A Republican legislator said Wednesday that UW-Madison is attacking men and masculinity by offering a six-week program called the “Men’s Project,” which explores masculinity and the problems it may cause.
Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said the program signals that UW-Madison “declared a war on men” and the university thinks Wisconsin parents have done a “poor job of raising their sons by instilling in them values necessary to become a man.”
UW-Madison describes the men-only program as an opportunity to have a conversation about the expectation of masculinity in a society where that concept is heightened by media, violence, alcohol, hook-up and pop culture.
The program description says that “these conversations can help us better understand ourselves and empower men to work as allies to promote gender equity and social justice.”
The Men’s Project also aims to discover how masculinity presents itself on campus and how to prevent negative impacts of masculinity, such as violence. To reach this goal, students will be asked about their own perception of masculinity, how their perception influences their peers and the UW-Madison’s campus.
A UW-Madison spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Nass has critiqued UW-Madison before, threatening state funding to the university last month if a course titled “The Problem of Whiteness” was not removed.
In an email Wednesday, Nass again called upon Republican legislators to reform UW System’s funding in the upcoming budget and questioned how the “supposedly underfunded” and “overworked administration” at UW-Madison “scrapped (sic) together enough dollars to offer a six-week program.”
“Our friends at UW-Madison are not happy enough with labeling ‘whiteness’ as a societal problem, now are attacking another societal ill… Men and their masculinity,” Nass said in his email.
But for some male students at UW-Madison, the program acts as a much-needed refreshment and an overall positive experience.
“Pretty rarely do I get to speak with a group of men who are intentionally pushing themselves to think critically about themselves and their interactions with masculinity and how they affect the community,” said Sam Douglass, a UW-Madison junior who recently participated in the Men’s Project.
“There are some barriers to really being open and honest about your masculinity and so being in that space kind of creates courage and helps you develop empathy and vulnerability,” Douglass said.
Douglass added that Nass was mistaken in describing the program as “declaring war” on men because, in Douglass’ experience, the Men’s Project was the opposite of a war.
“It encourages empathy and courage and if there was a more apt metaphor, it would be the program declares a cease-fire on... the war of domestic violence, rape culture, homophobia and suicide in men that is already waging.”
UPDATE Jan. 4, 6:00 p.m.: This article was updated to include additional responses.