Question ‘gender boxes,’ masculinity

By Ryan Lee

A lack of masculine discourse is being discussed at NIU due to the efforts of the renamed Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

Combining the Women’s Resource Center and the LGBT Resource Center into one facility, the centers were merged to make one that’s more inclusive of all genders and sexualities, including discussions based on masculinity.

“What we want to do is work with the organizations that are already in place and provide … networking opportunities where these male leaders can get together and address that very question — what does it mean to be a man at NIU? Our goal is not to add more male organizations, necessarily … but to provide some opportunities for connection-networking,” said Molly Holmes, director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

As a man, proud feminist and a LGBTQ ally, I have always wondered how much our culture has taken for granted the notion of masculinity.

The reason most commonly given for this negligence is the majority of scholarly discourse is given through the perspective of privileged males. People believe they understand “masculine theory” without signing up for classes focusing on it. That’s problematic.

“I think you have this stereotype where masculinity and male issues get ignored in feminism and gender studies, but I don’t think that’s entirely true,” said Anna Rossi, a graduate sociology student who is pursuing a LGBT Certificate. “We do discuss it to a point … . We’re thinking about the ways gender boxes in everyone, whether you’re male, female, masculine, feminine, so I think it gets at that.”

Messages from the media are conflicting and confuse people as to what our culture sees as ideally “masculine” — the hyperviolent men in “Fight Club” or the loving Augustus Waters in “The Fault in Our Stars”?

Certainly, the notion of manliness has changed just as much as the notion of femininity has changed throughout history, as seen through the emergence of the bicycle-riding Victorian “New Woman.”

The center being merged is a tremendously important step in the right direction — simply engaging people in conversations and getting people cooperating to develop a proper sense of what it means to “be a man” will surely help to shed light on the situation.