Vanderbilt to put on 'healthy masculinities week'

This Thursday, Vanderbilt University will kick off its “Healthy Masculinities Week,” during which male students will have an opportunity to learn the politically correct way to be masculine.

Healthy Masculinities Week will feature lectures and discussion panels every weekday evening from September 10 through Sept. 17 that will “explore healthy masculinity through various lenses: American society, the gay and bisexual community, fraternities, and more,” according to a news release put out by the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, which is hosting the event series in conjunction with a number of other university-affiliated organizations.

Advertising for the program does not specify what constitutes healthy masculinity, but the schedule of events and the illustration adorning a promotional flier that was emailed to students offer clues.

Kicking off the series is an event entitled “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt [Women] and How All Men Can Help,” featuring Jackson Katz, the author of a book by the same name who describes himself on his website as “one of America’s leading anti-sexist male activists.”

A review of the book that is included on its Amazon listing asserts that “his [Katz’s] intended audience is not violent men who need help changing their ways, but all men, who, he says, have a role to play in preventing male violence against women.” A separate review on the same site elaborates that, “His basic assertion is that rape, battering, sexual abuse and harassment are so widespread that they must be viewed as a social problem rooted in our culture, not as the problem of troubled individuals.”

The illustration promoting the series portrays a male silhouette with a thought bubble listing the phrases “don’t cry,” “have sex,” “major in business,” “play sports,” and “man up.” The phrases are apparently intended as examples of unhealthy masculine societal conventions.

Healthy Masculinities Week will also feature discussions on “Maintaining ‘Bro’ Status,” which will explore “masculinity and mental health” as it relates to fraternities, and “Policing Masculinity in the Gay and Bi Communities.”

Another event, “Masculinity XXL?,” concerns the portrayal of manhood in the movie Magic Mike XXL, which writers for The Atlantic recently praised for the “affirmation of feminism” underlying its portrayal of male strippers.

MRC TV, which originally reported the story, argues that some of the themes featured in the event series seem to contradict the stated purposes of the Women’s Center, which describes itself as “an affirming space for all members of the Vanderbilt community that acknowledges and actively resists sexism, racism, homophobia, and all forms of oppression while advocating for positive social change.”

Rory Dicker, director of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt University, provided the following statement to Campus Reform:

“Because a university is a place dedicated to critical thinking, having a week devoted to an exploration of masculinity will allow the Vanderbilt community to think about how boys and men are pressured to behave, and to consider that sometimes masculine norms, some of which are illustrated in the poster promoting the week’s events, harm men, who aren’t always taught that emotional vulnerability, cooperation, and sensitivity are valuable human traits.”

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