Discover our views on relevant and interesting topics.
Last week we shared the news of our 2 fab new Board members. This week we are celebrating our new Steering Group members. We also want to take a moment to explain why we have a Steering Group and a Board of Directors.
Our majority Non-Executive Board shape the strategic direction of our social enterprise in line with our vision, mission and values. The Directors have legal responsibility for the company. This means checking that Managing Director Lisa and Artistic Director Polly are implementing our mission in their day-to-day company activity.
The Steering Group is all about keeping the Board in touch with local community needs and concerns. This is because it’s really important to us that the work we develop feels valuable to our community. It includes people who feel strongly about the issues we tackle and represents a diverse voice, including young people.
Our Steering Group is co-chaired by Billie Jenkins (whose work for PNE involves empowering people to overcome barriers to employment) and Dr Stephen Burrell (whose research focuses on the prevention of gender-based violence).
And we’re absolutely delighted that they have been joined by 5 brand new Steering Group members. We welcome: Angela Thomas, Hope Simpson, Jo Chandler, Lucie Hall and Luke Allan Holmes.
Take a look at the Governance section of our website if you’d like to find out more about any of our super new Steering Group members!Continue reading
I began my internship with Changing Relations in November 2020 as a student at Durham University via the Education Department. I had an artistic background from school and higher education, and as a general hobby.
Challenging gender norms was something I had been unwittingly doing most of my life, but it was a passion I had only become aware of in myself over the past few years. My knowledge and language were growing through listening to ‘The Guilty Feminist’ podcast, but I had yet to find a way to put my restlessness into action.
The internship was to be a student insight into engaging other students to get them involved with the project ‘Who Wears The Trousers?’ that would be working with Hild-Bede College at Durham University. I helped create content and draft social media posts, bouncing off ideas with Artistic Director Polly about how to effectively communicate with students. I also spent time researching the sustainability of arts and craft materials, local printing companies, gauging ‘best sustainability for money’, and compiling my findings into a document to send on. I would also come into the studio each week or so and work on the production line putting together the postal art packs that were Changing Relations’ answer to an exhibition during a pandemic. I was able to sit in on meetings for other parts of the project and gain insight into the workings of a small arts enterprise.
The pinnacle of the internship was working independently on producing a podcast (links to listen below) that would complement the Who Wears the Trousers? project. I contacted and interviewed academics and experts in the fields of men’s mental health, inclusion in leadership, and violence against women, including Polly and Lisa themselves. This really helped increase my awareness of the issues around patriarchy and gender norms that are more subtle in society, hence the title ‘The Hidden A_Gender’. And I also picked up some new interviewing, podcast technology and editing skills that are sure to come in handy in the future.
The podcast was a great opportunity to work completely independently and end the internship feeling proud of a contribution I had personally made to the project.
Changing Relations has been a fantastic opportunity to start making a difference. From my first meeting with Polly and Lisa we were musing how it seemed ‘meant to be’. It is definitely the most collaborative work place I have been a part of, where I was invited to express my opinion on ideas and decisions that I wouldn’t have expected to be part of as just a humble intern.
To any future interns, I would recommend saying yes to all opportunities to sit in on meetings, going into the studio in person (bringing a warm coat and scarf for the studio in winter) wherever possible and don’t hesitate to ask further questions.
Here at Changing Relations, we’ve spent a lot of the past 3 months of the Covid19 pandemic talking about domestic abuse. It was clear from the get-go that the lockdown measures would be like holding a magnifying glass over an abusive relationship.
Less apparent from the start of this unfamiliar situation, in which, suddenly, many households found themselves working and “home-schooling,” was how that magnifying glass would also apply to the way gender roles play out in homes across the nation.
But here we are, “regressing back to the 1950s for many women” as:
- the proportion of mothers responsible for 90 to 100% of childcare increased from 27% to 45% during lockdown;
- 72% of mothers described themselves as the “default” parent for all or most of the time during lockdown;
- with 67% of women with work commitments describing themselves as such;
- and 70% of women being completely or mostly responsible for home schooling;
In this piece, we’ll consider the professional consequences of this home-work-life snapshot. We posit that a joined-up approach is needed if we are to achieve real progress towards gender equality in society.
Really this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
For years, feminists have been writing about women:
- carrying more of the emotional load of a family;
- undertaking the double burden of caring for children and elderly relatives;
- doing more of the unpaid household labour such as cleaning.
But what the lockdown has done – as with domestic abuse – is exaggerate the usual conditions a family faces. It has made the imbalance bubbling beneath the surface much more obvious.
As an education and training company passionately committed to breaking down gender barriers, we are concerned to understand how change actually happens. The social-ecological model below points to the different levels that operate in society. It gives a clue as to why it is so difficult to achieve change.
