Masculinity panel set for today

BY HOLLY HINES | MARCH 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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A lack of media portrayals of black male intellectuals concerns Ahmad Washington, the University of Iowa doctoral student in counselor education said.

He said pop culture and the media typically portray African American men as criminals, athletes, and entertainers who struggle with academics. These images have negatively affected many people, he contended.

Washington and three other speakers are set to discuss this, and other ideas related to masculinity, at a UI International Mondays Brown Bag Series panel at noon today at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St.

Washington said it’s important for people to discuss their notions of masculinity, because those affect their interactions and men’s mental health.

He hopes people will walk away from the panel with useful skills and more courage to have conversations on the topic.

Carly Andrews, the event’s facilitator, said speakers will focus on ways gender norms differ around the world at the panel, titled “What Makes a Man? Cross-Cultural perspectives on Identity and Masculinity.”

Elizabeth Heineman, a UI associate professor of history who will speak at the event, said it’s important for students to consider their notions of masculinity, because they face questions regarding how gender roles will affect their future families and careers.

She said people began focusing more on the topic of masculine gender roles since women’s issues and gay issues have become more prominent.

Heineman, who teaches history and gender, women, and sexuality studies, said she plans to compare gender roles in East Germany and West Germany as part of her panel discussion. She has also published scholarly articles on issues regarding post-World World II gender constructions in Germany.

Derrais Carter, a UI graduate student who will also speak at the event, said if students and faculty discuss masculine identity, they will better understand how gender affects social interactions.

He said the panel will help prevent people from focusing only on women’s issues when discussing gender.

Carter plans to speak on ways in which the prevalence of hip-hop role models for African American males affects their definitions of manhood.

Andrews said the organizers have seen high interest in the event so far. People across disciplines seem excited about challenging masculinity norms, she said.

“I think there’s some particular pulse it’s hitting,” she said.

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