If you are looking for a safe environment to openly debate controversial topics such as masculinity in modern-day society, your prayers have been answered. The HUB, located on the second floor of the Sonoma State Student Center, is the cultural center that offers plenty of programs related to diversity, social justice, inclusion, race, identity, ethnicity and much more.
“It’s a Guy Thing” is an open discussion that anyone can attend, which revolves around masculinity and the characteristics thereof, such as the role of masculinity in media, sports, and videogames. It is important to discuss masculinity in this day and age to be to able to see what it is in other people’s eyes and to not confuse real masculinity with what many people fantasize it to be.
Wednesday’s discussion was led by Jordan Grapentine, the Gender and Sexuality Program Coordinator, and Rob Smith, the Campus Life Advisor for Sports Clubs, but was very casual and anyone can speak their mind freely.
We began with introductions, as well as a little bit about us. Then, hypothetical discussion questions and icebreakers got everyone feeling a little more comfortable with the people next to them: hot hands, followed by rock-paper-scissors, followed by thumb wars, followed by a staring contest.
Grapentine kicked off the main course conversation with the online definition of masculinity (possession of qualities traditionally associated with men), which immediately got the ball rolling. The discussion delved into public opinion: what does masculinity mean to you? What is toxic masculinity? What are positive and negative traits associated with it?
One of the topics was if it is hard to live up to society’s expectations of masculinity. When the topic transitioned from masculinity to true strength, one student explained how mothers show strength when making sure that their children always have food on the table, even if it meant that she herself would not eat. Gender roles were thrown into question, and one topic of discussion was how men can protect women in other, more unorthodox ways, such as putting trust in her when she claims to feel unsafe.
As time went on, people became more open, more comfortable, and the HUB began truly to live up to its reputation of existing as a position for spiritual retreat. “In this first meeting, we broke down a lot of tension and nervousness that was there in the beginning of the meeting. I noticed that towards the second half of the hour, it seemed more folks felt comfortable to speak,” says Martín Herrera-Pazmino, a senior and double-major in CALS and sociology. Martín is also the student assistant for the HUB.
Like many in the room, Kaylei Aschwanden, a freshman Communications major, didn’t know what to expect in the beginning. “Initially, I was really intimidated being one of the only people that identify as female in the room,” says Aschwanden. However Aschwanden, like Herrera-Pazmino, noticed the comfort levels increase by the end of the hour. Aschwanden says: “It seemed like we were all on the same page.”
This semester is the coordinator’s, Jordan Grapentine, first semester with Sonoma State, having previously worked in Student Affairs at the University of Denver. Grapentine says: “Given the fact that a lot of people didn’t know each other in this space, it went very well. I was very impressed by the conversation and appreciated the vulnerability and authenticity shown by our students.”
The event ended within the hour, and it seemed like everyone still had a lot to express. That’s how you know that you were a part of an engaging and thought-provoking conversation.
“It’s a Guy Thing” happens once a month in the HUB. Other events at the HUB include: “Spoken Word” and “Poetry Night.”