Hegemonic masculinity. This complicated phrase was broken down by the Gender Equity Center’s quarterly event, “Phallacies: Who wears the Pants?” on Tuesday night in the Julian A. McPhee University Union. This comedy theater dialogue brought issues of stereotypical masculinity to light through a combination of skits, videos and monologues followed by a group discussion.
“Comedy is something that people really gravitate toward, so it’s a really cool community building tool,” Gender Equity Center Americorp member Nick Bilich said. “Sharing a laugh with someone is really bonding. We want to build a community around the information.”
Phallacies started at the University of Massachusetts. It was brought to Cal Poly’s campus this past winter quarter, with some of the original troupe performing one skit that was followed by a breakout dialogue session.
Some may compare the event to “The Vagina Monologues,” but the skits performed at “Phallacies” are all original skits written by students and staff members at the Gender Equity Center.
“We don’t have a lot of consistency with who is writing the scripts which is cool because the script writing process itself is educational,” Bilich said. “You can dialogue with someone and figure out how to educate through comedy.”
Each quarter, “Phallacies” centers around a different topic. In the past few quarters, topics included the “bro code,” men’s health and intimacy barriers. Tuesday’s topic was the dynamic between women and men in relationships and who holds the power in those relationships.
In one skit, “Celebrity Jeopardy,” students dressed up as Mike “The Situation,” Sean Connery and the feminist meme version of Ryan Gosling answered questions about sexual consent, communication in relationships and many other topics.
Another skit, “Coming Home,” delved into sharing one’s sex life with friends and how social pressures affect that conversation. In the dialogue session after, one audience member commented that he felt like his living room was on the stage during the skit.
“’The Vagina Monologues’ is a lot more in-depth than we can get in an hour and a half, but it is cool that people come back so that we can continue the dialogue,” Bilich said.
The audience was a mix of old familiars and new audience members. The Gender Equity Center members welcomed both.
“It has grown to a lot of new people and it’s awesome to see that there is consistently a new crowd of people that haven’t come before,” male educator at the Gender Equity Center and mechanical engineering sophomore Logan Cooper said. “It’s good to feel that we are reaching a new audience.”
One of those new audience members, architectural engineering sophomore Katherine Schrotberger, has not attended a “Phallacies” event, but she has attended the Gender Equity Center’s “Let’s Talk about Sex” meetings in the past.
“I was impressed by the number of people that came out,” Schrotberger said. “It’s nice to see that there are a lot of guys involved in talking about it.”
The audience was approximately an even split between male and females. All audience members were encouraged to share their viewpoints about the skits and the topic of masculinity after the performances.
“We always complain about what guys do like, ‘I can’t believe you did that,’” she said. “But if you get more awareness about it, things will change. It only takes one voice to be heard by a lot of people to change things.”
The Gender Equity Center originally started as the Women’s Center but the name was changed in 2011 to reflect the entire gender spectrum.
“We wanted to be a gender identity education center that talks about masculinity, femininity, transgender — the whole gender experience,” Bilich said.
The center focuses on educational presentations, awareness campaigns as as “Movember” that raises awareness for prostate cancer and current event workshops that have to do with gender.
“We try to always have a dialogue with our events and it takes a little while for everyone to warm up but once it gets going it’s great because these issues affect everyone,” Cooper said. “It’s good that people can get talking about masculinity, the social pressures people face and where they come from.”
While talking about these issues is one thing, the overarching vision and heartbeat of the center is changing strongly engrained social stigmas.
“We want to put information into action,” Bilich said. “That’s what we really want to encourage people to do. We talked about it, now go live it.”