There is a growing movement across America that engages men on university campuses to “rethink” their masculinity. Courses and programs are being offered including the Men’s Project at the University of Wisconsin, Masculinity 101 at Brown, and the Duke Men’s Project at Duke University. The goal of these courses is to help men examine their own biases and behaviors so that they can stop misogyny and gender-based violence.
The Duke University Program, the Duke Men’s Project, is sponsored by the Duke Women’s Center and is now in its second year. It is designed to combat “toxic masculinity” and the harmful narratives about gender roles that are prevalent on campus. According to the Facebook description, Duke is accepting applications for male students who are interested in increasing “male allyship in gender equity and gender violence prevention.”
The nine-week program will “unpack expressions of masculinity through a feminist lens.” The Project is designed to “call men into conversations about feminism and gender oppression,” while creating “a space of brotherhood and fellowship dedicated to interrogating male privilege and patriarchy.”
Those who have created the project believe there is a “misinformed narrative that gender equity and feminism hurts men,” and that conversations about the appropriate limits of masculinity can empower men. The program will highlight issues related to patriarchy, white supremacy, heterosexism, cissexism, and rape culture.
In Washington D.C., Stephen Hicks signed up for a “Rethink Masculinity” class sponsored by the Washington, D.C., Rape Crisis Center, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, and ReThink, an organization that works to prevent sexual assault. This program is designed so that men can “learn how social constructs of masculinity harm them and the people around them, and work to construct healthier masculinities.” Or, as Hicks said, “It was eight weeks of guys discussing how they can address their actions with better self-awareness and less toxicity.”
Many believe that these classes are vital in light of the recent revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults on many women. The question is, can a class tackle such a pervasive problem so deeply entrenched in our culture? Eric Mankowski, associate chair of the psychology department at Portland State University and head of the school’s Gender and Violence Intervention Research Team, said about such programs, “We don’t know whether they prevent sexual violence. Some studies show promising effects on attitudes and behavior intentions, but a single class is unlikely to undo years of socialization in toxic masculinity.”
For Stephen Hicks, he said that since taking his “Rethink Masculinity” class, he feels he has “been more deliberate about expressing emotions and making space for people.” After taking the class, the leaders asked him to become a co-director of the program.
What do you think about this growing trend to “Rethink Masculinity?”