Thursday, January 5, 2017

Is Sen. Nass fearful of UW's exploration of masculinity?

Threatening university with cuts results in suppression of free exchange of ideas 

It has been my personal observation that most men who are critical of studies on masculinity are themselves fearful of the change it might imply, of what conclusions may be drawn that could upset their status as the supposedly dominant gender in society.

State Sen. Steve Nass seems to fit with that description. His recent criticism over the University of Wisconsin class that examines masculinity is riddled with downright rage over the topic. Nass is clearly fearful and resentful of what the class could come represent to a new generation of men on campus, evidenced in an email he recently wrote to colleagues:
Our liberal friends in the Ivory Towers cite research into men with masculinity and the link this has in males being responsible for “harm, oppression and dominance.” The goal of the UW-Madison six-week program is to fix male participants “self-destructive behaviors that impair their ability to complete their education.”

In short, the highly paid leaders at UW-Madison now believe that Wisconsin mothers and fathers have done a poor job of raising their boys by trying to instill in them the values and characteristics necessary in becoming a Man.
Nass is fixated on defunding the UW based off of programs he deems to be too liberal. He previously attacked diversity training at the university, and he also went after a gay studies course.

In truth, however, there is nothing to fear about this course being offered to students at UW. Here’s a short description of why the course is being offered:
Media, hook up culture, alcohol, violence, pop culture; expectations around masculinity impact all of us. Understanding the connections between our experiences and experiences of masculinity and issues in our society can help build stronger communities. These conversations can help us better understand ourselves and empower men to work as allies to promote gender equity and social justice.
To some, gender equality and social justice are scary subjects. But to rational-minded people, they’re societal goals to strive for. Understanding masculinity, and the expectations of being masculine, then, helps to foster a conversation on how men can help change society for the better.

"An unexamined life is not worth living..."
Certainly the onus for improving society isn’t on men alone. But changing perceptions on what it means to be masculine – specifically, highlighting the positive and negative aspects of what society expects a masculine male to be – is a meaningful discussion that men would do well to take part in.

I’m not sure why Sen. Nass is fearful of allowing students to voluntarily enter this class to study their own perceptions on masculinity. Perhaps Nass is fearful to pose the question to himself. Whatever the case may be, Nass should be ashamed of trying to shape classroom discussions by threatening budget cuts to the university system.

That sort of talk results in a suppressive atmosphere that is not conducive to higher learning. Students should feel free to examine their lives and society itself while they immerse themselves in other academic subjects.

Instead, Nass’s rhetoric encourages closed-mindedness and bigotry. Perhaps that’s his goal – perhaps Nass doesn’t want students to examine ways to create a society that can work for everyone, not just white males. It’d be shameful if that were the case – and it’s my hope that Nass changes his tune, examines his hatred against education, and starts to behave like a civilized adult on the matter, willing to ask questions and look at his own views before berating and threatening one of the state’s most valued educational resources.

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