The UC Santa Barbara Masculinities Project held its first growth seminar on April 11 as a part of their first growth group series. The program provides a safe space for attendees to learn how to express their masculinity in a healthy manner, all as a means of eliminating sexual assault on campus.

UCSB C.A.R.E hosted the first Masculinities Project session on April 11. Additional sessions will take place on April 25, May 9, and May 23. Devin Ralston / Daily Nexus

“Men historically, and to this present day, commit most of the violence against others and towards themselves and so it is really important for us to engage with our men and our male students on what healthy manhood is like and how we show up for one another and other people,” Associate Director of Prevention of Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education, the project’s parent organization, Sven Rundman said.

The Masculinities Project, made up by a collective of students, staff and faculty, is hosting four separate seminars on race & culture, sexism & misogyny, substance abuse and male friendships every other Thursday after Week 2 during the spring quarter. 

The first workshop tackled race and culture as it pertains to masculinity. Facilitators began the event with a televised TED Talk by author and gender equality advocate Gary Barker called “A Reframing of Masculinity, Rooted in Empathy,” giving students insight on how to foster care, compassion and connection among men. Barker also referenced the rising tendency for men to express masculinity in an unhealthy manner from perceiving influencers perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

“There’s a lot of very influential men online and on campus. A lot of very influential men in your family, a lot of very influential men in your friend group, right? And so, when those guys are practicing harmful forms of masculinity, everybody else is gonna follow that,”  the project’s men’s engagement educator and fourth-year sociology major Zakai Avidor said. “It’s extremely problematic.”

Student leaders led participants in an activity called “deconstructing the man box,” where students outlined qualities they perceived to be representative of a man to challenge their unreasonable expectations for themselves and others. Common qualities brought up during the seminar related to an individual’s strength, muscle tone and height. 

“We want to make sure that we’re aware of the issues and the harmful narratives of masculinity so that we can start to embrace things that feel more authentic,” Avidor said.

Co-facilitators of the event from the Office of Black Student Development and the Educational Opportunities Program helped to segue the topic of masculinity toward race and culture by sharing their own experiences with how their race or ethnicity has shaped their definition of masculinity and how those expectations have affected them.

The event concluded with students reflecting on the programming and sharing their takeaways from the event.

“[We] want to be aware of some of the issues and the harmful narratives of masculinity so that we can start to embrace things that feel more authentic and that make the world a better place,” Avidor said.

The project also provided lunch from Lilly’s Taqueria and journals for students to take notes during the seminars.

“No matter how somebody identifies, they can take away something from this conversation and from these programs,” Rundman said. “We’re really trying to help men have this collective group of accountability so that they, and everybody else can learn and grow.”

Students interested in attending the next three sections in the growth series can register on Shoreline up until Wednesday, April 24.