Social-ecological model of behaviour change
We might assume we need to focus on the top level of government and systems, with a policy such as the gender pay gap reporting requirement (and it’s not without relevance that this “has been suspended by the government during the coronavirus outbreak”). For sure, this top down approach has the potential to name and shame a large company into looking internally at how gender inequality plays out at their own institutional level in terms of pay.
Top down action isn’t enough
But what the lockdown magnifying glass has shown us is that, unless we are proactively challenging gender inequality at all of the levels, from government right down to the individual / family context, it is all too easy for any progress we’ve made to be rolled back when crisis hits. Hence the situation we find ourselves in now, of women being disproportionately responsible for home-schooling during lockdown, even where both parents are working from home.
Why is this?
Is it possible that on some unspoken level, the male partner’s work is seen as more important? Do we still assume childcare to be predominantly the woman’s role? Does the male partner’s work pay more and/or is more of a full time role?
Whatever the case, the lockdown context presents us with an opportunity to see how action on the different levels of society needs to be woven together if we are serious about progress towards gender equality.
In “normal” times, what British boss would want to interfere in the gender balance of an employee’s home life? We have a strong tendency to separate the public and the private sphere. It is why making progress in the fight against domestic abuse has been such a slog! The conviction that “it’s a private matter;” “it’s not my business” was strong!
But here we have a moment where families have been required to home-school their children and maintain their jobs (excepting those where one partner has been furloughed of course). And suddenly, this makes that private gender balance highly relevant to the institutional level of the company. How can women maintain productivity levels when they’re multi-tasking with home-schooling so much more than their male counterparts? How will bosses view the promotional prospects of their male and female employees in the face of this productivity gap? What will this mean for their company gender pay gap going forward (when the government re-instates the reporting requirement!)?
Government. Policy. Institution. Interpersonal. Individual.
Different levels. All inter-related.
If we’re going to achieve gender equality, we need action at all of these levels to be joined up.
It is absolutely right for Dame Helena Morrissey – and a host of prominent figures from sport, to fashion and parliament – to call upon the government to take action in the face of the gender inequality exposed and exaggerated by the pandemic.
But it’s also worth asking, what does this mean for a company?
Is this a time to ask questions about company culture? Is it time to consider how stereotypical gender norms and assumptions about the roles men and women should play – in the workplace and the home – might be unconsciously reinforced through our words, jokes, responses, who we promote, what we pay people? To what extent does the level of productivity expected by high-performing companies exert pressure on households to revert to stereotypical gender roles, increasing the challenge for women to break even?
The impact of lockdown has been dramatic in so many ways. Do we dare take this moment to be bold in responding to what it reveals about where we still are with gender inequality as a society?
What about our own house?
A final thought takes us back to the individual and interpersonal level of the private family home. To make change, we need support, encouragement – and perhaps also the brow-beating of policies such as the gender pay gap reporting requirement – from the institutional and governmental level. We also need to look to what is happening at home. It’s tempting to rationalise the gender construct of our individual homes with our own specific circumstances. But when we see the statistics tell a generalised story, perhaps we need to dig a bit deeper as to whether it is 100% justified for the distribution of roles in the home to follow such 1950s lines!
If we don’t see gender inequality as our responsibility to proactively address, we will not eradicate it.Continue reading
If you’ve been wondering what gender norms are, why they matter, and why we’re linking them to mental health, then this is the post for you!
When we talk about gender norms, what we’re referring to is the set of expectations that we feel that society has established for how we should behave – whether we’re a man or a woman.
Now you may think, well we’re all individuals; there’s no single masculinity or femininity ‘Box.’ And in fact, recent research from Universities in Israel and Switzerland indicates that ‘there is no such thing as a female or male brain,’ with most people having a ‘mix of male and female brain features.’
Whilst this radical discovery about our internal make-up may be true, it doesn’t change the fact that some striking trends around mental health seem to fall along gendered lines.
On the one hand just over three out of four suicides are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35, whilst men are three times as likely to report frequent drug use as women & more than two thirds of drug-related deaths occur in men.
On the other hand the British Medical Journal has reported that self-harm reported to GPs among teenage girls under the age of 17 in the UK has increased by 68% over just 3 years, with NHS figures indicating that among young people aged 10-19, self harm is three times more common among girls than boys, with those who self-harmed at much greater risk of suicide.
The co-author of the Millennium cohort Study, Emla Fitsimons , said, ‘We certainly need to be looking at how the use of social media and cyber-bullying may affect girls and boys differently.’
If girls and boys are not such clearly distinct groups in terms of the way their brains work, one hypothesis we could make is that they grow up in society feeling different pressures about how they’re supposed to be. This may be something that happens in a completely unconscious way as we see images, clothing, role models and hear messages directed differently to girls, boys, men and women.
