So Duke University has made the news again, and thankfully it’s not another rape case.

So Duke University has made the news again, and thankfully it’s not another rape case.

However, I’ve noticed that the reason they’re in the news is causing a lot of pearl clutching and panic (and of course moral outrage) among certain groups of people who *ahem* tend to be less than friendly towards feminism or feminist theory. Trying to wade through the numerous articles, videos, vlogs, and um…whatever Alex Jones creates is a nearly Hurculean task.  Heck, trying to FACT CHECK the various articles about how Duke University is creating a “”safe space” for men to contemplate their “toxic masculinity”” is exceptionally difficult.

So I’m here to help out.

The main article being cited is the Washington Times’ article titled, ” Duke University launches ‘safe space’ for men to consider their ‘toxic masculinities’” which sadly, misses the point of what is actually going on.  The point passes so far above their heads it’s passing through the stratosphere. Now if you look at the article, it looks pretty damning, and it appears that they cite their sources repeatedly.

Not really…

You see, most of the links aren’t sources for their article, but links to their own paper ( as you can see here). They have one link to an article about the Duke Men’s Project, and if you follow that link you’ll discover that sadly, the Washington Times is more interested in sensationalism than actually reporting the truth.

Like a cherry picking apologist, they grab bits and pieces and move them about to make it look like Duke University is hosting some sort of evil feminist brainwashing scheme to make men learn how their masculinity is bad and they need to be accountable to feminism.  I’m not making this shit up. They’re seriously making it seem like there’s some sort of evil plot being hatched by the even more evil feminists to make men into…not men?

Just like a Christian apologist taking an atheist’s comments out of context, they grab a chunk of what is said and twist it into something entirely different from the truth.

So what is actually going on, you ask?

Essentially there is a group that is working to launch a nine-week long program called The Duke Men’s Project that “aims to discuss masculinity, feminism and intersectionality.”

Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

Even their Facebook page states that the Duke Men’s Project is “an initiative sponsored by the Duke Women’s Center to increase male allyship in gender equity and gender violence prevention.”

In layman’s terms, it’s mostly for male feminists and male allies, not all men.

It is a program that aims to focus on things that are typically viewed as part of what is known as toxic masculinity and how to recognize and work with them in hopes of creating a healthier view of masculinity than the one currently held by many people. Of the various topics covered, there will be discussions on the “language of dominance”, pornography, machismo, and rape culture.

According to their Facebook page, their intention “is to rework current narratives of masculinity for a healthier alternative; one that is inclusive, equitable and positive”.

For those who are interested, here are a few links to what toxic masculinity is:

“The Difference Between Toxic Masculinity and Being A Man”

“When Masculinity Fails Men”

Toxic masculinity

One of the big things that is being ignored by most of the people reporting on the Duke Men’s Project, is that it is based on a similar program that already exists at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Where was the outrage over that program? Is it because Duke University had that rape scandal? What makes Duke’s program so newsworthy? (Well aside from the fact that it’s pretty awesome to see something like this taking place)

The program isn’t meant to be this whole rigid “you will learn this!” sort of thing, but instead it aims to create an open dialogue and discussion about the topics. It is meant to get people to overcome the sense of passivity that often exists for male feminists and allies.

“It’s easy to say you’re a feminist but actually embodying what that means is a different story-it’s changing how you see the world, straying away from the savior complex that you get assigned from other people and recognizing that the labor we put in really pales in comparison to the labor all the other women have put in to this movement.”

-Tanner Johnson

Heck, they are even taking part in Breaking Out 2016, which is a photo exhibition at Duke University featuring students who are survivors of gender violence. It allows survivors to tell their stories (anonymously if desired) so that people can speak up in a culture that often focuses more on victim blaming and silencing victims ( especially male victims!).

If you want to actually know what it’s all about, you can read the interview done by the Duke Chronicle here or you can check out their Facebook page and even get clarification straight from them. Can’t get any closer to the truth than directly from the source, right?

So…who are you going to believe?

The people writing articles just to create moral panic?

Or the actual source?


Published by Michea B

Trans masc author of "The Guardian's Ascension" and owner of Illuminatus Design. Host adoptions of imaginary friends for modest rehoming fees on Etsy.

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