Unmasking masculinity

Students discuss gender identity

Students who organized Saturday’s Maskulinity summit.
Students who organized Saturday’s Maskulinity summit.

Last Saturday’s Maskulinity summit had students share their thoughts about male gender identity and how it affects young people’s lives.

The student-organized summit, called Maskulinity: Rethinking and Refocusing the Word, had both graduate and undergraduate students attend.

One of the organizers, Rory Grant, ArtSci ’15, said the summit enabled attendees to explain and understand male gender expectations, in contrast to explorations of gender from other perspectives.

“They come at it from the feminist area, where they look at the effects of a certain type of masculinity on women.

“The way we focused mostly was looking at the effects of a certain type of masculinity on men,” he said.

The summit was organized into five different sections, including discussions about mental health, sex and the media.

Attendees filtered in and out of the lecture hall as the six hour event took its course, with at least 50 people attending each section.

The festivities kicked off with an introduction by Jeff Perera, a member of the White Ribbon Campaign, an organization that works to end violence against women.

Perera said that Queen’s has had issues with maintaining an inclusive campus environment, citing the banner that was hung in the residential area during frosh week that some condemned as misogynist. However, he said he was hopeful about what the conference could achieve.

“What’s great is that it’s about being proactive, saying how we can do things to create a community that’s safer and more inclusive,” he said.

Perera pointed to the leadership of Kate McCord, and how she founded the Women’s Worth Week initiative a few years ago, inviting the White Ribbon Campaign to come out and do talks.

McCord, along with Lorenzo Colocado, Akhil Dua and Rory Grant, all ArtSci ’15, led the creation of the Maskulinity summit.

Perera spoke about what masculinity means, and the “ladder” some men feel they must climb to reach manhood. “[Perera] talked about what masculinity is and talked about the ladder of manhood, so it’s like money, respect and power; what are the expectations of men and what do they do with those expectations?,” McCord, ArtSci ’13, said.

Following Perera’s introduction, the first panel discussion of the day was called Masculinity and Media.

McCord said the discussion centered around the masculine model, and how that shapes interactions.

“We talked about racialized men and the importance of looking at intersectionality in media, and how racialized men are represented in the media and if the representations are problematic,” she said.

“We talked about the Obama address and how he put out a call to university and college men to be leaders and to look forward and rethink their masculinity and think about how they treat women.” The goal of the summit was to create an environment where everyone would be able to feel safe and where they would share their thoughts or experiences, she said.

“For example, for Masculinity in the Media, we looked at how masculinity is portrayed in TV and film, and how that puts pressure on guys to be a certain way,” McCord said.

“They’re usually portrayed to be white, strong and able-bodied, and we discussed how that perpetrates how guys treat women and each other.” The idea first came from attending the What Makes A Man conference held by White Ribbon.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” McCord said.

“When we talk about feminism, we actually mean gender equality, and we can’t understand the issues and the effects on this subject without talking to men, without looking at both sides.”

— With files from Chloe Sobel

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