Being a man is not being thick-skinned, unemotional and dominant, Kyle Rosso, Men and Masculinity Programs educator, said.
The Men and Masculinity Programs are the newest branch of the Gender Equity Center that opened in February. Through discussion groups and events, the programs will help Cal Poly students investigate and create their own definition of masculinity, said Kevin Reel, Men and Masculinity Programs educator.
“Everyone has a different definition of being a man, so we like to ask those who we talk to of what their definitions are, and then pool them together to find out what is consistent across different people,” Reel said.
The programs give men an opportunity to learn more about themselves in a community of men who also want to investigate masculinity. The Gender Equity Center aims to find new qualities of masculinity that will positively affect Cal Poly and the San Luis Obispo community, Rosso said. Through open discussion of topics such as fatherhood, relationships, media influence on masculinity and the prevention of sexual assault, the programs aim to create positive stereotypes of males at Cal Poly and in the community.
The Gender Equity Center opened to promote the inclusion of all genders, and the Men and Masculinity Programs are not reserved exclusively for men. All genders are welcome to participate in discussions and events organized by the Men and Masculinity Programs, Reel said.
“Not only men by sex, but those who portray themselves as of the masculine gender can benefit,” he said.
The concept of masculinity in today’s society is complicated — it no longer has a single definition because society has become more empathetic and tolerant, Rosso said.
“Some individuals say that being a man involves responsibility to others, honesty and a sense of courage,” Rosso said. “Our goal with Men and Masculinity Programs is to help every individual become comfortable with what they love, regardless of stereotypical gender roles.”
One program will look at the influence of media on men. Every man is socialized by the media in different ways, so when the media assigns negative qualities with masculinity, it can have an adverse effect on a man’s character, Reel said. These characteristics of masculinity include being unemotional and stoic, as well as forceful and violent. In some cases, men are oblivious of the fact that they are demonstrating these qualities.
“It’s popular for the media to normalize masculinity as full of potent sexuality and having a potential for violence,” Reel said. “When these ideas are the norm, men can often be boxed into trying to display all of these qualities, even if they are not how they really feel.”
The Man Up Six Week Program will work with SAFER, the sexual assault prevention resource, to teach men what they can do to prevent sexual assaults by discussing a wide variety of issues about what it means to be a man and why men are overwhelmingly responsible for sexual assault.
“Most of the work SAFER does on campus is an exercise in risk reduction for students to avoid being sexually assaulted, but we feel that this is not enough,” Reel said. “We feel that we should be responsible for sexual assault prevention, especially when statistics show that 98 percent of rapes are committed by men.”
Teaching men about preventing sexual assault is another way the programs are promoting a positive definition of masculinity. The inclusion of Men and Masculinity Programs in prevention of sexual assault shows a positive masculinity, Gender Equity Center Coordinator Christina Kaviani said.
“Rather than looking at men as the problem, we want to look at men as more of a solution,” she said.