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Male college students to undergo ‘critical self-reflection’ of masculinity

‘Goal is to create a sense of security in vulnerability …’ 

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is currently taking applications for its “Men’s Project,” a six-week program that aims to counter the alleged harmful effects of society’s masculinity paradigms and pressures and empower participants to promote “gender equity.”

“Men’s Project creates a space for critical self-reflection and dialogue about what it means to be a man and how masculinity impacts us and those around us,” organizers state in promoting the effort.

“The experience focuses on the examination of societal images, expectations, and messages around masculinity to empower men to better understand themselves, promote the advancement of gender equity, and raise consciousness in their communities,” organizers add.

It’s open only to “men-identified students” at the public university and “operates on a transformative model of social justice allyship,” according to a news release on the university’s website, which adds “by encouraging that kind of dialogue among a men-identified cohort, the goal is to create a sense of security in vulnerability throughout the six-week program.”

Participants will begin the project with a weekend retreat in February and continue meeting weekly, discussing topics such as media and pop culture, vulnerability, sexuality, hook-up culture, alcohol, relationships and violence.

The program is now in its second year and was most recently offered in fall 2016, according to its Facebook page.

In an email to The College Fix, the University of Wisconsin-Madison director of news and media relations Meredith McGlone said the project serves an important purpose.

“Recent research suggests college campuses have not effectively addressed [male students’] needs,” she stated. “Research also indicates that expectations around masculinity impact the way in which men experience college.”

McGlone suggested typical understandings of masculinity can effect male students in a negative way.

“These expectations influence the decisions men make about friendships; spending time outside of class; careers or academic majors; and sexual and romantic relationships. 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 told The Fix.

“This can lead to self-destructive behaviors that impair their ability to complete their education,” she continued. “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. Research also indicates that programs such as the Men’s Project can counter these negative trends and support college men in their educational experience.”

Asked to define vulnerability in the context of the program, McGlone told The Fix it’s “one of the discussion topics related to male stereotypes. Students consider if they struggle with being vulnerable and how it might impact their relationships and actions.”

According to McGlone, there were no specific incidents which spurred the development of this program.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is not the only university offering such a program. Many other campuses, both public and private across the nation, now offer programs, trainings, guest lectures and other educational techniques that seek to purge male students of their so-called toxic masculinity.

MORE: Students told term ‘be a man’ represents toxic masculinity

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About the Author
Jeremy studies English and Philosophy at the University of Mobile and works as a communications assistant with the Downtown Mobile Alliance, an economic development agency in downtown Mobile, AL. He contributes regularly to both The College Fix and The College Conservative, and has been published on AL.com and in the Alabama Baptist Newspaper. Some of his major interests include American politics, philosophy of religion, language, and literature.

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