Notes on Being a Man – Part II: Two Words

This guest post was authored by Chris Gucciardo.
Welcome back, everyone. There are two words I would like to share with you today: “discipline” and “responsibility.”

Discipline is the ability one has to that allows her or him to not judge a person based on gender or sexual orientation. Moreover, just because a gay male does not follow the guidelines of being a “man” society has defined for us so obviously does not mean he isn’t a gay man. Likewise, just because men are naturally stronger than women, one should have the discipline to treat a woman humanely, honestly, and not as a sexual object or something to abuse their power on. Discipline builds awareness and allows one to procure the fundamental ideals of what a real man should and should not be and do.

Responsibility is what a real man has and works with to redefine society’s idea of masculinity and what it means to be a man. We need young boys, young men and teenagers, and adult men to take responsibility and create a society where feminism is not a radical group, but instead a mix of all people who simply fight for equality in women’s rights. We need men of all ages to take the initiative to create a society where one’s masculinity is not threatened because they love another man. Additionally, one should be able to live with the security to be openly gay, and accepted by heterosexual men as a man as well.

Of course there are aspects of society’s “man” that are healthy and ideal such as staying fit and physically healthy, getting a well-paying, rewarding occupation, and supporting his family. Yet in the two posts I’ve written for MasculinityU, I pointed out only some of the negative aspects society idealizes in its definitions of “masculinity” and “man.” Men, carry with you always the discipline to realize what is wrong and the responsibility to make it right.

I appreciate this outlet, and having the opportunity to share my thoughts and beliefs with others. It makes me feel proud and encouraged to support the movement toward a world free of gender and sexual violence, a world where men, women, and all members of the LGBTQI community can have equal rights and live in peace and security.

Chris Gucciardo is a student at at The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He is an Executive board member A Men’s Issue, a group at Syracuse University.


Notes on Being a Man – Part I: Conflicting Views

This is a guest post authored by Chris Gucciardo

It is easy to point out all of the negative messages society is leaving out there for young boys, young men and teenagers, and adult men. However, it is another thing to do something about that. We can approach these messages, and examine the values being offered to or even imposed upon the males of our society and suggest healthier actions and behaviors.

The number one striking message reinforced by one’s family, friends, advertising or other forms of media, is to “be a man.” The common misconceptions of society and our world today is that to “be a man,” you have to never cry, use your anger for power, and use that power against women and LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) individuals. Essentially, you must exert your heterosexuality to its most obvious and threatening level.

I’m here, along with many other men, to tell you that this culture of masculinity is incredibly limiting, and may be harmful. We live in a society where women and members of the LGBTQI community are constantly demeaned and dehumanized merely because they don’t identify as male (and thus are not as powerful) or do not identify as a heterosexual male (and thus are not regarded as a man according to society). Since when was it a crime to be a woman, queer, or trans?

Let me list some of the traits of being a man, the way society has laid out for us:

1. Heterosexual dominance: If you are gay, then you are not a man. Stereotypes of gay men are portrayed as being effeminate, and not being masculine enough to be considered a man. These beliefs not only often demean gays, but women as well.
2. Abuse of power: We know a male is likely to be physically stronger than his female partner, but never is it right for a man to use this strength to abuse a women. This power dynamic applies when considering any types of abuse – mental, emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual.
3. Hypersexuality: I don’t intend to bash those men here based on the number of female sexual partners women they have slept with. Instead, I am suggesting that hypersexuality among men in our society leads to men treating women as sexual objects, instead of as another human being. This mindset can, too often, be followed by sexual harassment and sometimes even sexual assault.
4. Taking advantage of women: Rape is any non-consensual sexual act between individuals regardless of sexual orientations and gender, and is unlawful. Men not only take advantage of women with strength, but will even do so through a woman’s loss of inhibition due to alcohol or drugs. It may be hard for us men to accept, but “No” means “No,” no matter how unsure the female may seem, no matter the clothes and/or make-up she is wearing, or the gestures she makes. Silence means no, anything that isn’t “Yes” means “No.”

If you feel as if you need to learn more about what it means to truly be a man, check out the latter half of this post, which will be published this Thursday. In the next blog post, I will talk more about two ideals for practicing healthy masculinity. Please stop by and read more next time on MasculinityU. Thank you.

Chris Gucciardo is a student at at The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He is an Executive board member A Men’s Issue, a group at Syracuse University.

Superheroic Masculinity – The Incredible Hulk

Guest post by Joseph Voltz.

