UT Austin ‘Restrictive Masculinity’ program under pressure by administration after right-wing criticism
The University of Texas at Austin is attempting to address the limiting nature of the societal construct of masculinity. The University of Texas’ Counseling and Mental Health Center is collaborating with the Voices Against Violence initiative to create campus-wide dialogue about how to create a more healthy version of masculinity.
According to their website, “MasculinUT recognizes unhealthy masculinity as restrictive and exclusionary in the sense that it only affords a narrow definition of what it means to be masculine. This definition of masculinity also restricts what is acceptable in terms of appearance. This also makes it exclusionary, because a restrictive definition of masculinity depends on excluding people from that definition.”
The campaign’s outreach and methods of raising awareness attracted the attention of not only right-wing “activists” but also talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who decried the issue of the University of Texas seemingly designating masculinity as a mental health issue. “In red state Texas masculinity is being treated as a mental health challenge, that too many men are simply crumbling under the pressure to be a man,” Limbaugh wrote on his website. “So if it’s not a good thing for a man to be a man, then what are they going to turn men into?”
In response to this criticism, however unfounded and packed with fragility it might be, Sonica Reagins-Lily, vice-president for student affairs and dean of students has temporarily suspended a search for a healthy masculinities coordinator. According to the Austin American Statesman, the position is funded by the UT System Board of Regents as part of a broader effort to reduce sexual misconduct on campuses. Reagins-Lily is also updating the web content and messaging regarding the program, and additional changes could be made when the committee submits its recommendations after August 1st.
The University of Texas issued a statement debunking the claims of Limbaugh and others, stating: “The MasculinUT program does not treat masculinity as a ‘mental health issue’, and any such statements are simply not accurate… It was established to bring more men to the table to address interpersonal violence, sexual assault and other issues.”