Women’s Center shines light on masculinity

“Mindful Masculinity” campaign aims to spark introspection and conversation among the student community


Signs around campus on norms surrounding masculinity are a core part of the campaign.

Abby Bermeo, Contributing Writer

The Women’s Center has created a new initiative aiming to promote healthy concepts of masculinity.

The campaign, officially called the Mindful Masculinity Campaign, was introduced to campus by the Women’s Center and headed by Peter Rives, an intern at the Wellbeing Center working towards his Master’s Degree in social work. Given that one of the missions of the Women’s Center is to promote gender equality, Rives, Women’s Center Director Stephanie Trilling and a group of male-identified students decided to start a conversation about masculinity. This group of students gathered and talked about their childhoods, their fears and how these things impacted their masculinity and self-confidence.

“We have had the opportunity to explore masculinity in a much deeper and more profound way than before,” said junior Michael Lopez, a participant in the group. “The hours of discussion amongst a diverse group led to countless insights and understandings.”

He and many other participants felt welcomed in the community of male-identified people who wanted to discuss the intricacies of masculinity. After talking in this round-table format for some time, the group was able to determine how their experiences and feelings could translate into a mission to promote gender equity and an open dialogue about identity.

As part of the initiative, hard-to-miss signs have been placed on Hearn Plaza with messages that include “that guy in the Pit worries about how manly you think they look,” and “that guy in your feed feels pressure to appear perfect.”

The goal of the signs, according to the leaders of the initiative, is not to entirely shift the mentalities of the young men on this campus, but simply to have people consider them. While it may appear that the signs are meant to target men, the signs are actually geared toward anyone walking by. In order to promote equality, the Women’s Center believes that people of all genders should take these signs as an introspective opportunity to think about how their actions affect themselves, others, and their identities. As a part of this effort, the Women’s Center chose not to express the idea that masculinity was “toxic,” but instead wanted to encourage a sense of reflection and self-awareness about gender that isn’t taught to many people, especially men.

The signs, however, are only effective if students understand the message. Many men are confused as to the point of the signs, while many women like the idea and want to see more.

“Some of these are super accurate. I hate being in the Pit alone,” said one male student, who asked to remain anonymous. “But also, I don’t get the signs at all.”

Something to note is the fact that most men that the Old Gold & Black spoke to have noticed these signs, and they have indeed caused some level of introspectiveness. Comparatively, when women on campus were asked the same thing, most completely understood the point.

“Honestly, I wish they did more. I don’t think men will get the point of this as they are probably conditioned to not take gender-related [issues into consideration],” one female student said. “I do like the initiative though.”

In addition to feedback from students, Trilling received emails and texts from various members of the staff and faculty. Trilling said that most of the emails she got were appreciative and grateful, with male staff members expressing that they felt welcomed, heard and part of the conversation. One staff member in particular said he was really appreciative of the fact that the word “toxic” wasn’t put in front of masculinity, as he said it makes many men feel “attacked.” This was considered a success for the WFU Women’s Center, whose goal it is to encourage healthy and open masculinity and gender identity.

The Women’s Center plans on continuing this project by potentially including fraternities, sports teams and other male-dominated organizations in open dialogues about identity, masculinity and confidence.