By Robert Leitner
The connection between stereotypical ideas of masculinity and violence, showing that men are the highest perpetrators of violent crimes, was the subject of Masculinity Mayhem, an event held by The Men’s Project in the Fireside Lounge on March 9.
The Men’s Project is looking to develop a group of men on campus of high moral character who understand the relationship between masculinity and violence. Senior sociology major Joshua Bonaparte is trying to start The Men’s Project on campus to advocate against sexual assault, domestic abuse and other forms of violence.
“Males confront messages [from society] encouraging them to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic relationships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence,” said Bonaparte. “The way the group plans to advocate against these actions is through education and creating a dialogue about these subjects rather than being a silent bystander.”
In order to discuss how masculinity can be associated with violence, people should know what masculinity is, Bonaparte explained.
“Webster defines masculinity as having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man,” said Bonaparte. “Now, what exactly would you say some of those qualities are?”
Students at the event answered with: strong, aggressive, protective and athletic. Bonaparte welcomed these answers because they were all a part of the “Man Box” — a theoretical box of stereotypical manly traits, with characteristics that are not considered masculine on the outside.
“These [traits] are a perceived notion based off of how we are socialized, and it gives us an understanding of what the dominant ideology of masculinity is,” said Bonaparte. “In the community today, if you don’t fit in this box as a man, then you get ostracized and called certain names that are outside of the box. This is an example of socialization.”
Bonaparte defined socialization as a process where an individual acquires an identity, and then learns the norms, values, behaviors and social skills relative to that social position. The social position that was the most important to this discussion was gender.
Bonaparte cited studies showing that this type of masculinity can lead to more violence.
In order to challenge these negative messages and to make progress in changing the idea of masculinity, Bonaparte stressed the importance of advocating this topic. Susan Stahley, substance abuse and sexual assault prevention coordinator, also urged the importance of this conversation.
“A majority of the abuse, whether physical violence or sexual assault, the perpetrator is a man,” said Stahley. “Men can help decrease violence, by getting involved, and talking to their peers, by coming together and saying, ‘This is not the culture that we want on our campus, and we as men want to step up to make our campus a safer place for women to be on.’”
Junior behaviorial neuroscience major Kevin Munoz, who attended the event, also sounded off on the impact violence has on men.
“The Men’s Project is an exceptional idea that focuses on changing and challenging the current stereotypes of men in order to reduce violence inflicted by men to not just women, but to other men as well,” said Munoz. “In our day and age, men have to face many societal pressures that are introduced to boys at a very young age. The media plays a very big role in portraying how men should act.”
The Men’s Project’s plan is to create a noticeable campus presence through holding events that educate students on masculinity and violence, and sparking dialogue and conversations about the issues of violence and gender stereotypes.
“The only way we can make a change is by challenging the dominant ideology,” said Bonaparte. “This is a social issue, and I challenge every one of you to go out and face it head on.”