Don't be alarmed by the name! The Men's Team is not a Men's Rights Activist organization. Quite the opposite. In fact, given that the Men's Team is an organization of men at York University in Toronto affiliated with the university's Centre for Human Rights, it could just as easily be known by the far more ungainly title "Men Speaking to Men about Gender-Based Violence and Masculinity at York University." Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it? Still, it's difficult to get away from the fact that "The Men's Team" connotes an investment in masculinity. Perhaps it even produces the impression that a group of men are circling their wagons to defend masculine privilege. No one could be blamed for reading "The Men's Team" this way, since all too often, masculinity -- a belief that men must be violent, strong, tough, unemotional, authoritative, etc. -- is the identity men perform, whether because we enjoy the privileges that accrue to it or because we feel compelled to behave that way in order to find acceptance in communities of other men.
This Men's Team sets out with a very different aim: to deconstruct masculinity. We understand masculinity to be a socially-constructed form of identity that benefits those who are able to successfully perform it at tremendous cost to others (heterosexual men who fail to embody its norms, homosexual men, women, etc.). In other words, we believe that masculine identity is inextricably linked to gender-based violence. Members of the Men's Team are committed to confronting and taking responsibility for the investments of ourselves and others in masculinity. This means interrogating the ways in which ideas
many men are taught to hold about toughness, stoicism, violence, power, objectification,
and gender roles, as well as others, can have deeply harmful effects upon other
members of their communities.
On this blog, we will draw attention to issues of masculinity and gender-based violence that are happening all around us. The point of the Men's Team is to open up conversations about these issues, so please don't be afraid to chime in with your questions and comments. This is a forum for discussion. Men are not born with a fully-formed understanding of masculinity, but most of us are socialized into believing that masculinity is normal and natural. It's okay to be confused about all this. All we ask is that you enter these conversations with an open mind. No one man is responsible for the ubiquity of masculinity or gender-based violence. However, each of us is complicit in its perpetuation unless we stand up and do something about it.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Men's Team is seeking new members for the 2014-2015 year. If you are self-identified man and member of the York community, this is a great opportunity to challenge yourself and others to confront masculine privilege and gender-based violence. Please apply here if you are interested.