UW program explores dangers of masculinity

Amber Athey
Investigative Reporter

  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison will soon launch its “Men’s Project,” a six-week program that promises to tackle harmful definitions of masculinity and the violence they allegedly cause.
  • The program is available to students who "identify as men," and "operates on a transformative model of social justice allyship."
  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison will soon launch its “Men’s Project,” a six-week program that promises to tackle harmful definitions of masculinity and the violence they allegedly cause.

    “Men-identified students” can apply to join the program, where participants enter a space for “critical self-reflection” so that they can both challenge traditional views of masculinity and promote gender equity, The College Fix reports.

    “The program operates on a transformative model of social justice allyship.”   

    “The program operates on a transformative model of social justice allyship,” explains a news release from UW-Madison. “First, facilitators ask students to consider how the students’ opinions about masculinity affect their own perceptions every day. Second, they consider how those opinions affect the people around them.”

    [RELATED: Claremont students: masculinity is ‘toxic to our mental health’]

    One goal of the project, said Sam Johnson, a violence prevention specialist at the University Health Services, is to “prevent future violence” by analyzing “unhealthy interactions” caused by traditional perceptions of masculinity and their role in gender-based violence, alcohol, and relationships.

    The Men’s Project, which is in its second year of operation, begins with a weekend retreat and then continues with six weekly meetings lasting two hours each.

    According to past participants of the program, the Project helped them become more vulnerable and make masculinity a “choice” rather than the default option.

    [RELATED: California university seeks to ‘deconstruct’ masculinity]

    “I realized vulnerability can be a choice you make actively,” said one participant. “You can choose not to identify with certain types of masculinity and identify with parts you want to. I feel like when masculinity becomes a choice as opposed to something people are telling you to do, you live such a better life.”

    University of Wisconsin-Madison Director of News and Media relations Meredith McGlone told The Fix that traditional conceptions of masculinity can negatively impact male students.

    “Men are socialized to believe they need to act a certain way to be accepted as ‘masculine’ or have what it takes to be a man,” she asserted. “This can lead to self-destructive behaviors that impair their ability to complete their education. Research indicates that young men are less likely to enroll in and graduate from college, less likely to seek help from campus resources, and more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as abusing drugs and alcohol.”

    [RELATED: UW course to explore the ‘Problem of Whiteness’]

    According to the news release for the Men’s Project, UW-Madison has launched similar efforts before, such as a two-credit course in the School of Social Work called “Greek Men for Violence Prevention” that has been offered for more than 10 years.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @amber_athey





    Amber Athey

    Amber Athey

    Investigative Reporter

    Amber Athey is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. She graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and Economics, and is currently a member of the 2016-2017 Koch Associate Program. 

    More By Amber Athey

    Latest 20 Articles