Men and Masculinity Program | Courtesy Photo

From Feb. 12 to Feb. 15, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) partnered with Safer and Cal Poly’s Men and Masculinity program to facilitate the first Healthy Masculinities Week on campus.

It consisted of four days of events designed to explore society’s definitions of masculinity and help men on campus embrace their own healthy masculinity. The week kicked off Monday and Tuesday with a booth in the University Union (UU) Plaza where students could share their definitions of healthy masculinity and learn about the resources available on campus.

On Wednesday, there was a screening of “The Mask You Live In,” a documentary showing healthy masculinity and exploring America’s definition of masculinity. After the movie, attendees broke into groups to discuss how the documentary applied to their own lives.

A panel of Cal Poly staff members shared their journeys of becoming a man to close out the week.

“I think masculinity is kind of taken as this one cookie cutter guy and what we kind of want to promote throughout the week is that there’s many ways to show healthy masculinity,” biomedical engineering senior and IFC Vice President of Public Relations Hudson Albert said. “For me personally, I think it’s a lot of transparency in one’s own emotions. I think a lot of guys tend to hide their emotions and think that it’s unmanly to show emotion. I think a guy who can be comfortable with expressing his emotions is healthy masculinity.”

Albert also said it is necessary for men to take a step back and internalize what it means to be masculine in a healthy way. It is important to acknowledge that healthy masculinity looks like many different things. Albert said he hoped participants are able to realize this through the events taking place throughout Healthy Masculinities Week.

The Men and Masculinity program was founded in October 2016 to engage with male-identifying students regarding gender-based violence to create positive gender norms on campus and respond to men involved in incidents of gender-based violence with restorative support. According to their website, Men and Masculinity fulfills this mission through education, advocacy and mentorship. Men and Masculinity Program Coordinator Nick Bilich said the way one can express their masculinity in a healthy way parallels to the way one can be a healthy human.

“[The characteristics of healthy masculinity] are not necessarily gender-specific,” Bilich said. “I think if we’re talking about what does it look like for people who identify as men — as masculine to be healthy, there are some really important things to focus on: empathy, compassion, realizing your power and privilege and how that impacts the people around you and how you leverage that.”

Bilich expressed that having this discussion regarding healthy masculinity is necessary on college campuses because college consists of formative years in which students are developing their identities. He also said it is important to combat toxic masculinity given the prevalence of sexual assault at universities. According to Bilich, toxic masculinity can contribute to the culture of sexual assault by reinforcing the notion that masculinity is defined through aggression and dominance.

Toxic masculinity is something Healthy Masculinities Week aims to tackle to bring awareness to the problems it perpetuates, such as sexual assault.

Sociology sophomore Hunter Helfgott is a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and part of the Men and Masculinity program.

“I see toxic masculinity as things that are detrimental to society and the things around you: having to hide your emotions, not being able to be open, feeling like you have to prove yourself as better than others,” Helfgott said.

By providing an opportunity for masculine students and students who identify as men to reflect on their own masculinity and identity, IFC, Men and Masculinity and Safer brought attention to shaping healthy masculinity. 

“I think this event specifically is a big deal because it’s not something that is often talked about,” Albert said.

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