What does it mean to “be a man?”

By Anya Dussault | News Editor

Approximately half of the student population at Roger Williams University identify as male, and many of these individuals possess varying ideas regarding what “being masculine” should look like.

It begs the question: What does it mean to be a man in the United States today? Although the discourse is slowly changing and evolving, there are still expectations rooted in historically set binary gender roles that create expectations for both men and women.

In an effort to educate members of the campus community about masculinity and the implications of society’s view of it, Residence Life and Housing hosted a panel event titled “Changing the Culture: Masculinity” on Tuesday, Oct. 24.

The event was moderated by Noah Pushor, a Resident Assistant (RA) in Almeida as well as a member of the Ten Men project. The three featured panelists were: Antonio da Veiga Rocha, the Boys and Men Prevention Specialist for Day One, which is a rape crisis center; Lee Clasper Torch, the Men’s Engagement Coordinator for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Corey Brown, an RWU Coordinator of Residence Education (CORE) and the advisor of the Locker Room men’s group on campus.

The Ten Men project is an initiative under the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence organization. Each year, ten men gather to discuss the issues surrounding domestic violence and propose ways to help fight and/or prevent it.

“We’ve come here to break the silence, to get a conversation going, to hear your questions and thoughts, and to be part of the solution,” said Pushor.

After sharing a couple of relevant quotes and video clips, Pushor posed some questions to the panel involving the current perception of masculinity in society and a definition for toxic masculinity.

“I think we are in a stage right now where we are testing old masculinity,” Da Veiga Rocha said. “We’re kind of tempting spaces where things were once commonly practiced, but for a while have been kind of heavily monitored, and I think a lot of that has been coming into the common space.”

According to the panelists, when masculinity hinders conversation, it begins to become toxic. The panelists shared their own experiences of growing up with what many view as the destructive socialization of teaching children to follow strict gender rules.

Other relevant topics discussed at the event included: power structures, different forms of abuse – physical, sexual, economic, emotional, etc., and the intersectionality between toxic masculinity and sexuality.

Sophomore Andrea MacLeod, one of the students in attendance, shared that she has always found the relationship between toxicity and perceived masculinity to be particularly fascinating.

“I thought it would be interesting to hear perspectives that are not my own and not by other women, to hear men actually talk about it,” said MacLeod.

Surprised at the higher number of males who attended the event, MacLeod drew on her own experiences in learning about male attitudes.

“I have the assumption that guys’ masculinity is more fragile, so they’re not going to go to something like this, but this shows how much they aren’t scared to stand up for that sort of stuff,” she added.

The panelists concluded the event with a call to action for the members of the audience. They urged students to pay closer attention to phrases encouraging people to act like a certain gender and, upon hearing these distinctions, to say something about it.

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