Arts & Culture

‘Men’s Story’ explores masculinity, gender, race

Students, staff members, administrators share thoughts on masculinity through storytelling

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, March 24, 2016

Benjamin Koatz ’16 shares a poem. The event “Men’s Story Project: Looking Within, Speaking Out” featured students and Brown community members.

“I tried to unlearn all that I knew about what manhood means,” said Marc Peters, men’s health coordinator, as he discussed being a male feminist and how men can abuse this label to commit violence against women.

Peters spoke during the event “Men’s Story Project: Looking Within, Speaking Out,” part of the Men’s Story Project Network and presented by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and the group Masculinity101. The production sought to explore masculinity through the stories of students, faculty and staff members and challenge perceptions and stereotypes about what it means to be a man.

The storytellers discussed their experiences with masculinity and how it has intersected with the other facets of their identities.

“This project is about talking about masculinity — how some people are denied masculinity and some people are automatically ascribed masculinity, and it lets people talk about what happens when people want to access masculinity but are forced to perform it in a certain way,” said Justice Gaines ’16, the production’s master of ceremonies.

The performances predominantly took the form of spoken-word poetry, but there were also speeches and a song. Prevalent themes in the stories were gender identity, toxic masculinity, societal expectations, sexual orientation, feminism, love and violence.

Several of the speakers, including Benjamin Koatz ’16, AJ Whitman ’17 and Isaac Albanese focused on gender identity and performing masculinity.

“It sucks, to not just craft an identity, not just justify it to the world but also justify it to yourself; when any inkling of self-doubt is thought of as a foothold for everything from gentle, prodding, scripture conversion; for your own head to say, ‘Maybe we should stop inconveniencing everyone with this, if we’re not sure?,’” Koatz — who uses the pronouns they, them and their — said in reciting part of their poem. “You have to be sure. That’s how the game works.”

Whitman discussed coming to terms with a genderqueer identity, and Albanese discussed how masculinity can manifest itself in the trans community.

Lars Tiffany ’90, the head coach of the men’s lacrosse team, and Scott Turner, the University’s director of web communications, discussed love as it relates to masculinity. “Love is the most fundamental quality of being a man,” Tiffany said, addressing his team, which attended the event.

Several of the speakers, including Ricardo Jaramillo ’18 and Tariq Cannonier ’16 shared how race and ethnicity have played into their experiences with masculinity. Cannonier discussed being perceived as “scary” due to his blackness and, in a poem, shared an exchange he had with his mother. “You’re smart, Tariq, and handsome and better than all that. You can go to college and be an engineer, but remember first that you’re black, and the world hates that,” he said. Jaramillo examined how colonialism shapes expectations of masculinity in the country his family’s ancestry, Colombia.

Video clips called “Masculinity101: Conversations on Masculinity” introduced the show’s first and second acts and marked its end.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Ricardo Jaramillo ’18 and Tariq Cannonier ’16 shared how race have played into their experiences with masculinity. In fact, Latinx is an ethnicity. Also, the article stated that Colombia is Jaramillo’s home country. In fact, he was born in the United States. A previous version of this article also quoted Benjamin Koatz’s ’16 poem as saying “when any inkling of self-doubt is thought of as a foothold for everything from gentle prodding to scripture conversion.” In fact, he said “gentle, prodding, scripture conversion.” The Herald regrets the errors.