Men’s programming alienates some with gender stereotypes
By Austin Lindner | Echo
I’m aware that I’m not your typical male. For me, going to a football game is about as much fun as watching a bunch of squirrels fighting over an acorn for three hours. I’m unashamed to admit that I took an hour nap at the theater during one of the 87 “Fast & Furious” movies.
Growing up, it took me a long time to accept that my interests aren’t very “bro.” I used to collect baseball cards without knowing the difference between a bunt and a batting average just so I would have something to talk about with my friends in middle school. But as I matured, I realized that sports and video games are not characteristics of a man. They’re just hobbies that some guys have and others don’t. No big deal.
Which was the main reason I was so encouraged when I first heard the inclusive mission statement from Taylor’s men’s programming organization during a hall meeting at the beginning of this semester.
“Men’s Programming, or Bro Pro, seeks to unify men across campus to glorify God through engaging activities and events and meaningful conversations. Our goal is to provide space for men to get to know each other from the different residence halls and to also have fun in the process.”
At its heart, Bro Pro’s mission is to inspire men to challenge the unhealthy gender stereotypes that keep men from being honest or vulnerable with each other. It aims to end the kind of thinking that confines men to a box of three basic emotions and implies that we are just drooling, sex-crazed cavemen incapable of caring about anything other than Budweiser and big booties.
Great. Useful. Necessary.
So how does Bro Pro accomplish this with its first activity of the year? By lining us up to smash parked cars with a sledgehammer—an event that would please cavemen everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong; I love crushing a coupe as much as the next person. I just find Bro Pro’s consistently gender-stereotyped events to be contradictory to its goals of facilitating openness and difficult conversations.
More than that, I find the implication that college guys will not go to a spiritual event unless bribed with the chance to smash a fender or splash their way through a mud run pretty disappointing, as well as vaguely insulting. Even the title of Bro Pro’s spiritual sessions, “Man Church,” screams of male insecurity more than a commercial for men’s deodorant.
There’s nothing wrong with rough sports or “Call of Duty.” A lot of guys find activities like these enjoyable, so I understand why Men’s Programming tries to use them as tools to spark conversation. But using gender stereotypes to conquer gender stereotypes doesn’t work. And only hosting activities that are ultimately based on competition and comparison is a poor way to forge an atmosphere of vulnerability and trust for men on campus.
I know many guys who would love to go to a serious discussion or panel without the promise of an action-packed movie at the end. In fact, some of the males I know immediately disregard Bro Pro because they know their “feminine” interests (like art, music and movies not starring Bruce Willis) will probably never be represented.
I respect the idea behind Bro Pro. I really do. But unfortunately I can also see the marginalizing effects of the group’s reliance on gender clichés.
When we solely create events for bros, we are missing out on opportunities to create broader conversations for men. And those are the kinds of conversations that our society really needs.