Here's my letter in case the link doesn't work. I'm actually quite concerned about this issue because it makes it look as if men are getting attention from the university community, but in reality all that's happening is that they're being shamed for being male. This isn't right, and I was inspiried to speak out and address this.
Portraying Men in a Positive Light
I read with great interest last Tuesday's section on men's health and masculinity. The authors of these
articles should be applauded for the time they spent addressing a very neglected issue in today's politicized
gender climate: the needs of men and the issues that we face.
However, without challenging any of the articles that were written, I'd like to address a more subtle issue
that I noticed from the viewpoints presented, and from much of the dialogue going on about gender these
days. It seems that in an attempt to open a wider range of roles and opportunities for men, we often portray
masculinity as something inherently flawed, or out of balance. It is almost as if we are saying that men need
to be "less masculine," which isn't something that most men are going to respond or relate to.
In my experiences with men as a "men's rights activist," I find that more than anything, men need to be
offered respect and dignity for being male, instead of continually being blamed for social problems such as
violence and oppression, or portraying them as mass killers, abusers, and rapists. Part of SHARPP's
mission statement for the Men's Discussion Group on Stopping Rape reads, "We as men realize that
certain ways of being male perpetuate a rape-prone society." These methods of "reaching out" to men,
while well-intentioned, often don't work because they alienate men from thinking of themselves as whole
human beings, and are subconsciously degrading.
In our culture, particularly in this academic environment, men and their roles are regularly stereotyped and
deconstructed into oppressive patriarchs and selfish tyrants. To successfully reach out to men, we need to
do so in a positive way that affirms and empowers men for being who they are, themselves.
Too often, we focus on the negative side of masculinity, as unfortunately the media is eager to
sensationalize school shootings and brutal rapes, but I hope most people still realize that the vast majority
of men are neither killers nor rapists, nor do most individual men hold power and influence over large
numbers of people.
I think that if we want to encourage new opportunities for men to live and express themselves, then we
need to acknowledge the positive attributes of masculinity. We need to recognize the distinctly masculine
energy and focus that creates good in the world, such as Michaelangelo's divine art, the dedication to
rationality and truth seeking that Socrates and Plato embodied, the musical genius of Ludwig van
Beethoven and John Coltrane. And not only should we respect the greatness of high-achieving men, but
the everyday selfless dedication of fathers, of male teachers and mentors, and for the countless men that
gave and risked their lives for others in war.
When we have a society that honors men and the masculine, and allows men to make choices that enable
them to lead fulfilling lives, men will have, as Peter Welch put it, "a healthy masculinity that will allow us to
be unabashedly human." To that I would add, "and unabashedly male."