Beyond Masculinity: Elon’s Newest Club Challenging Gender Norms

By: Amanda McMahon

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-3-52-06-pmIt’s no secret that the transition from high school to college is difficult. Classes are harder, schedules are busier, and most people are living away from home for the first time. Often times, the result of these big changes is stress–and lots of it. This is why many students seek out a support system when they come to college. Thankfully, there are plenty of organizations to choose from at Elon that offer students the support they need.

In 2015, however, then-sophomore Noah Beck Rosen felt that something was amiss. There didn’t seem to be any clubs at Elon whose goal was to specifically support male students and the problems they face. With a significant amount of drive and initiative, Rosen decided to make a change on Elon’s campus and start an organization that would do just that.

“I started [Beyond Masculinity] with my roommate sophomore year because we realized there was such a benefit to living together,” said Rosen. “We felt like we could talk about our issues because we were such close friends. It was so great to have a male ally to talk to about what was going on in our lives without fear of judgement. We realized that we wanted to replicate that model for the university.”

The mission of Beyond Masculinity is simple: “to create a safe space for men to come together and discuss their personal lives and issues of masculinity.” The club has already had an amazing impact. Many male-identifying students feel uncomfortable with the societal expectations of masculinity. They feel as if they are not allowed by society to show sensitivity or talk about their problems. Thankfully, Beyond Masculinity gives them an outlet to do this in an environment where they won’t be ridiculed or judged, especially due to the fact that the meetings are anonymous.

Rosen remarked that the issues dealt with in the club are very close to him. “I never really identified with the stereotypical, hegemonic idea of masculinity. As I got older, I realized some of the issues associated with masculinity in our society and I saw the benefit of males having a good mentor who wouldn’t perpetuate those stereotypes.”

Establishing the club has been a long process for Rosen and his roommate. “We were good friends with the girls who ran I Am That Girl, which is a similarly constructed club for women. So, they helped us figure out how to set up our organization. Sometime in November of 2015, the club had their yearly ‘Bring That Guy’ event. At that meeting, I announced that we were starting Beyond Masculinity. We’ve been working to make it SGA official since then,” said Rosen.

Along with the challenge of making the club official on campus, Rosen sited ridicule as a problem he’s faced while starting the club. He has taken an empathetic stance on the backlash, though.

“I think this may come from a place of misunderstanding,” Rosen stated. “It’s a lot easier to criticize than to try to understand.”

Whatever difficulties Rosen has faced in starting Beyond Masculinity, there have certainly been positive outcomes as well. “We’re creating a real cultural change at Elon. There are a lot of issues with regards to the masculine stereotype and I hope we can shift that. We currently have 47 members after just two semesters. We are already, in a short time, starting to spread our reach through the school’s community,” said Rosen.

He ended by remarking on his personal experience from starting the club. “I have found such amazing results in having positive male friendships with people who share my beliefs within the club.”

So, to any male-identifying individuals who feel like they haven’t quite found a good support system at Elon yet, fear not. Noah Beck Rosen and the members of Beyond Masculinity will gladly welcome you to their club. (P.S. The meetings are anonymous, so there is absolutely no fear of judgement!)

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