In response to sexual violence and decreasing male college enrollment, the University of Redlands is now offering a “safe space” for male-identifying students to discover their masculinity.
According to a school web page, “Dudes Understanding Diversity and Ending Stereotypes (DUDES) is a traveling Men’s Center, housed in the Campus Diversity and Inclusion Center for students who identify as Men, as well as women, transgendered students, and male allies.”
DUDES, along with other campus resources such as the “Masculinity Discussion” series at the University of Redlands, was designed as the male-oriented counterpart to female oriented campus programs such as the Women’s Center and the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Department. The Masculinity Discussion web page provides nontraditional views of masculinity.
“We believe it is crucial to deconstruct our societal understanding of masculinity and establish more inclusive definitions of manhood as part of the effort to reduce violence in our communities,” the page reads, urging men to ask questions such as “What does it mean to be a man in the U.S.?” and “How do we develop more holistic views of masculinity on campus?”
“We believe it is crucial to deconstruct our societal understanding of masculinity and establish more inclusive definitions of manhood as part of the effort to reduce violence in our communities."
The male social group provides a close network for like-minded male social justice activists who want to combat the negative stereotypes associated with being male, for example, the perceived connection between masculinity and gun violence. It provides an inclusive forum for students who want to discuss issues surrounding male stereotypes in the media, gender roles, and social perceptions of masculinity.
Resources provided by the DUDES center include: the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (LXG), Rangi Ya Giza (RYG), Title IX workshops, an annual 2-day Men’s Retreat in a surrounding natural landscape, and the M. A. L. E. S. (Men Achieving Leadership Excellence and Success) Institute.
The Campus Diversity and Inclusion program featured an event last December during which men were encouraged to break gender stereotypes by walking down a red carpet in heels.
The university’s Associate Director for Campus Diversity and Inclusion, Zack Ritter, told Campus Reform the female retention rate on campus is 90 percent while the male retention rate is around 85 percent. DUDES was created by the Men’s Retention Committee to help bring that number back up while avoiding giving the impression to the public that men at the University of Redlands are chauvinists.
“There are many types of ways to be a man, and there are many types of ways to be a woman,” Ritter said. “This isn’t the Boy Scouts; we aren’t saying this is what you have to do to be a good man.” He added that having male students walk around in high heels would give them a platform to more comfortably express themselves.
The university’s masculine-oriented programs was mocked for its use of acronyms and over-the-top progressive programs. A Gawker parody article joked that it had created its own (fictitious) male subcommittee called Brothers Allied to Learn Life Successfully (BALLS), which recommends forming a “specialized program” called Progressive Excellence Needs Institutional Support (PENIS), which will in turn “produce a platform for change,” Diversity Is Coherent Knowledge Helping Every Action Demand Solutions (DICKHEADS).
Ritter said he is not bothered by articles mocking his program.
“If you’re standing on the outside of this stuff, maybe it looks like bullshit, but that’s cool too,” he said. “This is a democracy and you can believe what you want to.”
A recent graduate from the University of Redlands and a member of DUDES told The Daily Wire that while he agreed some of the group’s activities were “a bit stretched,” he appreciated that it allowed for men to break down social stigmas associated with masculinity.
“I think the basis of the group has great intentions,” said the Redlands alumnus, who preferred to keep his name anonymous for this article. “Breaking down the social stigmas most young men have developed from years of seeing how men in college should act (American Pie, Animal House, Neighbors) is a great way to address issues of sexism. As For DUDES I think some activities are a bit stretched but again I appreciate what they stand for.”
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