As a lot of people that are in student affairs, I am at the #NASPA12 conference this week in Phoenix, AZ. I had the amazing opportunity before the actual conference started to participate in one of the pre-conference workshops sponsored by the Men and Masculinities Knowledge Community. I had never done a pre-con before, but I think I am hooked and will try to do more in the future, and maybe even present one at some point. It was a great opportunity to dive into a topic area and get the ins and outs of the research, discussion, and ideas surrounding Creating and Sustaining Men’s Groups on Campus. There was a great group of scholars and practitioners there to share their knowledge. The things I learned there, and the takeaways are still running through my head. I think this will probably be the first of many posts on masculinity coming up on tomLfritz.com, so I hope you enjoy this topic as much as I do.
Hyper-masculinity. The concept was new to me as I heard it in the pre-con. It basically means that at times, males will exhibit strongly stereotypical traits in order to show the world that he is a man. It’s the idea that guys only get together, get in fights, eat bacon, and look for women. The concept got me thinking, how often do we use hyper-masculinity as a program topic or draw to start the discussion around gender identity and expression? How many have seen, or approved, a program where a male RA will host a Halo Tournament, or steak BBQ, or football party, and then once they are there, start a discussion about alternate views of masculinity? I know I have seen this before.
And it isn’t always bad. We get the macho guys and ones that would normally not come to programs out and talking about healthy ways to “be a man” that don’t involve punching things, or people, and they have some fun. Let’s face it, promoting a program on masculine identity called “come out and break stereotypes by talking about your feelings” doesn’t have the same ring to it. I have seen several times when these programs have been very successful, and the conversation has been eye opening. But there is a problem with making this your soul point of entry into the topic.
The only people that show up are the ones that express themselves that way already. There are plenty of men who are into theater, or singing, or all sorts of other things, and wouldn’t be drawn into a program where you watch football, play video games, eat steaks and cook bacon. These are the men that would bring an entire new dimension to the conversation.
Does this mean you should not approve any bacon programs, or game watches, or other hyper-masculine programs? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. But, if you have a student that is interested in encouraging discussions around gender identity and expression, challenge them to allow for more than one point of entry. Hyper-masculinity can be one entry, but cannot be the only one.
How are you working with students, or what strategies have you used that have been successful in talking about gender expression?