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Vandy’s ‘Healthy Masculinities Week’ Has Some Interesting Notions about Men

Vanderbilt University’s Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center is hosting a “Healthy Masculinities Week” in order to explore “healthy masculinity through various lenses: American society, the gay and bisexual community, fraternities, and more.”

Um, alright.

But based on the poster for the event, it seems, at least at first glance, that the group might have some strange ideas about what constitutes “unhealthy masculinity.”

Mixed in among statements such as “don’t cry” and “man up” (which sound like they’re being uttered by a villain from The Karate Kid) are phrases such as “have sex,” “major in business,” and “play sports.”

Vanderbilt.edu/WomensCenter

Vanderbilt.edu/WomensCenter

It didn’t take long for right-wing blogs to jump on the poster.

“Are you a man who majored in business because it interested you or because you felt it would lead to a great career?” wrote Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner. “That may be an unhealthy form of masculinity, according to a series of seminars… from the Vanderbilt University Women’s Center.”

“Judging from some fo the topics, replacing traditional masculine values with male characteristics more amenable to feminists and other men-haters,” wrote the American Thinker. The typo in that quote is theirs. The rest are all mine.

And to be fair, the poster certainly lends itself to some criticism. After all, do “sports,” “sex,” and “business” really deserve to be labeled as negative aspects of masculinity?

However, a representative from Vanderbilt was kind enough to talk with me earlier today, and said “the words were simply meant to illustrate some masculine norms.” I was also provided with the following statement from Rory Dicker, director of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center that’s hosting “Healthy Masculinities Week.”

Because a university is a place dedicated to critical thinking, having a week devoted to an exploration of masculinity will allow the Vanderbilt community to think about how boys and men are pressured to behave, and to consider that sometimes masculine norms, some of which are illustrated in the poster promoting the week’s events, harm men, who aren’t always taught that emotional vulnerability, cooperation, and sensitivity are valuable human traits.

After reading the statement, I highly doubt the organizers were trying to say that “sports,” “sex,” and “business” majors were negative aspects of masculinity. Rather, they’re trying to say that pressure to conform to these norms are negative.

Even so, in 2015, is it even fair to label “sports,” “sex,” or “business” as a “masculine norm” given the strides women have made in all three areas? And even if there is more pressure on men, does it really come at the expense of emotional vulnerability, cooperation and sensitivity?

While I can’t speak for all men (unlike the poster), I can say I felt pressure to join a sports team and major in computer science (I switched majors anyway). But that’s because my parents wanted me to get off their couch and make enough money to afford food and shelter. It had very little to do with the fact that I have a penis.

And as far as the idea of “masculine norms” pressuring men to have sex is concerned, I can say that in my own extremely limited experience, biological pressures are far, far greater.

(Sources: Vanderbilt.edu, MRCTV)

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