable, or even existent. With holidays like International Men’s Day and increasing calls for gender equality in the film industry, hopefully a spotlight will be shone on why toxic masculinity in cinema needs to become a thing of the past.  





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