We’ll continue our look at masculinity in the modern superhero by taking on the unstoppable force himself, Marvel’s Incredible Hulk. There have been several different interpretations, origins, and incarnations of the Hulk, depending on the writer’s vision. I will be speaking in general terms that reflect across most notions of the Hulk.

The Hulk, of “HULK SMASH!” fame, draws most of its narrative premise from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale “Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde” and applies a modern dose of superhuman origin story. Bruce Banner, fictional genius, creates a gamma bomb with his considerable talents. Through an ironic twist, he winds up exposed to the gamma radiation. Though Banner does not die, he finds that moments of extreme stress and anger cause him to undergo a physical (and mental) metamorphosis until he is completely transformed into the Incredible Hulk, a green rage-driven engine of destruction.

Widespread destruction ensues until the Hulk reverts back to his alter-ego of Bruce Banner. The hero’s major conflict comes from this dichotomy and the havoc the Hulk wreaks on Banner’s personal life.

Bruce Banner possesses a brilliant mind, even in a world populated by superheroes and otherworldly intelligences. He is remarkable enough in the world that other superbeings come to him for advice and solutions to scientific problems. Bruce Banner delights in solving the problems of the world using his bright intellect.

Beyond that, he finds himself emotionally withdrawn from people for a number of reasons, chief among them being his alter ego. Despite this lack of social emotion, Bruce does harbor feelings of shame, panic, and fear. He simply wants to be able to live his life without the Hulk persona. Underneath all that, Banner represents logical thinking and positive emotion.

On the other hand, the Hulk uses his vast strength to punch things, mostly. When Banner transforms into the Hulk, he typically loses control over his thoughts, reverting to a primal state of mind, where survival supersedes all other thoughts, and rage seems the only emotion. Not only that, but the Hulk draws his power from his rage, actually increasing his strength in direct proportion to the level of anger he feels at the time.

The Hulk is a destructive force to such a degree that his presence necessitated the formation of the Avengers team of superheroes in order to stop him from senselessly rampaging across the country for no particular reason. He has been exiled to space because he cannot be stopped, either by force or by reason. The Hulk is brute force incarnate, driven by instinct and negative emotions like anger and hate.

On the one hand, we have Banner, master of cool intellect and rational problem solving. On the other, we have the Hulk, a mindless rampaging monster who regularly defeats the entire U.S. Armed Forces as par for the course.

Banner has limited to no control over when he transforms into the Hulk. His role in the change is passive, as he relies on outside stimuli to effect the emotions that fuel the change. Once he’s the Hulk, he makes no effort (having no control) to change back, instead using his time and energy to destroy all that upsets him.

How does all this reflect on masculinity?

I believe the Hulk persona represents a hyper-masculine interpretation of power. Power in the Hulk’s world means the ability to solve problems by causing the problem to cease existing. Where Banner would like to solve problems by puzzling them out, the Hulk would punch it out. Additionally, the Hulk completely consumes the Banner persona, rendering it incapable of making rational decisions or complicated reasoning.

Banner’s personality complicates things further. Various writers have depicted Banner as a recluse, a survivor of abuse, and a stew of psychological problems. Though Banner may attempt to treat these issues in a healthy fashion, they usually act as triggering mechanisms for his incredible transformation. Rather than teaching comic readers to deal with their problems in a constructive way, the writers show that resorting to brute strength produces results quicker and often “solves” a problem, however temporarily.

This seems to be a stereotypical example of a man hiding his emotions and putting on a strong front. “Hulking out” represents taking this to the extreme, as Banner loses every part of what makes him a person in favor of a mindless, one-emotion force of aggression and destruction.

Is this a good interpretation of masculinity? Decidedly not. Using power to satisfy base and animal instincts is not a good representation of masculinity, even less so when triggering emotions or situations are covered up in the process.

However, the Hulk story captures more than simply aggression and power. When the Hulk is not leveling city blocks or headbutting meteors, Bruce Banner is left to deal with reality and the consequences of the Hulk. The conflicts of Banner reveal a more nuanced interpretation of the dichotomy between force and thought that the Hulk comic book focuses on.

Which persona is more popular with readers? Just look at the title of the comic.

See also: Superheroic Masculinity – Captain America

 This guest post was authored by Joseph Voltz, a recent alumnus of Lehigh University, with a degree in history and a minor in sociology. He is a current graduate student at Lehigh, pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in public history. Joe has worked as a congressional intern, and actively participates in the gender equality movement. His interests include science fiction, gaming, alternative popular culture, and comics, which he hopes to examine in future posts. In short, he is a bit of a geek, with a feminist twist.

