Hayley James

The Female Phenomenon

by hayley_anne_james01/03/2010

I am a youth worker for an outreach project in Wigan. We have a double decker bus which has been remodelled as a mobile youth centre. Weekday evenings we travel to different places where young people hang out and spend an evening with them. They use the activities we offer, we get to chat with them and share a coffee, or hot chocolate in most cases. Quite suprisingly the bus seems to attract a large number of young males around the age of 15-17.

Tonight was no exception, we had a large group of lads join us for the evening. However as the night came to a close and we were packing up to leave, things became interesting. The young people who had engaged well with us all evening, were now beginning to behave less than approriately. When challenged on their behaviour by the male leaders they reacted confrontationally and were quite agressive.

As the lead worker for the project (and the only female leader in tonights team) I stepped in to diffuse the situation. What really suprised me was the way the young men reacted to me. Although they were still unhappy with the situation and still fairly verbal in their complaints, there was no aggression or physical intimidation towards me, when just moments earlier they had been ready to fight the other male workers. Instead there was an almost protective edge to their attitude.

This got me thinking about the unique position we as female youth workers have to encourage, challenge and empower the young men we work with. Is our 'femaleness' a strength rather than a weakness in working in these situations? Does the fact that we are women give us an advantage? Does it open doors in working with young men that might remain closed otherwise?

I don't really have the answers to these questions. However reflecting over my time with this project, some of the best work (and best conversations), I have been involved in, have been with groups of young men just like those this evening. Some of the biggest life changes I have witnessed have been in lads just like these. I don't really know if there is anything as such as the female phenomenon, but I do believe that me being a woman was very beneficial this evening, for the whole group, workers and young people alike.

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Youth Work

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