Ali Brokaw is the program director for the violence-prevention project, Gorloks Aware. Her job is to create programming that raises awareness of dating abuse, sexual violence, and stalking. While Brokaw’s programs have been meant to reach people of all demographics, she recently recognized the need for involving men in these conversations.
“Men have so much power to set culture on campus and hold each other accountable for the type of communities we want to live in,” Brokaw said.
She collaborated with campus organizations like Brothers Empowered to create the “Gentleman’s Club,” a programming series dedicated to creating a sense of community for men at Webster and encouraging conversation about preventing dating violence, ensuring that everyone on campus can feel safe.
With two Gentleman’s Club meetings already in the books, the series has gained traction around Webster. Eye-catching social media posts and flyers across campus promote its different events, which are held monthly. Meetings even host a barber, where participants can get a free haircut.
Ali Brokaw spoke with student reporter Devyn Heron about increasing attendance and deeper conversations to encourage an overall sense of community for men on Webster’s campus.
What was the inspiration behind The Gentleman’s Club?
We knew we wanted to have this collaboration because we wanted to focus on engaging men, giving them a space for conversation. We hosted our first event in Spring 2023, and students and administrators said it was great and encouraged us to continue this as a series throughout the academic year.
What does a typical event of the Gentleman’s Club look like?
It’s really been different depending on the event. In the Spring, we had a facilitated conversation about men being role models and the pressure to be a certain thing in their family or friend group. The first one this semester was more laid back, with pizza and football so that guys could eat and watch the games with each other; but we also asked people to answer a check-in question about what kind of things they value in their community of men. In October we hosted a discussion-based event centered around the topic of men and relationships. We were able to discuss healthy and unhealthy behaviors, societal expectations, expressing emotions, and getting support among other topics. Future meetings will continue to be more discussion and activity based. We will continue to have a barber at the events to provide a limited number of free haircuts as an attendance draw.
What kind of conversations have you had about toxic masculinity?
We believe that most men want to treat people with respect and kindness. They want to have a community where nobody is harmed. We are asking participants to have those tough conversations with their friends when they hear them talking about women as if they are objects or talking about sexual activity where it’s not 100 percent consensual, which are things that have been normalized in our community. We want to examine why we talk about these things in that way.
We want men to engage in that thoughtfully and talk with each other about how they want to interact with the people that they date and engage in sexual activity with.
Now that the Gentleman’s Club has had three meetings, what are some of your main goals going forward?
Anti-violence work is often considered a women’s issue. Men have been shut out of the conversation. We want men to feel like it’s everybody’s role to prevent violence. Men are also survivors of violence. A lot of times when we talk about people who have experienced violence, there is little focus on men, nonbinary, and transgender survivors. We want to change that.