#MeToo era sees surge in colleges tackling toxic masculinity on campus
Garrett Robinson, a senior running back on the Brown University football team, recently helped to teach a training session for the incoming freshman members of the team. But this was no ordinary football training. It was a training about how not to replicate the aggression of football off the field, the likes of which have become increasingly common in the #MeToo era.
Robinson instructed the young men in topics such as the danger in being domineering off the field, asking for help, and how to watch the “locker room talk.” Robinson told the Daily Beast, “ There were a few sarcastic responses playing into stereotypes of what you’d expect around this topic, but mostly, people were more engaged and understood it was serious.”
This Brown University program, titled “Masculinity 101,” is part of a developing trend at universities that call upon members of the student body to address and educate their peers to unlearn toxic masculinity.
According to Neil Irvin, executive director of Men Can Stop Rape, a non-profit organization that runs training programs for men including workshops on stopping sexual assault on campus, men should be the ones to break harmful notions of masculinity.
“For some men, they think if they’re not raping anyone, that’s enough. But we’ve seen that it’s not. We need to train men on healthy masculinity at a young age.”
Brown brought Marc Peters on board in 2014 to serve as its assistant director for campus engagement and dialogue to specifically address issues relating to masculinity. Peters, Robinson, and other student leaders have since expanded the program to include a curriculum, Pedagogy Against the Patriarchy, to teach outside of a football context.
One of the residential peer leaders on campus, Kiana Phillips, has also worked on changing the campus culture by having Peters and Robinson talk to her dorm, which is co-ed, about toxic masculinity.
Phillips described what happened to the Daily Beast: “The workshop had us grapple with, do you ever have to think about walking safely at night, being interrupted, what you should wear to be taken seriously… It helped men understand privilege, and the women in the room could give feedback”
At other universities, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the evangelical Christian college Biola University, these programs look different. At Wisconsin, the program is led by a woman, and at Biola, it focuses on a Christian mandate for men to check their social or physical power when applying it against women.
At the latter university, the program was spearheaded by a residence hall director named Jordan Lansberry, who intimated that the #MeToo movement helped create space for this class on their campus.
Lansberry told the Daily Beast, “We made the point that men have to be kind and compassionate… It’s against Christian values for men to abuse their power, physically or culturally. I learned that the idea of ‘being a man’ is made up. The conversation will continue… The #MeToo movement has made it impossible to ignore.”