Recently, discussions about the potential dangers of masculinity have been coming out of the woodwork on campus. On Wednesday, the Bowdoin Men’s Group, partnering with the Women’s Resource Center and the Center for Gender Violence Prevention and Education, hosted a screening of “The Mask You Live In.” The film explores the limiting ways in which masculinity is socially constructed and taught to boys from an early age. Many of the ideas it addressed are not foreign to our campus. For instance, in her article for this week’s opinion section, Skye Aresty ’16 calls attention to what she sees as an unhealthy and unequal hookup culture at Bowdoin fueled by men exerting a sense of entitlement over women.

As Professor Judith Casselberry pointed out in the discussion following the screening of “The Mask You Live In,” autonomous spaces, that is, spaces where people can talk with people like them, can be incredibly valuable. This is not to downplay either the importance of incorporating diverse experiences into conversations, or the necessity of recognizing that many of the people hurt by toxic displays of masculinity are not men. The Men’s Group is a good effort by a small group of students to recognize that issues of masculinity—including sex, fatherhood, emotional expression and mental illness—often go undiscussed, and to facilitate healthy conversations in spaces specifically designated for this purpose.

We are in a moment at Bowdoin where people have a lot to say and are talking to each other about tough and often emotional themes—including looking at taken-for-granted concepts and assumptions and deconstructing them. Issues of masculinity are relatively new in campus discussion, so we have a unique opportunity to shape the way in which we talk about them.

The next two events in the Men’s Group’s current series “We Need To Talk” are focused on the always-relevant issues of sexual assault and supporting survivors, topics that are typically tackled by groups of women and individual women. These events show that the Men’s Group is internally grappling with the complexities of a masculine identity while using that male privilege to work toward educating others. Although we recognize that the discussions and programs of the Men’s Group are a step in the right direction, it is also important to acknowledge that its efforts are not yet widespread and build on discussions opened up by feminists on campus.

Last night, Tim Wise, a white anti-racism activist and writer, spoke to a packed crowd in Kresge about racism, using the power that comes with his white privilege to speak to a group of students who might not have gotten the same message from countless other sources. We think it is of utmost importance for those who consider themselves allies—whether of people of color, the LGBTQIA community, feminists, or any other group—to use the dominance and respect that they inevitably carry with them to educate others. In our last editorial, we wrote that the onus should not be on those marginalized to educate others about their oppression. This week, we see tangible examples on campus of folks who are in the process of critically examining their own privilege and bringing these issues to light to new audiences in different ways. This work will continue to be critical on this campus, as students from all walks of life struggle with new ideas, experiences and relationships, together. 

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, Jono Gruber, Matthew Gutschenritter, Meg Robbins, Nicole Wetsman and Emily Weyrauch.