The Gay Partnership: The New Standard for the Healthy Heterosexual Relationship?

By Tristan Lee-Wright

Disclaimer: First, I would like to say that not every gay relationship is the same and I would also like to say that there are healthy straight relationships that already have healthy relations. I create this post only to incite critical thinking, humanize gay relationships, and in my own way fight a form of sexism.

Certain Religions, Cultures, and Geographic areas uphold a “traditional” view of male and female romantic relationships, where the male is expected to be the dominant one, in control, and the one with sole (or most) economic support in the relationship. The woman plays the domestic subordinate role and must not undermine her husband’s authority through word and deed. In this relationship the woman has very little control of herself, her life and little economic independence. This institutionally reinforced relationship fosters dependency on the part of the female and sense of entitlement on the part of the male.

How do these rules apply to a relationship of two females or two males?

In a relationship with two people of the same gender the rules change and traditional roles become obsolete. Inherently the relationship between two people of the same sex is based on a form of equality, if you ignore certain personality variances. There aren’t as many established rules or roles for people in a gay relationship as there are for heterosexual relations. Of course one person might be more dominant and one more passive but that varies on a person’s interpersonal or relationship style.

If two men were raised in a society, culture, or faith where traditional roles were instilled then upon entering a relationship with another man with similar upbringing they might enter into a competition wanting to support the other more than they are supported. The same applies to two females raised with these values that enter into a relationship with one another, except, there might be less competition and more discussion due to taught passivity.

Ideally a relationship should be a partnership between two individuals who want to share their burden as well as rewards with one another, but at the same time it doesn’t take away from their own self sufficiency and autonomy. The problem with some “traditional” heterosexual relationships is it disempowers and dehumanizes the female by taking her voice, economic independence, and autonomy away as form of compensation (to the man) for the responsibility he is being held for. It can also create a perfect space for domestic abuse to happen.

This type of dominance can happen in any relationship (gay or straight) but it’s more prevalent in a heterosexual one do to reinforcing institutions.

Let’s equalize our romantic relationships, make them more partnerships rather than relationships because a “relationship” can be anything.

This guest post was authored by Tristan Lee-Wright. He is a Black, openly gay male who studied African American Studies, and Psychology with a minor in Social Welfare at Syracuse University.  He was introduced to activism during his attendance at Syracuse University and more specifically through the organizations Pride Union and A Men’s Issue.  Already a passionate, insightful, and observant person, the introduction to these organizations furthered his understanding, as well as curiosity, to the issues of gender, sexuality, and human rights.  He is a writer, graphic designer, singer, dancer and overall creative person.  

Should I Be Entertained?

Guest post by Karl Brisseaux.

I’ve made it very clear on Twitter and my blog: I am pretty excited about Watch the Throne, the new Jay-Z and Kanye West collaborative album. How excited?

That excited.

Anyway, I’m writing to address some more of the underlying issues and themes present throughout the album. There are a lot of different ways we can (and should) look at the art we consume – especially the music we listen to. I love listening to music so as to appraise its entertainment value, and Hip-Hop is probably my favorite genre. I grew up on it, memorizing the rhymes and nodding along to iconic melodies. However, I often feel conflicted about some of the themes that are all too present in Hip-Hop, moments where you wonder whether or not something’s OK to say. And Watch the Throne is filled with them.

Kanye West is one of my favorite rappers, but it can be hard to ignore some of the blatantly misogynistic lyricism throughout this latest offering. The same can be said about Jay-Z. The kind of destructively sexist language used isn’t exclusive to this duo, but since this album is the most au courant thing in music today, it’s worth looking at specifically.

I believe that the materialism and objectification on Watch the Throne, and in Hip-Hop music in general, stems from the fact that rappers in particular have lived in marginality themselves. For example, Jay-Z grew up in poverty, and today is worth upwards of $500 million. His raps about luxury cars and private jets make sense – a Black man flaunting the spoils of success in the face of a world that wasn’t exactly built for him to succeed. On the other hand, some of Kanye’s raps about his sexual conquests might be occasionally entertaining, but point to some issues he may have with his own self-image. In our society, men who have a lot of sex with women are often seen as more masculine – perhaps the sexism rampant in entertainment is compensation for low self-esteem.

And yet, in spite of the issues I can point out in the music, I still find it entertaining as a whole. Am I wrong for listening and being a fan? Maybe. I find value in Watch the Throne, in the same way I find value in television like Mad Men and in movies like City of God. But I also recognize the fact that there’s a line between creative and inappropriate. A very fine, gray one.

