09 Oct, 2020 Last updated: 08 Oct, 2020

Simple language changes can make a big difference when it comes to communicating with people about outdated masculine stereotypes.

VicHealth’s Framing Masculinity Message Guide lays out some simple language changes which can help reach men and boys. Macedon Ranges Health has been one of the first organisations to put the guide into practice, using it to shape their messaging when recruiting for the Macedon Challenging Stereotypes Working Group.


How the VicHealth’s Framing Masculinity Message Guide helps you connect with your audience on the topic of masculinity

Deepa Patel is a Suicide Prevention Project Officer with Macedon Ranges Health. She believes the guide helped in effectively engaging with potential audiences when recently looking for men to join the Challenging Stereotypes Working Group.

“It was really useful to be able to hold a mirror up to our wording and make sure it stood up against the findings which the guide is based on,” Deepa explained.

“For example, the tips on what language to use when engaging with younger men, referencing ‘outdated masculinity’ rather than ‘traditional masculinity’. It can be difficult to pick up the nuances like these [without a guide to help you], but they are important in helping your target audience engage with your message.”

When communicating with the public on a topic like masculinity, it’s important to remember that the words we all use as professionals on a daily basis may not be the most effective.

For example, replacing ‘toxic masculinity’ with ‘unhealthy or harmful masculine stereotypes’ can be beneficial because people often have pre-conceived ideas of what ‘toxic masculinity’ is.


How a change in language got the Macedon community on board

Opening up conversations about gender stereotypes is the first step in enabling people to connect to issues of masculinity, health and wellbeing. Using language that brings the community onboard provides a greater opportunity to have constructive conversations around masculine stereotypes.

This also ties into the concept of ‘social norming’ which is covered in the guide. Social norming simply means that if people know an idea is supported by others, they are more likely to accept that idea themselves.

For example, the guide suggests rather than talking about outdated stereotypes as being difficult to shift, talk about the overwhelming support in the community for change.

Deepa says this advice had an immediate effect for Macedon Ranges Health.

“We had an amazing response and received 15 expressions of interest from young people to join the working group in a short space of time,” she said.

“Interestingly their responses about why they wanted to be involved used similar language to that suggested in the guide, which confirms that language resonated with them.”


How to use the Framing Masculinity Message Guide to get your organisation and audience on board

Those in a position to lead discussions about masculine stereotypes within an organisation may be hesitant about where to start.

The guide presents a 3-step approach to this: vision, barrier and action. This method takes your audience on a journey where you explain your vision, what things are in the way of that vision and what needs to be done to remove those barriers.

VicHealth’s Framing Masculinity Message Guide is designed to be that starting point in re-shaping the viewpoints which can often surround gender stereotypes. It can act as a framework for engaging with all stakeholders and people, not just men.

"Having an evidence-based resource is an important foundation to build your communication on if you want to successfully engage men," Deepa said.


“The guide can be used as an enabling tool to prompt, test and support your thinking on how you communicate your messaging in a meaningful way. I think the guide can also be used to help educate stakeholders around some of the nuances in this work which are not always apparent.

“It would be a great tool for all communications teams to have within their own organisational guidelines.”


Tips for breaking free of masculine stereotypes

  1. Use the new VicHealth Framing Masculinity Message Guide –  an ideal starting point for people who want to build community support for changing outdated masculine stereotypes
  2. Utilise social norming to encourage new thinking around masculinity. The more people who embrace these concepts, the more accepted and normalised it becomes
  3. Follow the guide’s 3-step approach on how to effectively engage communities on the topic of masculinity
  4. Consider using VicHealth’s 2 new masculinities videos to support your communication efforts. These have been developed using the language from the guide.


Watch VicHealth video for teachers, coaches and youth workers: Breaking free from gender stereotypes


Watch VicHealth video for boys: Breaking free from outdated rules