Masculinity And Miscommunication

February 16, 2016

By Emily Lapinski

With the rising support of feminism and other social justice movements, it’s disheartening that there continues to be a group of individuals in our world fighting against the progressive strides we as a society have made thus far.

Return Of Kings, a group of men’s rights activists, planned on having their “International Tribal Meetup Day” on Feb. 6 in Rogers Park, near Loyola University’s campus.

The group’s head blogger, Roosh Valizadeh, 36, was to make an appearance at the meeting, designated to encourage men who hate women but work hard to get them to proudly share their difficulties.

Loyola University officials were made aware of the planned event and sent out a letter warning their students to be careful. They mentioned that their department of safety was working with the Chicago Police Department to monitor the situation.

In response to the supposed “worldwide attack” on the meetup, Roosh posted that the event was going to have to be cancelled, but that he encouraged the men that were going to attend to meet on their own time.

Is this a statement of masculinity? Can we really believe that the values these men share represent those of a “real man”?

Christopher Olson, professor of communication arts and sciences, provided his expert opinion on the issue.

“I think that Return of Kings is a response to the advancements of feminism, but one that is based on a woeful misunderstanding of the concept,” Olson said. “The men behind this group seem to think that modern men have become feminized and need to relearn how to act like men. I think this indicates two things; one, that there is one single way to be a man, and two, that they are driven by a fear that if they don’t act this way they will be considered weak.”

Olson believes the group’s decision to call themselves a “Men’s Rights” group is misleading.

“Men’s rights are not in any danger from women or feminism,” Olson said. “I think the men who subscribe to this line of thinking believe that they are entitled to a privileged position within society, and they now worry that this position is being threatened as women and people of color attempt to make their voices heard and challenge the oppressive social structures that serve as the backbone of a patriarchal society.”

Even today, there seems to be a disconnect between what a “real man” should encompass.

“To a lot of men, this struggle appears as a threat, because it destabilizes that longstanding white, heterosexual male power base that has existed roughly since society began,” Olson said. “Theoretically, men can no longer sexually harass women and get away with it (though the prevalence of rape culture would seem to contradict this idea), and this represents a challenge to their dominant place within society. Furthermore, thanks to the global economic recession, many men no longer occupy the position of breadwinner and provider. As such, a lot of men no longer feel secure about their position within society, and they seem to be lashing out in fear and anger. They compensate (or overcompensate) by asserting a violent, misogynistic and angry type of masculinity that they associate with traditional notions of men and masculinity.”

Now, more than ever, it’s important to discuss the trajectory of masculinity.

Masculinity and Communication, a course taught by Olson, does just that.

“I have always been a non-traditional guy,” said Olson. “I’m not really the epitome of masculinity. I love musicals, I don’t really pay attention to sports and I don’t know anything about cars. A lot of the pop culture that I consume is very much concerned with this idea of traditional masculinity; the tough, powerful figure that’s in a lot of action movies and westerns. I thought it would be cool to put together a course that looks at the trajectory of masculinity from about the 1940’s and not just in the United States but also all over the world because, when we talk about masculinity, there is more than one type.”

The course looks at masculinity across various historical and cultural contexts in order to determine how masculinity impacts communication practices and behaviors.

“I want my students to be able to think about the concepts and theories regarding masculinity when they are engaging with the world around them,” said Olson. “I use a lot of pop culture when I teach because I want students to be able to watch TV shows, movies and read books, having a critical eye toward the messages being conveyed about masculinity. More than that, I want them to be able to interact with other people, both men and women and have that critical eye for what type of ideologies are being put forth and the way that people act, talk and think.”

Things seem to be getting better, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there that will do anything in their power to stop the evolution of society.