It’s hard to be a conservative UW supporter. On the one hand, the football team finishes with a better-than-expected year, wins its bowl game and doesn’t get shut out (unlike a certain Big Ten school whose name cannot be said without 0), and the basketball team knocked off archrival Indiana and is doing quite well this season.
On the other hand, reports the College Fix …
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is currently taking applications for its “Men’s Project,” a six-week program that aims to counter the alleged harmful effects of society’s masculinity paradigms and pressures and empower participants to promote “gender equity.”
“Men’s Project creates a space for critical self-reflection and dialogue about what it means to be a man and how masculinity impacts us and those around us,” organizers state in promoting the effort.
“The experience focuses on the examination of societal images, expectations, and messages around masculinity to empower men to better understand themselves, promote the advancement of gender equity, and raise consciousness in their communities,” organizers add.
It’s open only to “men-identified students” at the public university and “operates on a transformative model of social justice allyship,” according to a news release on the university’s website, which adds “by encouraging that kind of dialogue among a men-identified cohort, the goal is to create a sense of security in vulnerability throughout the six-week program.”
Participants will begin the project with a weekend retreat in February and continue meeting weekly, discussing topics such as media and pop culture, vulnerability, sexuality, hook-up culture, alcohol, relationships and violence.
The program is now in its second year and was most recently offered in fall 2016, according to its Facebook page.
In an email to The College Fix, the University of Wisconsin-Madison director of news and media relations Meredith McGlone said the project serves an important purpose.
“Recent research suggests college campuses have not effectively addressed [male students’] needs,” she stated. “Research also indicates that expectations around masculinity impact the way in which men experience college.”
McGlone suggested typical understandings of masculinity can effect male students in a negative way.
“These expectations influence the decisions men make about friendships; spending time outside of class; careers or academic majors; and sexual and romantic relationships. Men are socialized to believe they need to act a certain way to be accepted as ‘masculine’ or have what it takes to be a man,” she told The Fix.
“This can lead to self-destructive behaviors that impair their ability to complete their education,” she continued. “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.”
Asked to define vulnerability in the context of the program, McGlone told The Fix it’s “one of the discussion topics related to male stereotypes. Students consider if they struggle with being vulnerable and how it might impact their relationships and actions.”
According to McGlone, there were no specific incidents which spurred the development of this program.
The first thought upon reading this swill is that (1) McGlone isn’t paid enough to parrot this bilge with a straight face, and (2) clearly there are more UW–Madison budget cuts that can be made (along with the “Problem of Whiteness” course).
David French adds:
As the College Fix notes, Wisconsin’s program is hardly unique. Programs designed to combat “toxic masculinity” are popping up across the fruited plain. Designed to end “harm, oppression, and dominance,” they look suspiciously like the same liberal critique I’ve been hearing my entire adult life. Men would be better men if only they were more like women. And “vulnerability” is the key.
It’s as if male tears water the garden of social justice. When I was younger, male vulnerability was called “getting in touch with your feminine side.” But since men don’t necessarily want to be feminine, the words shifted to the language of therapy and wellness. Strong men cry, they said. Crying is healthy, they said.
Indeed, traditional concepts of masculinity, which asked men to cultivate physical and mental toughness, to assume leadership roles in the home, in business, and on the battlefield, and to become guardians and protectors, became the “trap” or “man box,” to quote the University of Richmond’s ridiculous “authentic masculinities” site. The most destructive words a boy can hear? “Be a man,” at least according to the mandatory freshman orientation at Gettysburg College.
But here’s the problem — vulnerability isn’t a virtue. It’s a morally neutral characteristic at best and a vice at worst. Yes, some men are more naturally sensitive than others, but we now ask — no, beg — men to indulge their emotions, as if the antidote to awful male aggression is a good cry.
There are good reasons why generations of fathers have taught their sons to “man up,” and it’s not because young boys are blank canvases on which the patriarchy can paint its oppression. It’s because men in general have essential natures that are different from women. We tend to be more aggressive, more energetic, and less nurturing than women, and the fundamental challenge of raising most boys is in channeling that nature in productive ways, not in denying or trying to eradicate its existence. In other words, we need to make men more purposeful, not more vulnerable.
We are failing in that key task. Feminism has infected child-rearing and modern education so thoroughly that legions of parents and teachers are adrift and clueless. They have no idea what to do with their sons, and absent fathers compound the confusion and create yawning cultural voids. Yes, there are some pajama boys out there, the guys who embrace the feminist project (truthfully in part to hook up with feminist women), but there are countless others who reject feminism’s version of a “man box” and are instead adrift in purposeless masculinity.
Here is the key question — what better equips a man to confront a difficult and challenging world? Is it more tears? Or is it more toughness? Is it teaching men to be compassionate or to be objects of compassion? The vulnerable male’s cry is “help me.” The masculine male’s quest is to become the helper.
No matter what feminists say or do, boys will be boys. Feminists can’t change hormones and brain chemistry, and they can’t alter the fundamental biology of the human male. Boys will continue to be stronger and more aggressive than girls no matter how many peer-reviewed articles decry biologically based gender stereotyping. Campus radicals choose to deny rather than deal with reality, and in denying reality they increase human misery.
Boys will be boys, but they won’t all become men. At their best, shorthand admonitions such as “man up” or “be a man” carry with them the weight of tradition and morality that makes a simple, though difficult request: Deny self. Don’t indulge your weakness. Show courage. Avoid the easy path. Some men fall naturally into this role, for others it’s much more difficult. The proper response to those who struggle is compassion. It’s not to redefine masculinity for the minority.
For a father, there are few more rewarding things in life than helping a son become a man, to watch him test himself in productive ways and to help him cultivate and demonstrate a protective spirit. Among the great gifts a father can give a son is a sense of masculine purpose, and no that purpose isn’t a “box,” it’s a powerful force for good.