Men also are victims of sexism, according to a panel of five male Oregon State University students and staff members who addressed the issue Wednesday when they addressed the topic, “It’s a Man’s World: How Sexism Affects Men.” They said men sometimes are caught in a stifling “man box” of expectations and feel pressure to live up to those.
Cara Ashworth, the external coordinator for the OSU Pride Center, organized the panel so that heterosexual men would have a place to candidly address sensitive topics — such as being the objects of sexism — on Wednesday during the closing day of the OSU Modern Sex Conference.
Equal-opportunity sexism was among the 23 forums, discussion groups and other activities presented during the three-day conference hosted by OSU’s Intercultural Student Services, LGBTQ Outreach, the Pride Center and the Women’s Center. The varied issues explored during the conference included non-monogamous relationships, fetishes, Native American gender construction and sexuality in conservative cultures.
The conference attracted national media attention last month when Intercultural Student Services “uninvited” original keynote speaker Tristan Taormino over concerns of a potential public and political backlash over the use of taxpayer dollars — which funded the conference — to cover the appearance fee and travel expenses of a self-described “feminist pornographer.”
In the end, the Associated Students of OSU and the Memorial Union Program Council agreed to pay for her appearance with student fee dollars. Although her lecture Tuesday evening at LaSells Stewart Center took place during the three-day conference, it was not officially associated with it. Instead, organizers designated veteran sex educator Charlie Glickman as the keynote speaker. His address was “Act Like a Man: Sexuality and Masculinity in the 21st Century.”
Over the course of the discussion on men and sexism facilitated by Gustavo Martinez-Padilla of Intercultural Student Service’s Casa Latino/a de OSU, the panelists agreed that men and boys feel social pressure to act a certain way — tough, independent and dominant. Those males who do not behave as expected can be targeted for slurs.
MU director Michael Henthorne said men who live in the emotionally distant “man box” damage their relationships with both men and women.
“You live a less-full life as a result ... , ” he said.
Eric Hansen, the associate director of University Housing and Dining Services, said that because of the authority men sometimes command in group settings, they often have a false sense of superiority, which also can be detrimental to relationships.
“Because I have male privilege, I don’t see it — but women will see it,” he said, adding that many of his female colleagues have helped him gain a better understanding of privilege.
Memorial Union Program Council president and panelist Craig Bidiman said he’s experienced sexism in his female-dominated education classes, and he believes most men do not have a “safe space” to talk about gender and male stereotypes. However, even with the challenges men encounter when they want to discuss gender, they agreed the topic must be approached.
“Men can only have an effect on sexism when we’re willing to talk about our gender,” Henthorne said.
Contact reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.