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Healthy Masculinities: redefining masculinity, one discussion at a time

October 22, 2021

Every Wednesday night, tucked away in the corner room of the Sexuality, Women and Gender (SWAG) center, a group of students meet to discuss one thing—masculinity. The group, aptly named Healthy Masculinities, focuses on the culture surrounding toxic masculinity on campus in an effort to redefine what it means to be masculine.

The club is led by Zain Padamsee ’23, Benjamin Felser ’22 and Eli Rowland ’23. They have sought to carve out a unique niche on campus through their discussions of redefining what it means to be a man. Healthy Masculinities is open to anyone who is male-identifying or has lived experiences with masculinity.

“We often talk about our emotions and ways to distance ourselves from traditionally masculine things,” Padamsee said.

Topics of discussion vary from week to week and have aimed to define masculinity in the face of various social issues and hold male role models accountable for their actions. Padamsee believes that the informal and conversational dinner meetings are conducive to the kinds of discussions that the group wants to have, allowing students to be more open and likely to return.

“I think it’s easier to commit to something when you’re not just committing to that thing … we’ve found that a lot more people come when it’s during dinnertime,” Padamsee said. “It doesn’t feel like a super intense meeting.”

A founding principle of the club is the idea that there is a culture of toxic masculinity on campus that negatively impacts the men who participate in it. Joining the group has allowed members to explore the ways in which they perpetuate this culture so that they can dismantle its presence and  create a more inclusive environment for all.

“Sports culture on campus, especially with the more stereotypical toxic masculine sports … definitely doesn’t make me feel comfortable in spaces where [sports] would be,” club member Noah Zuijderwijk ’25 said. “This group is helping me deconstruct that and see what that means.”

Club members’ reasons for joining ranged from the simple, like trying to find an inclusive space, to more lofty goals, such as wanting to change the culture of masculinity on campus. However, one thing unites everyone within the club—inclusivity.

“It’s entirely up to a person whether they feel like they belong to the group. We’ve had some people come one time and eventually decide that it’s not a space for them,” Padamsee said. “A primary way in which we maintain inclusivity is letting people decide [to remain in the club] for themselves.”

Club members believe that the inclusive nature of their group and the diversity of both background and thought is a benefit. The unique niche that members explore helps them to think about perspectives they normally wouldn’t have considered.

“[Healthy Masculinities] is not an affiliate group. People of all genders and sexualities come,” Zuijderwijk said. “The intersectionality of [identities] brings really interesting conversations.”

Healthy Masculinities was recently chartered by the SWAG center, which opens up the club to collaborations and joint events with other SWAG-affiliated groups. The group hopes that these events, along with their discussions, will help change the definition of masculinity on campus and beyond.

“I know that for a lot of men, thinking about masculinity is not something that they do a lot,” Zuijderwijk said. “Just having a presence on campus has an impact in its own way—it plants a seed.”


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