On Wednesday night, the UConn Men’s Project hosted “Unmasking Masculinity” at the Women’s Center. The event was organized in association with the Puerto Rican Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) and the Asian-American Cultural Center (AsACC), and centered around the experiences of Asian-Asian American and Latino men. The men spoke on how they would critique masculinity and seek to improve upon their image, how other groups perceive them and the harm that is done to these groups through the traditional interpretation of masculinity.
As the event began, the students who filled the room were encouraged to introduce themselves so everyone could familiarize themselves with the various identities and backgrounds that were present. The event was facilitated by two students who split the room into six separate groups to closer examine the unique pressures resulting from masculinity experienced by each group. These groups were Latino men and women, Asian-Asian American men and women and “non-identifying” men and women. The facilitator made sure to specify “Asian-Asian American men” was to include non-American men who are Asian and American men who are Asian.
Each group was then asked complex questions, forcing individuals to step out of their comfort zones and share their personal experiences. Some of the questions asked were about the various stereotypes and negative impacts that surround masculinity and their effects on various groups. After the individual groups talked amongst themselves, they came back together to share some of the specific topics and issues they brainstormed and discussed.
“For Latino men, we heard that while they have a lot of expectations to be well-groomed (and) attractive…there’s also the component…where the men are telling the women that ‘the best woman we know is one that’s quiet,’” Rhys Hall, a graduate student in the sociology department, said. “For Asian-Asian-American men, what we heard was a lot of requests for stoicism, which is contrasted with a very hypo-masculine perception of Asian and Asian American men…these same men…silence and dominate Asian and Asian-American women.”
Many students discussed how there has been, as Hall said, a certain “(struggle) with the expectations to live up to fathers that weren’t affectionate to them or weren’t even in the house,” as well as the expectation that men cannot cry or be too emotional.
This form of toxic masculinity is often taught to children from a young age, usually from their parents. The most common experience male students brought up is having been told not to cry when they’re upset.
“The more that you raise boys, in middle school in particular…you’re like, ‘Have you seen any cute girls?’ or ‘Who are you going to invite to the dance?’ That is a way in which it impacts a lesser-known group in terms of homosexual men or any number of other non-heterosexual male groups,” said Tommy Jacobsen, a seventh-semester secondary English education major. “Parents aren’t trying to be suppressive of their kid’s emotionality, they just don’t know. That’s part of the reason why it’s so dangerous…it’s so normalized.”
Events like these are essential to promoting the right kinds of conversations. Otherwise, these conversations won’t happen as often in day-to-day life as they should. When these personal experiences on the negative effects of masculinity are shared, students are able to learn just how common and influential masculine stereotypes are on one’s self image and can begin to consider how they can work towards solving these problems.
Although the event focused on exploring the issues surrounding masculinity, it is also important to propose and consider solutions to those issues.
“Find other spaces that you’re not as consistent in and then have your identity represented for the purpose of doing support and ending harm,” Hall said.
Brandon Barzola is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.