Traditional masculinity is defined as a burly, rugged man, playing contact sports and dining on red meat, according to Carl Olsen, program coordinator for men’s programming and violence prevention at Women and Gender Advocacy Center (WGAC).
That is a version of masculinity, one that has been taught since birth.
Men in the Movement is a program offered by WGAC for students who identify as male.
“We talk a lot about the messages we get growing up about what it means to be a dude, what it means to be a man,” Olsen said.
The program challenges male students to rethink traditional masculinity and how that version of masculinity is related to gender based violence.
“It’s really, really harmful for women and the women in our lives, that version of masculinity,” said Christopher Leck, mental health counselor. “It’s just as harmful for the men but people don’t look at the consequences for men.”
According to Olsen, gender violence is prevalent anywhere and combating that violence starts with education.
“(Men in the Movement) should be a requirement that this campus offers,” Leck said. “There are lots of men who don’t feel comfortable with the way things are going right now.”
Men in the Movement meets every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Behavioral Sciences Building, room 105. The sessions are closed, but every four weeks an open session is offered to anyone who would like to join.
The sessions are closed to help create a safe space for the members.
“What we’ve discovered is that men tend to open up more or feel more comfortable speaking when there’s continuity from week to week,” Olsen said. “They tend to open up more, trust more, and so that’s part of the reason why we have closed sessions.”
Men in the Movement covers a variety of gender based topics ranging from comic book heroes to consent, but this is just a small portion of work that WGAC is doing around campus to reshape perceptions.
According to Olsen, WGAC has put on 71 programs campus wide since the start of the semester and have reached 2,000 students.
“I think the bigger thing is that we are trying to find and take advantage of any open pockets on campus that are wanting to have a conversation and knowing it’s not a static sort of experience,” said Kathy Sisneros, director of WGAC.
Outside of Men in the Movement, groups such as fraternities, athletics, Resident Life and health and exercise sciences have received workshops or programming related to masculinity from male members of WGAC.
“Once we’re able to hire someone who identifies as male on our staff, doors on campus open to us that weren’t open before,” Sisneros said. “Just to be able to have a male engaging in conversations with other male students is tremendous and there’s a want for it.”
According to Leck, a program such as Men in the Movement is invaluable because it’s a safe space to explore a new version of masculinity.
“My advice would be there’s more of us out there than you think and stay strong and surround yourself with those other people as well,” Leck said. “The other piece of advice I would say is it’s hard trying to be a pro-feminist man. So what? Get over it, the world still needs you to be active.”
Collegian Senior Reporter Lawrence Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.