The research that informed the brand-new artwork in our exhibition Men’s Voices: Stepping Out of the Box paints an interesting picture of this. In summer 2017, Changing Relations’ artists asked men and boys participating in a series of creative workshops what it meant to be a man. We collated the most frequently used words and put them to a wider pool of men, asking which they’d use to describe themselves. The words shown in the work-in-progress image of Polly Turner’s textile piece (below) were the top 5 most frequently used: hard work; protect; proud; useful; and provide.
Protect & provide. Classic stereotypes of what we expect from a man. But what does it tell us? It points to the way in which we absorb the social norms of gender: I’m a man, therefore I should be like this; or indeed, you’re a man, therefore I’m expecting you to be like this. We would ask whether it is possible that trying to live up to the stereotype of how you are supposed to be as a man contributes to the picture of mental ill health depicted by the statistics?
Our project began by listening to men and boys, which is why our exhibition started out as Men’s Voices. The experience of engaging teenage girls in this content and noticing the way in which their identity and aspirations were very much defined in contrasting relation to the stereotypical ‘man box’ encouraged us to take our artwork on a developmental journey.
As the work tours from The Witham to Locomotion and Killhope, we’ll be building a body of new work, together with local boys and girls that seeks to raise questions of gender norms more broadly. We will shine a light on how they risk causing difficulty for all of us if we apply them too rigidly. We’ll also explore how traditional views of masculine and feminine gender roles are seen from the LGBT+ perspective.
At the same time, we’ll be holding a series of panel talks that explore the subject of gender norms from a range of angles. In the first – at The Witham, in Barnard Castle at 1.30 pm on Saturday 16th February – we’ve selected a fascinating range of experts to help us unpick the extent to which gender norms affect our mental health.
The big question on our minds is whether mental health would be completely gender neutral if it weren’t for all the societal messaging around what it means to be a man or a woman.
We’d love to know what questions you would ask our panel! Tweet us with your questions at @changerelations by midnight on Thursday 14th February – using the hashtag #mensvoices – if you’d like us to put it to one or all of our speakers!
We’d also love to give you chance to express your own thoughts on the subject creatively with the support of Spoken Word Artist Tony Gadd. This workshop is free when you buy a panel talk via The Witham’s Box Office.Continue reading
Some people may be wondering why men’s voices need to be heard when there’s still such a long way to go in terms of equality between men and women. Unfortunately, the facts show that men’s mental health is in crisis and men in the North East are three times more likely to take their own lives than women.
Men often suffer in silence so through as a series of participatory art workshops we gave groups of men and boys in the North East the opportunity to open up and share their thoughts on what it means to be a man today. We also discussed the positive and negative stereotypes that surrounded their understanding of masculinity.
You can discover more through our Men’s Voices: Stepping Out of the box exhibition that’s running The Witham from 9th-23rd February and will then go onto Durham heritage venues Locomotion and Killhope Lead Mining Museum in May.
Luckily there’s a growing movement to transform the negative associations of male culture and redefine masculinity with celebrities such as Robert Webb – who grew up thinking that men should get a grip and act like a man – urging men to open up their emotions and talk.
We could write on the subject for pages and pages so we’re really excited to say that we’ve commissioned a Panel Talk at The Witham on Sat 16th Feb with 3 expert mental health speakers where we’ll be discussing ‘How gender norms impact mental health?’ Tickets are just £5. Armed with all the knowledge you’ve just soaked up you can then take part in our Creative Writing Workshop with GongFuPoets founder Tony Gadd, where you can expand on the subject further and put pen to paper for yourself.
Ultimately, we want to empower all genders to question destructive cultural pressures and seek healthier alternatives. We’re currently working with men, boys, women, girls and LGBT groups to extend the body of artwork contained in our original exhibition to pose questions around gender norms more broadly. At this stage our exhibition will become Stepping Out of the Box and will showcase at brand new cultural venue, The Art Bunker in Bishop Auckland in September.
If you or anyone you know needs support then local group – ManHealth CIC – is a not for profit peer support group run by men with personal experience of depression funded by the National Lottery. The groups are free and open to men affected by depression to share friendship and support over a common condition. https://www.facebook.com/ManHealthCIC/Continue reading
Arts education & training company Changing Relations C.I.C. is growing!
We are building a team of freelance trainers who can deliver our bespoke professional training, initially focusing on domestic abuse, but in time, encompassing additional themes under our overarching focus of gender equality, gender norms and healthy relationships.
Our training package will be delivered to a range of professionals across the North East, from those in health, to the police, teachers, community facilitators, social housing and those within the legal profession.
You can expect to receive £150 for delivery of a 4.5 hour training session. We expect demand for our training to build from monthly to weekly bookings as we grow in capacity.
We are looking for confident, dynamic individuals with an interest in our organisational values.
