Organization seeks to redefine society’s view on masculinity

Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer

In a culture saturated with depictions of what masculinity is, Men for Change seeks to address the negative aspects of society’s definition of masculinity and explore healthy forms of masculinity as defined by spirituality said Dr. Josh Ritter, co-leader of Men for Change and assistant director for Baylor Formation.

Men for Change was formed in partnership with Baylor Formation, the department of multicultural affairs and the Baylor Counseling Center. The group is a “brave space” for Baylor men to discuss spirituality and masculinity and find an intersection between the two, according to its website.

“Our society focuses on hypermasculinity and hyperfemininity as two ideologies that seem socially acceptable to most people, and so we want to challenge the men at Baylor to engage in a different type, a more healthy version, of masculinity and help them figure out what that might look like,” Ritter said.

Ritter said most men grow up with a picture of masculinity centered around athleticism and promiscuity. Men for Change takes a more holistic look at masculinity, grounded in the Christian faith, he said. Examining Moses and Jesus, he said, gives a very different picture of masculinity than looking at present-day male figures such as athletes, actors and artists.

Ritter said men have a difficult time committing to male bonding experiences and being vulnerable. One of the reasons for this, co-leader and Higher Education and Student Affairs graduate apprentice Billy Baker said, is because men have a fear of being vulnerable with other men.

“Creating mentorship opportunities, which is really where Men for Change is going, is reinforcing the need for close-knit, almost emotionally intimate, relationships among men,” Baker said.

Men for Change is defined as a brave space rather than a safe space because there is risk-taking associated with being vulnerable, Ritter said. While Men for Change is still a safe space for men to be vulnerable, defining it as brave space acknowledges the courage associated with being vulnerable.

“It has helped the males to see more of the intentionality behind what we are trying to do,” Ritter said. “Instead of just saying, ‘Here’s a space for guys to go and be guys,’ it’s, ‘Heres a space for men to come together and talk seriously about things that need to be talked about and often are not talked about.’”

Baker said that the idea of a brave space has allowed male students from all backgrounds to share experiences and struggles. He said that they feel accepted by the other men in the group and, at the same time, are brave enough to share.

“We want guys to come and feel accepted for who they are and be authentic in all of their forms, while taking off this performance of masculinity that we’ve been told we have to have,” Baker said.

Men for Change was created after the Baylor sexual assault scandals 2016, Baker said. During the fall 2016 semester, Men for Change met together, but in the current semester members of the group are meeting with mentors. Information on joining the group can be found on its website,