Men’s group flexes muscles, judged 3.2

| Staff Columnist
Mike Hirshon | Student Life

Mike Hirshon | Student Life

The most anticipated event of my college career (so far, at least) came last week in the form of the Activities Fair. Considering I was over-involved in high school, as I’m sure most of the other students at Wash. U. were, I couldn’t wait to check out all of the different clubs in which I could get involved, because reading 300 pages for my Text and Tradition classes just isn’t enough of a time killer for me.

As I made my way through the overwhelming display of tables, the over-committed, over-involved maniac in me died a little when I found so many groups of which I could not be a part. Women’s advocacy groups peppered the landscape that is Brookings Quad. Amid a myriad of extracurriculars, only one group even hinted at men’s interests. There is nothing wrong with women’s groups, but I suddenly felt rather alone and underrepresented (especially since I only signed up to be on the e-mail list for 12 groups).

In an article published in March by a student at University of Chicago, he proposed the creation of a group called Men in Power, which would focus on the hardships that men face and help them connect with successful male mentors. Much of the female population became angered at the thought, claiming it sexist and degrading. Dissenters mounted protests during the first meeting, carrying signs bearing messages like “Misogyny has never seemed so Maroon.”

But I don’t understand the problem. A men’s support group should be able to exist without the worry of cries of “Misogyny!” and “Patriarchy!” and would help both men and women.

In a world of heightened political correctness, it would be so much easier for me to take the stance opposed to the formation of such a group on any campus, but I simply cannot do that because the fact of the matter is that men face just as much pressure as women do.

As much as we as a society emphasize political correctness, we also force certain expectations on men. A man must be assertive, emotionless, athletic, driven, courageous, polite but not too chivalrous that he offends a woman and sets her on the shelf as a trophy, and the criteria stretch on and on and on. In much of our culture, if a man does not conform to the Herculean mold, he is not a real man, as women are not real women if they are not skinny, coiffed, sassy, made up and obsessed with “Twilight.”

The pressure is intense enough that in the United States, the male-to-female suicide rate is four-to-one and has been for quite some time. Men must be stoic, silent, solitary, until, of course, they become so overwhelmed by the pressure of it all that they end their suffering in a truly manly way: self-murder.

As a guy who doesn’t abide by every single male more (I think my 12-year-old cousin could probably beat me at basketball, and I tend to get my feelings hurt a little more easily than I should), I believe a forum where I could talk about my own issues with life and the problems that I face without having to worry about scrutiny or jeers or jabs at my manhood would be a great organization.

I understand the argument, though. I recently read a book entitled “Privilege, Power, and Difference,” an examination of how gender, race, sexuality and disability status affect a person’s life and the society around him or her. An argument in the study said that maleness is a quality of privilege in American society and makes men privy to a bevy of benefits that women, as a result of male privilege, have no chance of obtaining. It’s a zero-sum game that can only be dissolved by increased awareness and action at the hands of those with and without privilege.

Seemingly, this organization would only increase male privilege, but what if the men involved were able to be who they really are? Would they realize the system of expectations, both male and female, that has been created around them? Who’s to say they wouldn’t? Who’s to say this wouldn’t open their eyes to those problems that their “maleness” made them overlook?

Maybe I’m idealistic and maybe I’m naïve, but it’s gotten me this far in life (although I guess I still don’t fit the mold of the perfect man). Maybe we could get a group together and talk about it?

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