The Group MEN-tality
By Tyler Bradford
Published on Friday, May 11, 2012
Being a man at Dartmouth might not seem particularly challenging. In terms of campus issues, people tend to focus more on women, who didn’t come to Dartmouth until the 1970s and faced a great deal of adversity because of the College’s all-male legacy. In recent years, however, students have begun to turn their attention to creating more organizations for men that foster a positive and healthy sense of masculinity.
Certainly, fraternities have furnished Dartmouth men with a variety of all-male spaces for many decades. Greek houses are not only the dominant social space on campus — they are the dominant organization of any kind. No other category of organization on campus has such high membership relative to the total Dartmouth population. However, these kinds of male-dominated social spaces do not always provide the perfect medium for men to share their honest opinions or voice their concerns.
Men’s Forum is an alternative organization that was recently formed to provide a venue for males to discuss their experiences at Dartmouth. Created in fall 2010 by Gabriel Werner ’11 and Tommy Brothers ’11, Men’s Forum began as a weekly discussion group focused on giving men a space to discuss being a man at Dartmouth, while also incorporating non-Dartmouth perspectives.
This year, Kip Dooley ’12, Michael Gordon ’12 and Martin Kulander ’12, this year’s heads of Men’s Forum, have continued to keep the organization largely in line with its founding goals, they said.
“We are trying to provide a space for guys to talk about the pressures that come with being a man at Dartmouth while keeping our discussion in context with the privilege men share,” Kulander said. “Men at Dartmouth are often encouraged to be hyper-masculine or athletic, and that can have a pigeonholing effect. We’re trying to expand that notion of masculinity.”
Kulander also expressed the profound impact these understandings of masculinity have on larger social issues on campus.
“We see these understandings of what it means to be a man play out in conversations about sexual assault, homophobia and hazing,” Kulander said. “These are all examples of people putting down other people.”
As the organization gains more traction with its recent recognition by the Committee on Student Organizations and funding from the President’s Office, Men’s Forum is looking to expand to have a programmatic function. Kulander identified fraternity pledge terms and the early part of freshman year as two crucial points of intervention.
“I think the [Mentors Against Violence] facilitations done during pledge term are great — I myself am a MAV, but there are definitely men who say what they think they are supposed to say in the presence of women,” Kulander said. “These men are sometimes worried they will be judged if they say what they actually think, and if you can’t get people to speak honestly, change will never happen.”
While alternatives to the mainstream social scene have emerged, many men continue to rely on their fraternity as a primary social organization and are able find role models within this group of men.
Sam Bauer ’14, a member of Phi Delta Alpha fraternity, described his fraternity as his main source of male friends on campus.
“I think most affiliated men think of their fraternity as their prominent social group,” he said. “At some other schools it might be a group such as sports teams, but here, the primary social group tends to be the fraternity.”
While the most popular organizations for men at Dartmouth to join are fraternities, no one in the Dartmouth community needs to be reminded of the many flaws of that structure that have been pointed out recently, especially concerning the initiation of new members over the course of pledge term.
Bauer agreed that there is a need for more dialogue and added that the College could benefit from an advisory system targeted toward incoming freshmen.
“I think there is a need for a more approachable venue,” Bauer said. “There needs to be a group or system that freshmen feel they can really relate to.”
Men at Dartmouth need a strong support system in order to be strong individuals and successful members of their communities. Fostering discussions about masculinity can be extremely difficult. However, now more than ever, masculinity is a crucial topic that we all need to examine.
Dooley is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.