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Biannual Masculinities Summit hosts conversations and reflections

April 9, 2021

This week, the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Education (OGVPE) hosted the second biannual Masculinities Summit. The summit consisted of three events: a keynote on Tuesday with speaker Aymann Ismail, an alumni panel on Thursday and a panel on Friday featuring faculty members and staff.

The main goals of the summit were to spark thought and conversation about masculinities and to encourage more rigorous discussions of masculinities in the future.

“I think we will have done our job if people leave these conversations and say to friends or teammates or clubmates or housemates, ‘I heard this really interesting thing in this panel or this keynote that I went to, and I would love to hear your thoughts,’” Lisa Peterson, director of the OGVPE, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

This year, for the first time, the summit has a theme: friendship. The addition of a theme came out of a desire to foster more in-depth conversations about masculinities.

“We chose [friendship] because we thought it would be a nice entry point for a lot of people. We also thought it would be a nice way to just get people to talk about their lived experiences surrounding masculinity instead of having it be a more academic conversation where you reconstruct what masculinity is,” Grace Carrier ’23, a programming assistant for the OGVPE, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

The summit was sponsored by the OGVPE, but many other members of the Bowdoin community, including students and faculty members whose work relates to the topic of masculinities, were brought into the organizing process.

“Those folks were really instrumental in helping us think about what the panels could look like and what questions might be interesting …and [what] perspectives that we might want to include,” Peterson said.

There were talks about having smaller group conversations amongst students during the summit, but the large number of attendees and the virtual format made the idea too difficult to execute well, according to Zain Padamsee ’23, co-leader of Healthy Masculinities, one of the clubs that helped organize the summit.

The panel on Thursday featured two pairs of alumni friends and focused on their lived experiences in those friendships. The panel on Friday includes faculty and staff members, and it will place more of an emphasis on accountability.

“So first we’re talking about friendship—people start thinking about their friends, and then ultimately we do want to say, ‘Okay, you have a role to play in this campus culture, and part of that is holding your friends accountable,’” said Carrier.

The keynote speaker was Aymann Ismail, host of Man Up, a podcast about “masculinity, race and relationships in the modern world.”

“We were really intentional in working with someone who was thinking about masculinities from a personal perspective and from an interested perspective, but not coming from this academic or theoretical view that, I think, can feel harder to have an entry-point into that conversation,” said Peterson. “A lot of [Ismail’s] work really beautifully reflects on his own identities, how he feels like those identities are perceived by other folks and how he has specifically thought about his identities as a man.”

In the talk, Ismail focused on the evolution of his friendships, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. His thoughts and experiences resonated for many in the audience, including Padamsee.

“People, in general, but perhaps especially men, often don’t approach their friends to start [a conversation] because we’re afraid they’re not interested. And they don’t approach us to start something because they assume we’re not interested. And that makes it hard to sustain friendships,” Padamese said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “And so I think his main point was to just get over that. Yeah, it’s a little nerve wracking, but what’s the worst that could happen? Not much. And you can benefit a lot.”

Peterson reiterated the importance of Aymann’s discussion of vulnerability.

“I thought his tying in the role of the ego and ability to connect with friends and ask for what we want and need was really astute,” said Peterson.

There will be a Masculinities Summit panel today from noon to 1 p.m.


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