Karl Brisseaux is a senior at Lehigh University pursuing a degree in Applied Science and Mechanics. He serves as a volunteer as a part of Break The Silence, a student group dedicated to addressing sexual violence. He has served as the editor of a social justice magazine on his campus and as a columnist in the university’s newspaper.

Meet the most recent additions to the MasculinityU Team!

Stephanie Blanco, Vice President

Stephanie has served as a dedicated volunteer to the Syracuse University R.A.P.E Center for 4 years. During the four years at the center, she was co-leader to Sex-Esteem which is a peer education group advocating for healthy relationships and celebrating sexuality; a Mentor in Violence Prevention Peer Educator for 3 years, encouraging empower bystanders and action against all forms of violence; and co-chair for the events committee for Take Back the Night 2010 and 2011.

Stephanie has been a social advocate since high school, volunteering for the AIDS Walk NYC office for 3 years; avid volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, and a TA for a community service course for Habitat for Humanity at Syracuse University.

Noelle Smart, Marketing and Social Media Intern

Noelle Smart is a senior at Lehigh University, where she is pursuing a B.A. in Women’s Studies. She is actively involved on campus with the Women’s Center, where she has previously worked as an intern, and with the Rainbow Room, where she is currently a staff member. As a member of the Break the Silence program at Lehigh, she has served on-call to provide support and resources for survivors of gendered violence and has facilitated presentations to various campus groups.

Her upcoming projects include: co-producing V-Day Lehigh 2012; working as a student organizer for “A Week Without Violence,” Take Back the Night, and the annual candlelight vigil for Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley; and conducting an independent study on LGBTQI survivors of sexual and domestic violence and analyzing how these topics are addressed in anti-violence initiatives in higher education.

ESPN’s Keri Potts on how to prevent sexual assault

Featured guest post by Keri Potts of ESPN.

Having just spent a weekend with a few dozen WWII-era men and women, I am recommitting myself to accepting less bullshit, as a general rule.

That means I’ve abandoned the page of notes I scratched out for this blog post where I broached the pressures of college life, the dangers of “group think” and my own struggles with finding a place to fit in amongst a culture of excess beer and sex.

Let me break this down for you. If you want to stop rape and sexual assault on our college campuses, look no further than alcohol and men. It’s that simple.

I don’t want to hear about freedom of choice. Or how it’s “not the alcohol, it’s the person drinking it” that leads to problems. I’m not interested in getting into the psychology of the college-aged male species, their mommy issues, feelings of inadequacy, emasculation concerns or how evolutionary traits are the root cause of their behavior. I don’t want to hear any of it because it’s complete bullshit.

The undeniable facts are these:

  • Across the board, more men are raping women than vice versa.
  • When alcohol is involved in a suspected rape or sexual assault case, it is always to the detriment of the victim. It is largely why only 6% of rapists see jail time. And that is 6% of rapists who are actually prosecuted – an abysmally low number – because alcohol is often involved.
  • Education programs for men and women are few and far between, and almost never mandatory. These courses focus almost exclusively on stranger rape which is a low percentage of rapes and assaults that occur.
  • Society views rape/sexual assault as a “woman problem” and focuses mostly on telling women how to be perfect – how to dress, how to behave, and how to avoid doing anything that might sully their reputations should they one day be raped and their sexual history be called into question.
  • College men get away with rape because the victim is too embarrassed to go public and too worried what her parents will think when they discover their daughter was drunk and/or intimate with a boy beyond kissing.
  • The college guys who do stand up for women and stand out as advocates of this topic are the exception and not the rule on college campuses. The majority of men are ambivalent.
  • I always wondered, especially in college, when or how someone would try to rape me. Isn’t that sad? Not if, but when. And many of my girlfriends think the same thing. As women, we are told that college is a particularly ripe time to be assaulted. The numbers prove it. While 1 in 6 women will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime, 1 in 4 are victims during college. It’s a danger time for women and I know that because I saw it with my own eyes.

    I saw women singled out at parties because they were drunk and seemed an easier “get.” I saw my teammates and friends “go home” with strangers or almost strangers when both of them were drunk. I, myself, even experienced an attempt by someone I was dating to force me into something I was not comfortable with and boy did I smack him in the face. If he hadn’t backed down, I would have been in serious trouble because he outweighed me by 100+ pounds.

