Anti-violence advocates: Campus culture creates negative perception of masculinity

BY BETH BRATSOS | APRIL 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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Masculinity on college campuses can sometimes be defined in more aggressive terms.

But members of a University of Iowa antiviolence groups says masculinity doesn't have to be a violent characteristic.


"What we're seeing now is more people standing up to address the issue and coming up with solutions to these problems," said Jerrod Koon, the coordinator of the UI Men's Antiviolence Council. "I think some of these discussions about masculinity will be helpful to see what it means in our lives."

The council hosted a panel at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., on Tuesday to discuss their perceptions and what it means to be masculine.

The panel as screened the film Mobile Masculinities to prompt a discussion on masculinity. The council collaborated with the UI Career and Leadership Academy on the project.

Derrais Carter, a council member and creator of the film project, said since moving to Iowa City four years ago, he noticed a "sports fan" culture that can sometimes promote acts of violence against men and women in the college community. He cited a T-shirt displaying "Ann Arbor is a whore" sported by football fans during Hawkeye games against Michigan.

"Many [people] assume that on weekends, they don't have to be students if they go off campus," he said. "They may think that drinking and committing acts of sexual aggression is OK because they won't be punished by the university."

He said trends of binge drinking and general lack of respect for informed-consent policies on campus may also contribute to male-violence rates.

"It conveys the idea that weekend life and weekday life are completely different even though they represent the university [at all times]," Carter said. "They should conduct themselves in a healthier fashion so their peers feel safe and they feel safe."

Iowa City resident Bill Windauer said it might be easy for students on a college campus to feel as though they need to prove their power to their peers.

"You have to, hopefully, bring what you had [learned] from home," Windauer said. "Those who lost their compass are the ones who might get in trouble. Drinking makes people do things they probably wouldn't do otherwise."

Koon said this negative culture can put pressure on men who don't want to conform to it.

"There is a lot of distress among men when they can't be who they want to be," he said. "Traditional definitions of masculinity can be a barrier to men seeking help. When you adhere to some of these rigid standards, it can be very unhealthy. It's easy to point out the problems, but no one's really talking about it in the community."

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