News / Edmonton

‘It takes a strong man to stand up and say this is not alright’

Edmonton football hero Ryan King among men speaking out at event Saturday on raising healthy men and boys, and ending violence against women.

Edmonton Eskimos player Ryan King, the CFL team's long snapper, stands on the field at Commonwealth Stadium during a break from shooting a team commercial on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

David P. Ball / Metro Order this photo

Edmonton Eskimos player Ryan King, the CFL team's long snapper, stands on the field at Commonwealth Stadium during a break from shooting a team commercial on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

Guys: listen up.

Edmonton Eskimos long snapper Ryan King is speaking out to urge men “to be more positive and to help each other out,” particularly when it comes to “hidden” problems at home and relationship struggles.

“Everyone has the right to be safe in their own home, the one place that’s yours,” he told Metro in an interview on the field at Commonwealth Stadium on Thursday. “If you have domestic problems in your house, that’s gotta be a really dark place.  

“Even though you’re maybe going through a tough time, maybe we can help guide you in the right direction. Men can make a big difference in domestic abuse and violence against women … It takes a strong man to stand up and say, ‘This is not alright, we don’t accept this.’”

On Saturday, the Edmonton-born, Sherwood Park-raised CFL player is one of several men who are part of a panel and film screening that’s asking, “How can we raise and celebrate a healthier generation of boys and young men?”

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Organizers invited him and other panelists to be “both vulnerable and open” in speaking out about his “experiences negotiating masculinity” as well “the broader social forces shaping” what it means to be a man in society today.

The question is special urgency in the city: according to a report released in January, Edmonton’s rate of domestic violence is nearly three times the national rate.

King is speaking alongside engineer and advocate Kala Sritharan, Indigenous elder Philip Campiou, David Long of King’s University, and MLA David Shepherd.

The panel — which will be moderated by CHED radio host Ryan Jespersen — will tackle some of the thorny themes raised by the documentary “The Mask You Live In” (note the film’s play on the word “masculinity”) that’s being screened at Metro Cinema beforehand.

The documentary explores how gendered expectations constrain and shape the lives of boys and men.

“In North America, we have a fairly strict set of criteria or expectations of what a man should look like,” explained City of Edmonton social worker Michael Hoyt, who helped organize the event in partnership with the group Men Edmonton. “Those look like strength being very important, maybe not valuing authentic friendships, seeing women as objects, and seeing violence as a way of solving conflict."

He said the event aims to foster a “much-needed dialogue” amongst Edmonton men and male-identified residents of the city, and hopefully "expand the definitions" of what it means to be a man to include attributes such as respect, gentleness, nurturing, and compassion when responding to others in distress.

“If your message is (that) men need to be strong, on your game at all times, and to toughen up in the face of adversity, then you have to steel yourself from emotionally connecting when you’re vulnerable.

“The long-term consequence is you have fellows who are islands unto themselves and don’t end up nourturing relationships that can sustain them through times of difficulty.”

Edmonton Eskimos player Ryan King, the CFL team's long snapper, stands on the field at Commonwealth Stadium during a break from shooting a team commercial on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

David P. Ball/Metro

Edmonton Eskimos player Ryan King, the CFL team's long snapper, stands on the field at Commonwealth Stadium during a break from shooting a team commercial on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

Hoyt explained that, to start that needed dialogue, the first step is "to bring out everyone, to reach out to those men who wouldn’t normally attend an event like this."

Although Saturday's event is "different than others" King has done before — he often speaks before junior and high school assemblies, for instance — he told Metro that often participants will approach him afterwards to say, "I have this issue." For him, that's important.

"I'm trying to get as many people on my team as possible," he said, "and hopefully we can fix this problem we have in our city."

The film screening of “The Mask You Live In” and panel discussion will be held Saturday from 4-7 p.m. at Metro Cinema (8712 109 St.). Registration is free and can be found online.

Other resources for men are available at www.menedmonton.org and www.albertamen.com.

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