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  • Jonathan Isserow

Men-Identified Group work at Oxfam with Sebastián Molano

It is rare to meet someone who radiates warmth and generosity in a way that restores your sense of humanity. Meeting Sebastián was one of those encounters. It was also a fantastic way to kick-start my second leg of the Churchill Fellowship. Sebastián is the gender advisor for Oxfam, located in Boston where he has established a long running men-identified group that explores notions of masculinity, along with how gender intersects with a range of indices such as power, race, sexuality and identity. The group began in person pre-Covid and has continued online since the pandemic. The co-constructed and participatory nature of the group is informative regarding a possible intervention that I may make back the UK. Sebastián shared insights and practices that support and sustain a work-based lunch-time gender intervention. In particular, what is helpful to keep in mind are the notions of avoiding strict binaries and being curious — rather than defensive — about radically different perspectives. This seems key to possibly include more men in the progressive conversation. It is also important to acknowledge the multiplicity of experiences of group members who might take time to dive deeper into the waters of vulnerability, emotional literacy and connection. Patience is required to nudge and challenge more-traditional notions of gender roles. Everyone has their own starting point in this game!.

In addition to his work at Oxfam, Sebastián also situates himself as a pro-feminist father and has consistently advocated for gender equity in the organisation, including the importance of paternity leave. His moving experiences of fatherhood, along with his thoughtful reflections, can be found on his website Defying Gender Roles. It makes for rich, juicy reading and deeply informative of his honest journey and struggles. Thank you so much, Sebastián for making time to meet and inform my understanding of gender equity, its relationship to mens' mental health, and the possible interventions to bring about change in this space. To find out more about Sebastián's work, visit: Defying Gender Roles. You can also listen to a podcast on his work through the Men at Work, Men at Home: Advancing Feminist Social Change podcast by the wonderful work of Sandy Ruxton & Stephen Burrell. Other resources include his Ted X talk

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