Sunday, February 9, 2014
A 2014 Challenge to Men Everywhere
What better space to talk about masculinity and men than the college fraternity? Tonight, I had the opportunity to sit in a room where many of my colleagues answered the question, “Where do you think the fraternal movement is headed in ten years?” Many answers throughout the room ranged from expansion policies to questioning the social Greek-Lettered organization single-sex status. What was not said (yes, I was a bystander in this situation) was the lack of support for men. No one said, “I foresee fraternities increasing the level of support for men,” and that is a shame.
You might have seen an article recently about an email sent from a fraternity man to his chapter brothers about the “save the sluts” campaign he wanted to start on campus. Chalk another one up to the stupid undergrads who let their internal communication leak and make us look bad. All of us. Not just fraternities or student organizations. All men, everywhere. I think of the “men” who will be attending that institution in the fall and wish them much luck.
Quite honestly, I am frustrated. Having been in the field about five years, I am a infant within the profession. However, I am sick and tired of very few men standing up to those who commit such blinding acts. I offer three keys in your efforts to encourage the men around you to step up and speak out against acts of hypermasculinity.
Purpose and value. I get it. Most young men do not have the capacity yet to make certain values-based decisions (damn science!) in their lives. In today’s day and age, we need positive male role models. I question if the main consumer of the fraternal movement also buys in to this notion. What holds us back from challenging the men in our lives from being better people? Living with value and purpose provides guidance to understand our potential to make a positive impact on both ourselves and other men. I wonder if that letter would have leaked if someone in the writer’s chapter said “hey man, that’s not cool and against what we believe.”
Empathy. When was the last time you truly made a commitment? With commitment comes buy-in to a cause or issue. We need to find more committed positive male role models who show empathy with, and to, other men. Trust me when I say that our male students want to tell their story, and will share when they are ready. Be that person who makes the first move. Tell your story and watch your students give your theirs. I wonder if the student who wrote the letter has an trustworthy adult in his life that could have told him that was a bad idea.
Courage. To challenge the paradigms that surround hyper masculinity takes courage. Regardless of age and experience, we all still need to take a deep breath and put our best foot forward. One way I develop courage is by inspiring a shared vision for what can be within a fraternal organization. Using “What if’s,” and “I wonder if’s,” I look to create a collaborative vision of a positive masculine experience, specifically through a fraternal lens. I wonder if that email would have even been written if any of the writer’s stakeholders (alumni, chapter brothers, etc.) had the courage to guide him in a different direction.
In a perfect world, men would hold each other accountable, treat everyone the way they expect to be treated, and feel comfortable in their identities. Instead, we have 18 to 22 year old students writing email categorizing women as a “lesser sex.” We have some work to do.
It’s the people who live with purpose and value, show empathy to others, and have the courage to step up against what is wrong that change the world. Where do I see the fraternal movement in the next years? Non-existent if we can’t produce spaces where healthy masculinity is promoted within the chapter. We need men to make history; step up, change the world, and guide the way.