Elections and Toxic Masculinity

In early October, The Washington Post obtained a video of Donald Trump’s lewd remarks about women during a conversation with media personality Billy Bush in 2005. The video incited sharp criticism at the national level, adding to the ongoing sexual assault discussion that has circulated in higher education for several years. Now, twenty women have come forward accusing Trump of sexual assault or sexual misconduct. Despite Trump's cavalier response to these allegations, they have facilitated a broader discussion about sexual violence online and in the news. Even as we recognize that sexual assault and rape culture are national problems, we should not forget the insidious ways that toxic masculinity often affects our experiences at the 5Cs.

Many students who pride themselves on their progressive views, liberalism, or self-professed feminism nevertheless perpetuate toxic masculinity in their everyday lives and in their relationships with others on campus. Sometimes, this toxic masculinity manifests itself in inappropriate behavior at parties; sometimes it manifests itself in slut-shaming, bragging about sexual conquests, or objectification. Despite our consortium's emphasis on sexual assault prevention and reporting during orientation and the resources available for survivors of sexual assault, including Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault and the EmPOWER Center, we as a community still have a long way to go in transforming campus culture.

In an Oct. 4 Claremont Independent article, “Claremont Students Say Masculinity is Detrimental to Mental Health,” some students criticized the student group 5Cs Thrive for hosting an event discussing how masculinity can affect students' mental health. This sort of event is exactly what we need, though: improving dialogue about masculinity is not about ostracizing or isolating male-identifying people–it is about allowing everyone, regardless of gender identity, to have healthier interactions and relationships with others. 

While female-identifying people and gender minorities bear the brunt of gender-based violence, male-identifying people also suffer as a result of narrow definitions of masculinity. As a recent New York Times article, “What Our Sons Are Learning from Donald Trump,” pointed out “Many educators assume that boys are hard-wired in certain ways: to be aggressive, active, competitive, impulsive and stoic. The risk of that approach is that boys are raised to think they can’t be anything else.” We would all benefit from taking some time for introspection and reflection on how norms surrounding masculinity and femininity permeate our lives.

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