Two high-ranking University of California administrators are urging women’s center administrators across the nation to take up the task of “deconstructing masculinities.”
“Women’s centers play an essential role in helping to understand, identify, and deconstruct masculinities,” write UC administrators V. Leilani Kupo and Jessica Castellon, who both previously worked at the UC-Davis Women’s Center.
In an interview with PJ Media Tuesday, Castellon explained that, for her, “deconstructing masculinities” refers to the need for women’s centers to educate students on how “masculinity is not attached a gender.”
“Women can also embody masculinity, masculine of center people don’t always identify as men, and some might not identify with masculinity at all,” explained Castellon, echoing the theory that masculinity is not inherently male but socially constructed.
“By analyzing gender, masculinity in particular as a noun, adjective, and verb, women’s centers can interrupt the ways in which masculinity is discussed and offer alternative ways to think about it,” added Castellon.
This approach to tackling masculinity is nearly unprecedented. While the overwhelming majority of ideology aimed at masculinity involves men (such as by teaching them about harmful “breadwinner” stereotypes or encouraging bystander intervention), the UC admins take the opposite approach.
They seek to include everyone except for “cisgender men.”
“Most women’s centers are [currently] doing work around hegemonic masculinity (which is not bad), but we wanted to expand the conversation of masculinity because it missed a whole group of people who still experience oppression based on their gender.”
Going forward, Castellon hopes that women’s centers will begin opening up to the idea that “masculinity” is something all students (regardless of sex) can embody. This is especially important for transgender and non-binary students, she explained.
While Castellon no longer works at the UC-Davis Women’s Center, this ethos can be seen throughout the Center’s website. The Center aims to be as inclusive as possible for “womxn” and every single gender minority (except for men who still identify as men).
“Although womxn make up the majority of students on college campuses, they still navigate issues of hostile campus climate, sexism, and genderism,” the UC Davis site explains.
According to U.S. News and World Report, women comprise 60% of the total student body at UC-Davis. Considering that women are more likely to graduate than men, it’s likely that women comprise an even higher percentage of UC-Davis graduates.
The school has no programs intended to help men. The “deconstructing masculinities” article was published November 1 in New Directions for Student Services, in a special issue on how college administrators can address masculinity.
“Our hope is to inspire important conversations and reflection. We recognize this is hard work. This is heart work. This is good work,” Casellton and Kupo conclude.
UC-Davis did not respond to a request for comment.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen