Student Voices: Men’s Awareness Program
Student group works towards a ‘healthier masculine perspective’
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 11:03
However dimly lit the multipurpose room in the conference room in Suites on Maple East was, it was difficult to formulate a coherent thought let alone speak to a group of men – some friends, some strangers – about my masculinity or even my sexuality. Urges to express my feelings of inadequacy or even loss of masculinity flooded any notions that came to mind as the men discussed gender equality. I wished I could say these things to a woman to achieve a voice of intimacy, and these men were here and willing to listen. Yet, I could not speak.
Things began to change for me near the end of the first meeting of the Men’s Awareness Program (MAP), a group “dedicated to creating a healthier masculine perspective by providing a forum for deeper dialogue and opportunity for outreach,” according to the MAP poster.
Those familiar with the topic shared sociological theory on what it meant to be masculine or how genders related overall. Others contributed their personal experiences, stories about their fathers and other influences growing up from which they have difficulty escaping. Led by Gary Prunty (junior, sociology), MAP does not seek to promote the male gender, but simply understand it better with this open forum of sharing so as to ultimately better equalize all gender.
Prunty explained how patriarchy – a male-dominant social system – hurts everyone. He hopes that MAP will allow men to better understand this and themselves to become better husbands, fathers, boyfriends, brothers or friends.
“I think the majority of people are always searching for intimacy,” Prunty said, “any outlet for that is good.”
Without an outlet, like each other according to the meeting, men can be terribly hurt by withholding their feelings from men who might understand them the best. Gender inequality, manifested in turning to the opposite gender to share intimacy in this case, therefore, hurts men as well as women.
Without such an outlet myself, I progressively became aware of my own misunderstanding of masculinity throughout the meeting of MAP. I began to recognize the inequality I might have been experiencing over the past half-year that led me to feelings of inadequacy.
Joe Nelis (graduate, literature) said after the meeting had dismissed that this understanding can be a huge moment for a person. In his studies, he asks about the presence of gender or lack thereof in a story.
“Once you see that presence,” Nelis said, “it becomes much more present in the world around you.”
In the past, I have felt guilty to feel emotionally burdened because I am a man, possibly considered of a privileged class. Yet, at the conclusion of MAP, I found my voice, having recognized the inequalities and my misconceptions concerning my gender.
There are different types of masculinity, the group explained, and the emotional catharsis that I sought in the group would, they said, be absolutely possible. My introspection, however difficult, was worthwhile.
“Its problematic,” Prunty said about this kind of group and inquiry into individuals’ gender, “but you should still look at it.”
MAP will meet bimonthly to hold academic and personal discussions about masculinity, and looks forward to hosting an assortment of social outings as they introduce the group to campus.