January 18, 2018 4:00 pm
Updated: January 22, 2018 2:48 pm

Women’s groups applaud University of Calgary for shining spotlight on masculinity

FILE: The University of Calgary's campus.

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Women’s groups in Calgary are applauding the creation of a masculinity studies research chair and speaker series at the University of Calgary.

“I think this is fantastic,” YWCA vice-president of engagement and people Elsbeth Mehrer told 770 CHQR Thursday.

“I hope it’s something that people can come to openly [discuss] and with an eye to really have a conversation that is much more robust and much more nuanced, and really starts to dig into how we find a new way together – because the old ways just aren’t working.”

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Michael Kehler, research professor in masculinities studies, said Thursday he hopes to use his podium as North America’s first research chair on the topic to make people “re-think what it means to be a boy and a man.”

He said he’s hosting this series of lectures, which will feature a number of different speakers, as a way to launch this conversation.

He said the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have created an opportunity to “really change the channel” and reevaluate old gender norms.

It’s a sentiment Mehrer agrees with, adding that these movements have opened the door for broader, more nuanced conversations.

“I think lots of men – certainly in the context of #MeToo and in the context of some of these other movements that are happening – are trying to figure out, ‘what does it mean to be a good guy in the world?’”

LISTEN: Chris Haywood talks to Danielle Smith about his upcoming lecture at the University of Calgary

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“There’s still a large population that needs to rethink how they represent their own masculinity,” Kehler said. “And why they have to enforce this heterosexualized masculinity at the expense of ‘othering’ other people and putting down women in particular – or other men – and making them feel ‘less than,’” Kehler added.

Rebecca Sullivan, a professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Calgary, said conversations about masculinity have been “inaccessible” outside of feminist and queer spaces, where she said men often don’t feel comfortable.

“We need not just a bridging space, but a collaborative and equal space to have conversations about masculinity that acknowledge repressions and anxieties that go with that gender identity,” she said.

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“Because young men won’t go into feminist spaces, won’t go into queer spaces – they end up in some really dangerous places online.”

It’s a problem Kehler hopes to correct. And he said conversations about masculinity need to start early.

“Every little bit moves the conversation forward and it starts on the playground,” he said.  “It starts in our schools.”

Chris Haywood will deliver the first lecture of the university’s new series on Monday at 12 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m.

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