Able to challenge thinking in a constructive manner
A sense of humour in responding to training participants
A minimum of 3 years experience of teaching/training/facilitation
Able to demonstrate your experience of creating, planning & organising learning content
Experience working with young people and adults
A teaching qualification
Is this you?
Email Managing Director Lisa C Davis by 12pm, Friday 30th November with your CV & a covering letter, explaining why you would be interested in joining our team and how the skills and experience you bring fit our brief.
You do not have to be an artist to apply, but there may be further opportunities to engage in arts-based delivery with schools and community groups, leading art-making processes around the themes of our projects. If this additional dimension interests you, do please let us know in your application.
Feel free to get in touch beforehand if you have any questions about the role: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!Continue reading
We’re so pleased to see The Pool supporting the fantastically important We Level Up campaign calling for responsible, respectful reporting of Domestic Homicide. We’ve long been infuriated by the implications of disbelief when the media focus on how many people thought a Domestic Abuse perpetrator was wonderful.
Our film – Make Do and Mend– features the real words of Domestic Abuse survivors who testified to the tendency of their abusers to manipulate perceptions.
“He was a Jekyll & Hyde, wasn’t he? Because there was a lovely side to him, so polite & kind outside, but when we were on our own…”
This is a crucial insight for us to reckon with: that abusers can be charismatic individuals & indeed that they may even invest energy into charming others to lay the ground for them not to believe their victim’s story when it comes to light.
Think this is unlikely?
“He whacked me once & I had, you know, a cut on my lip & a black eye &, erm, he was like, ‘What happened to you?’ when he woke up in the morning & I was like, ‘You, you threw me off the sofa & you know what happened,’ & he just said, ‘No, that didn’t happen.'”
“It didn’t matter what you were saying, if he thought you said something different, ‘That’s what you said,’ & no matter even if you explained it, ‘Na, you said this!’ But he could twist things round to have the excuse of, like, screaming more at you or putting you down more.”
These are examples of gas-lighting from the script of our film, taken from the words of 2 different Domestic Abuse survivors. Gas-lighting is a strategy of Psychological Abuse that involves trying to make your victim doubt their own perceptions, manipulating them into thinking they imagined the abuse they experienced.
Imagine if you knew how ‘polite & kind’ your partner came across in public. Of course you would fear that no-one would believe you could be a victim of abuse behind closed doors.
Now factor in that your perpetrator was working to make you doubt your own perceptions. How could you possibly feel confident of being believed.
Finally, throw in a media report about a woman murdered by her partner that focuses on all the neighbours & colleagues testifying to how respected the alleged perpetrator was in the local community.
What do you imagine the impact of this would be on a someone who has themselves experienced Domestic Abuse?
Is it not an example of collective gas-lighting from the media?
Is there not an implication of an underlying question from all those people quoted in the article, ‘Is she really telling the truth? Could this really be true?’
And then we wonder why women don’t ‘just leave’ abusive relationships. But what if we have contributed to their feeling that it would be impossible to tell their story with the weight of our implied disbelief?
At Changing Relations, we have devised training to help professionals understand these dynamics in order to inform a more empathetic response to survivors they encounter, whether they be colleagues or service users, based on an understanding of the impact of Domestic Abuse & how difficult it actually is to leave an abusive partner.
It’s fantastic to see a campaign calling for the media to consider the implications of their usual approach to reporting around Domestic Abuse & Homicide. Here’s hoping they take note!Continue reading
Changing Relations C.I.C. is an arts-based education & training company that provokes thinking around gender norms, gender equality & healthy relationships, using the arts & creative methods as the foundation of the educational & training resources we produce.
We’re looking to expand our Board to support us extend our social impact & achieve financial sustainability.
We will recruit at least 3 new Board members & are interested in candidates with skills in at least 1 of the following areas:
– Marketing & PR
This is a voluntary role with an expectation that you’d attend a meeting every 2 months & contribute a few hours in between, supporting the Directors in an advisory capacity. Board membership promises to be a useful CPD opportunity, with existing Board members & Directors committed to sharing the skills & knowledge they each bring.
Express your interest by emailing Managing Director Lisa Charlotte Davis before Friday 26th January 2018, including your CV & explaining why you’re interested & what you could bring at this stage in our development: email@example.com
Know someone who’d be perfect? Please share!Continue reading
Delighted to say that our first Management Board meeting took place yesterday, in the shape of an Away Day facilitated by Durham Community Action’s Carl Marshall, kindly hosted by Gentoo, thanks to Kelly Henderson. It was a pleasure to welcome on board – and begin getting to know such a positive and supportive bunch of people – and it was humbling to realise that they are prepared to give of their time and expertise to help us navigate this phase of growth and development. Thanks to everyone who came along and get well soon Alys!Continue reading