Toxic masculinity training helps university campuses


Toxic masculinity is more than a buzzword—it’s pervasive across campuses and student organizations every day.

Luckily, the University of British Columbia’s latest program makes one thing clear: It’s possible to reap the community benefits of university fraternities in a way that’s healthy and productive without infringing on the rights of those outside the frat.

Last week, UBC voted to make toxic masculinity training mandatory for all 10 fraternities on its campus, which contain thousands of students. These workshops will teach lessons on sexual consent, bystander intervention, and healthy masculinity.

These seminars rewrite the narrative that frats have inherent in their DNA the wooing of women, binge-drinking, and hazing. They make space for open dialogue and learning amongst men who may never have been explicitly taught these lessons before.

If we hope to encourage a culture of gender equity and respect, education is the first step—and a critical one at that. And though Queen’s has banned frats since 1933, we retain a “bro culture” that values sports and partying—activities that can often perpetuate instances of toxic masculinity.

At Queen’s, Bystander Intervention training is mandatory for AMS service employees and volunteers, and sexual consent lessons are available for first-year students across faculties during Orientation Week. This progressive programming shows the growing knowledge and importance placed on healthy masculinity and consent on university campuses. Particularly at a time when our provincial government is regressing sexual education in schools, it’s essential for universities to advocate for healthy and safe sexuality within their own communities.

However, this training should and could go much further than specifically targeting student government representatives.  

Though bystander intervention training is a laudable initiative, added sexual consent and healthy masculinity training would encourage students to consider the importance of gendered dynamics across the spectrum of daily life.

This training should also be made mandatory for AMS-ratified clubs on campus, along with varsity and club sports, to ensure more students have access to a mandate of respectful interaction. It’s important our on-campus initiatives work with others invested in safety to guarantee every student feels safe and comfortable living and working at the University.

Students continue to challenge the view of masculinity as equaling domination of women. However, institutionally, the University continues to face challenges.

We need to see more from our administration condemning the impact of toxic masculinity. Change is often more quickly effected from the top-down. Awareness isn’t likely to translate into changed behaviour if the University itself doesn’t follow up to underscore the importance of healthy masculinity and consent.

Though we might not have frats at Queen’s, we remain a frat-like culture. We need to better show our students they can access the benefits of close male relationships without throwing women by the wayside.

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