Have No Fear, Men’s Night is Here!
The year is 2019. A man accused of sexually harassing women sits in the Oval Office, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s assailant is in the Supreme Court, and the statistics from The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network say that 28.5% of undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault while at school. At Syracuse University, the most recently available Campus Safety and Security official report also shows rape reports rising from a single case in 2015, to 29 cases by 2017. And that’s just what was reported. But worry not, women of SU! In this trying time of walking to your car with your keys between your fingers, triple checking the name of your uber driver, and talking with a friend on Facetime just in case, a hero is in our midst. His name is Men’s Night, and no, you’re not invited.
Last week all athletic and Greek life leaders received an email inviting one “self-identifying male” to experience something called Men’s Night: The Start of a Conversation, which would take place on April 23rd. In what we have to hope is just an astoundingly terrible choice of words, the event was described as “the start of a conversation for athletes and fraternity men on our campus about masculinity and talk openly and honestly about the issues that are facing men.” First of all, if you’re going to subject us to an email like this, please do so with proper grammar. Second of all, does “the issues that are facing men” really feel like the most pressing topic at the moment? (See: the opening paragraph… also literally any other report ever.)
Now just to clear things up, we’re not here to shit on a conversation about toxic masculinity. Traditional masculinity, the preferred term in the 2018 American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for Psychological Practices with Boys and Men, is defined as encompassing: “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” These expectations have manifested due to our insistence on traditional gender roles, which stipulate that men must provide and defend the opposite gender. However, while this may seem like a noble job, it actually makes it so that men engage in toxic and problematic behaviors. Unfortunately, the Men’s Night invite (which was sent to female campus leaders even though they were not to be included in the event) neither uses the word traditional nor toxic-- only masculinity.
We don’t have problem with giving men in these hyper-masculine fraternal and athletic organizations a platform to speak their mind. Everyone deserves a space to be heard. The problem is that this is a male-exclusive event, which neglects the fact that while men are the ones internalizing the effects of toxic masculinity, women and those who identify outside the gender binary are the ones primarily experiencing the misogyny, violence and harassment. With the exclusion of any external voices comes the concern that instead of a progressive and informative conversation, the night holds the potential to become an echo chamber of men seeing themselves as the victims of a system which they themselves have become intrinsic to.
Women and non-binary people are still fighting their way into political positions, equal pay, reproductive rights, and a number of other issues that exist as a result of “anti-femininity” being the primary trait in traditional masculinity. Hell, they’re fighting just to not get attacked or harassed on the street. So, Syracuse, are you really going to make us also try and fight our way into a conversation that explicitly affects us as members of the campus community? For the our faith in this institution, we really fucking hope not.