Written by: Wil Prakash Fujarczuk
Engaging men on campus in our work to create cultures of consent can be challenging. Between some men feeling they aren’t the ones who need to be engaged in this work, some men not understanding the severity of the issues we are facing on our campuses, and other men feeling timid at having vulnerable and challenging conversations, it sometimes feels like there are just too many barriers.
This year, I began hosting a webinar series called Blueprints for Change (BFC) for men at McMaster University. Each month, I have a one-hour conversation with a different speaker about a specific aspect of masculinity, such as challenging femme-phobia in queer men’s communities with Dr. Adam Davies. With continued attendance from faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, and alumni, I’ve been happy to see BFC grow into a staple in our office’s education program.
I wanted to share some reflections on this program that I hope will provide some insight for those developing their own initiatives to engage men.
Aren’t we just reaching the guys who already get it?
I hear this a lot. Who’s going to voluntarily sign up for these kinds of sessions? Aren’t the very guys who need to come the ones who aren’t signing up?
Simply put, this binary of “guys who get it” and “guys who are harmful” is at best inaccurate and at worst harmful. All men benefit from and are harmed by patriarchy, and we all have reflecting, (un)learning, and healing to do.
Using a tool like the spectrum of allies was helpful to me in identifying more precisely which men I wanted to engage, as well as what the goal of the initiative would be. BFC aims to attract the “neutral” and “passive allies” sections of the spectrum and move them into the “active allies” section. By featuring men who are walking the walk, participants leave with positive men role models and tangible steps they can take toward healthier masculinity in their own lives.
The name for the series was inspired by a quote from bell hooks’ “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love.” She says, “Men cannot change if there are no blueprints for change. Men cannot love if they are not taught the art of loving. Love is vital to maleness, to the spiritual and emotional wholeness men seek.” The idea is that webinar conversations are themselves the blueprints from “neutral” and “passive allies” to “active allies.”
How do we actually get men to show up?
A couple key considerations in engaging men include (1) considering the best format and (2) recognizing the diversity of men.
BFC is hosted on Zoom Webinar. Unlike Zoom Meetings, participants on Zoom Webinar can’t turn on their cameras/microphones or see the names or number of other participants. The anonymity of Webinar allows men to attend the sessions without worrying if their colleague, TA, or student is also tuned in. We can recognize that having avenues for more active engagement—such as volunteering in our Men’s Allyship Circle—are ideal, while still understanding that low-stakes engagement opportunities can be a relevant entry-point for many men.
Finally, it’s important to consider how we are reaching the diversity of men on our campuses. Men are often referred to as a homogenous group, but men are diverse! We are cisgender and transgender; gay, bi, queer, and straight; white and racialized; artists and athletes and scholars. The list goes on. Because it’s an ongoing series, I’ve been able to explore this diversity with different speakers and topics, such as “celebrating trans masculinities without recreating toxicity” and “masculinity and athletics.” Attempting to make every webinar relevant to every man on campus would be setting myself up for failure. By providing an array of topics, men can tune in to the sessions most relevant to their lives.
BFC has quickly become one of my favourite programs to run. I’m excited to watch it grow and see what else I learn about engaging men along the way!
Suggested Citation: Fujarczuk, Wil Prakash. (2021, October). Reflections on “Blueprints for Change: A Webinar Series on Practicing Healthy Masculinity for Men at McMaster”. Courage to Act. www.couragetoact.ca/blog/blueprints-for-change-healthy-masculinity