Schools offer ‘safe spaces’ to combat ‘toxic masculinity’

Anthony Gockowski
Investigative Reporter

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  • Universities across the country are committing to fight "toxic masculinity" this year with conferences and events exploring the allegedly violent tendencies inherent to "manhood."
  • Ithaca College is hosting a workshop on "masculinity and violence" as part of its MLK Day festivities, while Duke University is hosting a nine-week discussion series to explore "how masculinity exists on our campus—often in toxic ways."
  • Several universities are taking advantage of the new year to renew their efforts against “toxic masculinity,” with some schools hosting events that will “construct new futures for masculinities.”

    At Oregon State University, for instance, students are invited to attend a “healthy masculinities conference” where they will “engage in collective imagining to construct new futures for masculinities, unrestricted by power, privilege, and oppression.”

    “Anger is the only emotion that [men] have been socialized to express.”   

    An advertisement for the conference lists several other intended “learning outcomes,” such as examining “the histories and legacies of Eurocentric masculinities and [understanding] how they influenced and continue to shape modern global masculinities.”

    [RELATED: Profs: Orlando massacre caused by ‘toxic masculinity,’ ‘extremist discourses’]

    “Join us in a collective examination of the histories and legacies that shape present day masculinities. Through a day of presentations, panels, workshops, and artistic expression, learn how to engage systems of power,” the advertisement states, noting that students will be allowed to attend free of charge.

    Similarly, Ithaca College will host a workshop on “masculinity and violence” during its MLK Week celebrations, where students will “examine hegemonic masculinity and its role as the wheel that rotates a cycle of violence” while empowering “willing individuals to begin to recognize, acknowledge, own, and disrupt the toxicity of manhood in order to end violence.”

    Duke University’s “Men’s Project,” meanwhile, is looking for applicants for a “nine-week long discussion group” that will also “examine the ways we present—or don’t present—our masculinities, so we can better understand how masculinity exists on our campus—often in toxic ways—and begin the work of unlearning violence.”

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

    “We want to explore, dissect, and construct an intersectional understanding of masculinity and maleness, as well as to create destabilized spaces for those with privilege,” a description of the program explains. “Duke is an environment where some are rarely made uncomfortable while others are made to bear the weight of their identities on a daily basis—we aim to flip that paradigm.”

    Other schools, such as the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Brown University, have long-established centers for men to confront their masculinity, with Brown’s “B Well” center hosting weekly “Masculinity 101” workshops for “students who identify as men.”

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

    “Men will often resort to violence to resolve conflict because anger is the only emotion that they have been socialized to express,” a description for the school’s “Unlearning Toxic Masculinity” initiatives states. “BWell is investing in creating safe spaces for men to unpack all of the things they have learned about masculinity and what it means to be a man. The goal is to help those socialized as men to unlearn some of the notions that have led to such profound harm being enacted towards others and towards themselves.”

    UMass, Amherst, likewise, has a “Men and Masculinities Center” for students to “interrogate and deconstruct traditional forms of masculinity,” even offering a support group for male students “who violated certain aspects of community standards” that “consists of a series of structured activities and conversations designed to get participants to reflect upon their behavior and the ways in which adherence to masculine norms influenced their choices.”

    Campus Reform reached out to each of the other schools mentioned in this story for comment, and will update this story if and when any responses are received.

    UPDATE: Oregon State University informed Campus Reform that this will be the fifth year of its conference, which is "organized and run by students, and funded by student fees." Duke University, on the other hand, told Campus Reform that its Men's Project exists "under the advisement and funding of the Duke Women's Center."

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski



    Anthony Gockowski

    Anthony Gockowski

    Investigative Reporter

    Anthony Gockowski is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. He has previously worked for The Daily Caller, Intercollegiate Review, and The Catholic Spirit.

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