    Solution: Want to test how interested a campus is at protecting its female students? Ask it to do one or more of the following:

  • Establish a campus-wide escort service for co-eds who are too drunk or scared to walk alone late at night. Make it mandatory for fraternities AND sororities to staff the service and tie it into their philanthropic requirements. Publicize this program extensively.
  • Bring the message of how rape destroys lives straight to the dorms, the frat houses and the athletics teams. And I’m not talking about the expert, but the girl who is their age, who looks like them or looks like their sister, who can articulate exactly what rape feels like and how insidious a crime it is.
  • Require any alcohol company advertising on campus and in any neighboring bars to post signs about the percentages of rapes that go unreported or not prosecuted because the victim had been drinking. Consider these the alcohol version of those scary, creepy but effective anti-smoking ads.
  • Designate leaders from each male athletic team and fraternity because they are high-profile groups on campus to participate in year-long programs. And I’m not talking about the 4.0 bench warmer for the team who no one looks up to – I’m talking about your top guy. What could possibly be his excuse for not participating?
  • Don’t tell me these are too radical. These are steps ANY campus serious about protecting women from rape and sexual assault would gladly take.

    As for the ladies, the only direction I have for them is the following: Lift up the men who speak out against rape and who stand up for your right to personal sovereignty. Encourage them because those men are fully developed men – amazing men – at a time when so many aren’t. And what is sexier than that? Nothing.

    This featured guest post was authored by Keri Potts:

    Well, I am just a regular gal who would like to help and encourage others like me if ever they find themselves the victim of sexual assault. My name is Keri Potts and I had my story about my escape from attempted rape published in the December 2010 issue of Marie Claire, followed by an interview with USA Today. It outlined the assault I endured by an Italian citizen and the weeks and months after where I pressed charges which resulted in my attacker plea bargaining. It was a tough two years of my life trying to understand the ins and outs of the Italian judicial system and criminal procedure. I would really like to help expand the body of knowledge about overseas prosecution of sexual assault by finding others who have done so.

    I love my family, Jesus, college sports, autumn, long and vigorous walks, morning coffee, good friends, great conversations, wit and people who don’t bend to the prevailing opinion. I especially like people who fight to do the right thing even when it’s hard, drawn out and difficult to succeed.

    You can reach me at

    Gay Male Masculinity: A contradictory label or an expansion of identity?

    Guest post by Tristan Lee-Wright.

    What does it mean to be gay and masculine?

    Can a male be considered masculine, while also self-identifying as being gay?

    In a hetero-normative society (see hetero-normativity article) where male and female relations is the standard for normalcy and strict gender roles are enforced, a gay male on his sexuality alone is an outcast or derivation from the established rules.  If you include the fact that some gay men exhibit feminine gender expressions, again, by a strict standard of hetero-normalcy, than the gay male community is further isolated from what could be considered masculine or how men are supposed to act.

    How does the gay male then fit in and by extension define his masculinity in a hetero-normative world?

    The gay male defines it for himself.

    Since the gay male doesn’t fit in to the strict standards of that society, he is given the option to either assimilate or define his own masculinity, or identity.  If he assimilates he is a contradiction by definition because he pretends to be something he is not.  If he exercise’s his freedom he expands what could be considered masculinity for himself and for the men of his society, this includes heterosexual men.

    Since I reject the notion of hetero –normativity and see homosexuality and heterosexuality as both normal variations of sexuality, the masculine gay male becomes not a contradiction but a variation in one sense and an expansion in another, of masculine expression.

    You can be a gay male and be masculine.  A gay male is still a male even if he is effeminate.

    I define masculinity in terms of expressive gender characteristic choices rather than a biological inherence.

    As a black gay male, I consider myself a mix of masculine and feminine qualities; I bring out each when the situation calls for it.  I’m more butch (gay slang for masculine) when I need to be assertive or I want to show I’m upset.    I’m more fem (gay slang for feminine) when I am more relaxed and want to be approachable.  Masculinity and femininity exist on a spectrum not separate islands and most people are a mix of both of these identities, to varying degrees.

    This guest post was authored by Tristan Lee-Wright. He is a Black, openly gay male who studied African American Studies, and Psychology with a minor in Social Welfare at Syracuse University.  He was introduced to activism during his attendance at Syracuse University and more specifically through the organizations Pride Union and A Men’s Issue.  Already a passionate, insightful, and observant person, the introduction to these organizations furthered his understanding, as well as curiosity, to the issues of gender, sexuality, and human rights.  He is a writer, graphic designer, singer, dancer and overall creative person.