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Ambassador Malcolm Astley

Malcolm Astley

Malcolm Astley

Counselor & Violence Prevention Activist

“We need to invite boys and men to join in bringing this violence to a halt, a violence left over from past historical eras and practices and now stands in the way of our progress as a people and a culture.”

Malcolm Astley’s life has seemingly always revolved around education and psychology. Astley’s mother and father, a psychiatric social worker and psychiatrist respectively, had cultivated in him a curiosity for “the way people tick.” He had a deep desire to understand how pain and hardship are experienced internally. In his roles as teacher, counselor and school principle, Malcolm was also driven by a deeply held passion for equality and justice regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or other background.

Malcolm Astley In the summer of 2011, Malcolm’s daughter, a recent high school graduate, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. This tragedy galvanized him to become better educated on men and boys’ violence against women, and the “equally if not more problematic” problem of men and boys’ violence against themselves. While educating himself in the culture and psychology of gender roles and their ramifications, he found a parallel in the movement to pass the 19th amendment which required that men needed to use their power to support the vote for women. He came to understand the importance of men’s involvement in the movement to end gender based violence as also requiring that “men share power with women if we’re going to be a healthy society, an effective society.”

Malcolm feels that the Campaign gives him a strong base for support and activism. He has become a passionate activist for education and prevention work with young people, using his late daughter’s “we can fix this” approach to motivate him and others. “There are clear signs that we can widen gender roles, build empathy, and produce more confident kids with a wider repertoire of social skills—skills in working with themselves: that too has to be part of the agenda. We need to learn and be taught and have conversation about coping with ourselves.”.

Malcolm Astley He believes the problem lies deeply entrenched in our culture; when a man’s role is defined almost exclusively as being tough and strong, anything outside of that is “not masculine.” Conversely, if being a woman means being emotional, affectionate and nurturing, boys learn masculinity and manliness must be in direct opposition of any behavior deemed as stereotypically feminine. This limited concept of masculinity restricts men’s ability to be emotional, which he recognizes is a crucial and transformative part of life. “Men in our culture, in many cultures, end up cut off and isolated. They see the expression of feelings or deep questions as being a sign of weakness,” says Malcolm. He goes on to explain, “Boys and men are often trapped in that equation in our culture. When they are confronted with strong emotion and hurt, they feel shame for their sentiments and subsequently transform emotions into physicality, violence, and anger. This shame and suppression also perpetuates self-doubt. The very solution for freeing men of that shame is what they avoid most: safe places where young people can talk about their deep questions and their concerns and worries.”

At a recent press conference held by Attorney General Maura Healey to announce the new range of primary prevention initiatives sponsored in part by Bob Kraft and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, Malcolm said, “We need to invite boys and men to join in bringing this violence to a halt, a violence left over from past historical eras and practices and now in the way of our progress as a people and a culture.” His advocacy on these issues successfully led to state funding for pilot programs in healthy relationships and violence prevention beginning in 5th to 12th grade. One goal is to help teens cope with the pain and emotional upset of a relationship breakup.

By sharing his story and message through platforms like the WRD Campaign and his work with youth, Malcolm strives to undo the harm created by unhealthy norms of masculinity. His philosophy is that to address the cultural problem of men’s violence against women, we must train youth and all of us to live more open, loving, respecting lives.