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[c.a.r.e.] harmonize our voices, transform our world

Do Men Really Need (more) Support?!

October 5th, 2011

Hi! My name is Nicolas K. (Nick) Daily and I’m a first-year graduate student in the College Student Services Administration program here at OSU. I am the GTA for Men’s Support Programs working out of Student Affairs. Some people are wowed by the idea that we are finally showing a commitment to trying to help support men on this campus; others are shocked by the idea that men need “support” and will have none of the idea; others still are interested in hearing more about the topic before they make a decision about the program. I’d like to try to help people understand the place where I come from when I say that men need support on college campuses.

It may first be helpful to let my audience know that I have a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from University of Redlands. As such, I believe that we can do men’s work alongside women’s work and still be working toward the same goals. Next, I want to acknowledge that men have privilege and that some would argue that the world, the nation or the university itself all have and continue to be designed as men’s support programs. This may be true in one sense but I’d like to challenge it in another. Institutionally and systematically men are privileged; this is a fact that virtually all people agree with. Alternately, few or no men feel privileged on an individual level. Some may have lost their jobs due to downsizing, had huge losses in this recession, some may even have jobs that pay less than their partner. These all are quite relevant to why I’m doing this work.

Imagine you are at a college party in an apartment or fraternity house on a Saturday night. The alcohol is flowing from a seemingly never emptying refrigerator, and everyone is having a good time. The focal point of the party seems to be a game; a drinking game that is played across the dinner table where the guys, all in different states of dress and drunkenness, compete to see who can make the ping-pong ball into the most cups, simultaneously competing to see who can drink the most and continue to be a viable opponent. Over the music encouraging the women to lick a symbolic lollipop, you can hear the guys yell things to each other like: “Take it like a man!” and “You really think you’re man enough to take me on?”

As these men yell these things at each other, what may be unknown to many is that there is a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to college males and their understanding of what it means to be a man in this day and age.  Between media portrayals, peer messages, and personal understandings there are many college men who question how they can be men in a society that is increasingly putting pressures on men to perform at greater levels.

The dominant form of masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity (HM), suggests that men need to be strong, powerful, in control, and successful among a myriad of other responsibilities. If a man does not fit this hegemonic description, in any way, he is seen (and often described) as less than a man. Three of the main points that may help illuminate this are (1) the idea that men are stoic or emotionally apathetic, (2) the idea that men must be successful, and (3) the pressures, both internal and external, to always fit into “the man box.”

The emotional apathy in men leads to alcohol and drug abuse, reckless behaviors, as well as emotional, physical, and sometimes sexual violence.  The need to “keep up with the Jones’” is rampant in the male community. Men seek much of their validation from other men thus, they feel they must live up to the idea that they believe society (and other men) expect from them. Few feel that they meet this description, so they put on a performance of the masculine identity they believe people expect, for example the college men binge drinking and challenging each other at the party in the story above. They also, in turn, hold their male compatriots to the same unattainable standard creating a never-ending cycle of unachievable expectations.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when discussing this topic; I hope that the chief take-away people get from this blog, as well as our session at the conference, is that these support programs are really just trying to help men develop more positive expressions of masculinities that are internally, not externally, motivated. We hope that we can help men lead healthy, reflective, and connected lives that contribute to their own wellbeing as well as that of the community they surround themselves with. At present, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that these things are present in the majority of men’s lives.

Nick Daily
Student, College Student Services Administration
Men’s Support Programs Graduate Assistant

3 Responses to “Do Men Really Need (more) Support?!”

  1. Sarah McConnel says:

    Thanks, Nick!!
    This was great!!

  2. Eric says:

    What is wrong with external masculinity? Not saying inner masculinity isn’t important, but no reason why they shouldn’t be proud to show it.

    • Nick Daily says:

      Eric,
      I would suggest that there isn’t anything with presenting masculinity externally (I’d posit that all people express masculinity externally). What I was trying to get at in the above post is that men’s performance of masculinity is (typically) externally *motivated*.

      If more men reflected on their expressions of masculinity (and how those expressions are influenced by their social surroundings and society), I believe that fewer men would feel these pressures to conform to the idealized version of masculinity I describe above.

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