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Students in BAASA, WoCA and MoCA analyze masculinity in communities of color

Students attending “Unpacking Masculinity in Communities of Color” learned about and discussed what the core of masculinity is, and how this “man-made” concept has the capacity to harm many, depending on who controls the narrative. Around 40 Brandeis students attended the event, which was held Wednesday evening in the Intercultural Center.

Brandeis Asian American Students Association (BAASA) hosted the discussion about masculinity in communities. The event was also sponsored by Brandeis Women of Color Alliance (WoCA) and Brandeis Men of Color Alliance (MoCA).

Representatives from BAASA, MoCA and WoCA respectively got up in front of the room and gave a brief presentation on the history and overview of perceived masculinity, or lack thereof, in their communities.

Even though the histories of different people of color in America are very different, there are commonalities that one can discuss when thinking about masculinity, including emasculation, discussed the presenters. The presentations described that there was, and still is to an extent, a systemic form of emasculation in communities of color.

U.S. immigration practices and laws in the 20th century expressed extreme xenophobia towards people from East Asia, expressing it by emasculating East Asian men, said Jasmine Le ’20. 

Le gave the example of a strict quota on Asian women allowed in the U.S., so that the Asian race in America could not grow. Meanwhile, racial mixing was outlawed and frowned upon. Lastly, the U.S. media started to openly caricaturize Asian men as feminine, as seen in, for instance, Mr. Yunioshi of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” said Le.

The group came together to discuss this emasculation and characterization at the end of the presentations, including the lasting impacts emasculation and characterization have on the way people see Asian American men, and the way Asian American men see themselves.

Next, Roland Blanding ’21 described how the U.S. disenfranchised and emasculated black males during the Slavery and post-Slavery eras of American history using three main systemic means: Restricting access to family, education and access to cultural capital. In this case, cultural capital is what you value as a society, said Blanding. Because African people were seen as subhuman “livestock” by slave owners, animalistic rather than “empathetic” values were rewarded. Emotionality and selflessness were seen as handicaps because they didn’t lead to greater worker productivity. 

The event wrapped up with discussions on how we, as a society, can resist traditional toxic masculinity. Many echoed that in order for there to be healthy masculinity, it should be viewed as an individual definition, not a collective idealistic goal.

Some group members also thought it wise to not even think about “masculinity” when going about one’s daily life. Rather, men should strive to think about a code of ethics that relates to being a human being. Lastly, it was suggested that men should speak out against oppression that they witness against others.

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