On Monday night, 5Cs Thrive hosted an event called “Masculinity + Mental Health.” According to the event’s description, the workshop focused on the mental health problems caused by masculinity.
“Masculinity can be extremely toxic to our mental health, both to the people who are pressured to perform it and the people who are inevitably influenced by it,” state the event’s organizers. “We would like to encourage discussion on how to openly talk about our emotions and our wellbeing, and how to engage in masculine identities in a healthy way. Relevant to this discussion is how masculinity can harm our relationships with people and one’s ability to cope when relationships are difficult or end. We want to create a safe and open space where we can talk about masculinity and its various intersections with our identities and experiences.”
5Cs Thrive describes itself as “A safe space for students at the 5c’s to talk about mental health,” and the “Masculinity + Mental Health” event took place at the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (The Hive). The Hive’s stated mission is “to accelerate the creative development of students across the 5Cs. We do that through Exploration – by creating a safe space to experiment and play, Collaboration – by bringing people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives together to be in the ‘intellectual muck’ together, and through Experiential Learning – thinking by doing.”
The event received some positive feedback on Facebook. One woman, Lizbeth Ramirez, posted, “THANK YOU from the fullness of my heart for having this available for my fellow brothers.”
Miles Robinson (PO ’18), who attended the event, told the Independent that there was “a common consensus that masculinity is harmful both to those who express it and those affected by it” among attendees. “It was all talk through personal experiences,” stated Robinson. Robinson added that all of the organizers of Thrive—as well most of the attendees of Thrive’s weekly functions—are female, and the group hosted this event in the hopes of getting more men to come.
It seems Thrive’s efforts were not entirely successful, as some students avoided the event out of concern that it would alienate men. “If masculinity is described as something negative—a mental illness—then this is sexism against men,” stated Will Gu (PO ’20) in an email to the Independent. “Safe spaces… are supposed to make everyone feel comfortable. Criticizing masculinity makes males who adhere to traditional gender norms uncomfortable.”
Update: October 4, 2016
Sabine Scott, a leader of the “Masculinity + Mental Health” event, issued the following statement in an email to the Independent:
“Our ‘Masculinity and Mental Health’ event was created with the goal of providing a space to examine to effects of masculinity on mental health. In order to preserve the confidentiality of the space I’m not going to disclose what was discussed, but it was a productive conversation that helped people explore how masculinity impacted each person’s individual experience with mental health. Participants were able to find support in other people who have had similar experiences, and the meeting empowered both the men and women in the meeting to realize how the pressure to conform to stereotypical masculinity can have harmful effects on being able to share emotions and maintain healthy relationships.”
Correction: October 5, 2016
An earlier version of this story stated that 5Cs Thrive was part of the The Hive. A representative from Pomona College stated in an email to the Independent that 5Cs Thrive is not affiliated with The Hive, they just used the venue for their event.