Men break free of male stereotypes to help each other

Dudes Club member

‘LEAVE YOUR ARMOUR AT THE DOOR’ is the informal motto of the Dudes Club, an organization of mutual aid and support for men by men.

Dudes Club is an innovative, community-driven men’s health program incorporating Indigenous approaches to healing and wellness.

Dudes Club is a consciously “macho-free zone.” Its a safe space where men don’t have to be “tough guys” or “strong and silent.” They can admit they need help and get it from other dudes wrestling with the same difficulties.

Dudes Club started in Vancouver in 2010. It has since grown into a national model for men’s health and well-being with 40 sites in B.C. and two nationally. Dudes Club welcomes all men. However, Indigenous men often make up the majority of members—63% of the Vancouver Dudes Club are Indigenous.

Indigenous men not only have to deal with the harmful impacts of traditional male norms, like being expected to be “strong and silent, fiercely independent and emotion free, but they also have to endure the impacts of historical injustices through ongoing experiences of racism, violence and social exclusion.

Captives of male stereotypes

Men are often victims of received ideas about what it takes to be “a real man”. For example, research shows men are slow to seek medical treatment and would rather “tough it out alone” than reach out to other for help.

A survey of 150 men at the Vancouver Dudes Club discovered that most lived within a world of unstable housing, unemployment and poverty. In addition, many of the men have complex histories of trauma, mental health and/or substance use issues. All of which make the sense of community and belonging the Dudes Club can offer vitally important.

One Elder described Dudes Club as a “safe haven.”

Dudes Club members decide what to talk about in weekly “think tanks”. This gives members ownership over the process and control over their own health decisions. Having a health professional at most sites makes it easy for the men to get information they don’t, or won’t usually seek out.

Indigenous health researcher Lyana Patrick reports men described Dudes Club as a place where they can feel purpose and belonging, where they can work together to build peer support networks and engage in community advocacy.

Patrick wrote that: “The research demonstrated that safety and trust are crucial for men taking ownership over their health. Dudes Club builds safety and trust because it is confidential, includes health professionals who understand member’s reality, and encourages strong peer relationships where respectful listening is the norm.”

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