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University program seeks to counter the troubling aspects of 'masculinity

About 100 people gathered on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus Friday, March 4, 2016, to protest the fatal police shooting of 19-year-old Tony Robinson one year ago. They held a rally on Library Mall before marching to the state Capitol. (AP Photo/Bryna Godar)

According to a news letter from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the college is now taking applicants for a six week program that will analyze the troubling aspects of masculinity. The program, called the "Men's Project," is only accepting those who are male or "male identifying," and asks them to take a step by step analysis of how masculinity effects society. The entire program begins with a "retreat" that has groups talking about what masculinity means to them.

“A key element of the program is intersectionality. There isn’t just one masculinity, there are many,” says Sam Johnson, a violence prevention specialist at University Health Services (UHS), one of the campus offices organizing the program. She explained that other components of one’s identity—including religion, sexual orientation, and race—all contribute to individual perceptions and experiences of masculinity.

These perceptions are to focus around how masculinity can become - to use a popular social justice term - toxic, and encourage violence and sexism.

Johnson said one goal for the Men’s Project is to ultimately prevent future violence by teaching participants to recognize warning signs of unhealthy interactions. The program will also give insights to facilitators and staff about perceptions of masculinity and how they impact the student experience, including gender-based violence on campus, alcohol, vulnerability, media sexuality, and relationships.

While the program certainly sounds like it is highly critical of masculinity, Wisconsin-Madison director of news and media relations Meredith McGlone says the purpose of the program is to make sure men feel more represented.

“Recent research suggests college campuses have not effectively addressed [male students’] needs,” says McGlone in an email to College Fix. “Research also indicates that expectations around masculinity impact the way in which men experience college.”

“This can lead to self-destructive behaviors that impair their ability to complete their education,” continued McGlone. “Research indicates that young men are less likely to enroll in and graduate from college, less likely to seek help from campus resources and more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as abusing drugs and alcohol. Research also indicates that programs such as the Men’s Project can counter these negative trends and support college men in their educational experience.”

Many would argue that masculinity isn't to blame for men tending to seek less help from universities. The truth is, men have very little reason to trust colleges to have their best interests at heart. Between programs like the above that are highly critical of their masculinity, to lack of due process for men when it comes to accusations of sexual assault — even if it wasn't their doing — being at a University has become a risky venture for men.

The University of Wisconsin is known for its social justice stances. Not long ago it was withholding credits from students who volunteered at Christian establishments. Students at the college were also openly selling sweatshirts with racist anti-white, and anti-police messages written on them.

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