The University Men’s Non-Wanker CentreMay 19, 2012 No Comments
My attention was drawn this week to an article about the reaction at a Canadian university to proposals to start a “men’s centre” on campus, as a place for men (according to the would-be founders) to discuss “men’s issues and mental wellness and all the different things that come along with that.” The article was concerned specifically with the negative reaction by some other students at the university (male and female) to this idea, and the surprising meanness some of these have shown in rejecting it.
The main idea put forward by those against the centre seemed to be that this was just a bunch of boys proposing to waste scarce university resources on a gang hut where they could hang out like teenage boys (“a room with a PS3 and a bunch of douche bags”, as one pithily had it).
Some maintained that there was no genuine need for such a space because men don’t face the same problems of harassment, discrimination etc. as women do; other just thought it was “fiscally irresponsible” (which is what I thought students were supposed to be, but never mind).
This seemed a bit harsh to the writer of the article, not least because they thought a men’s centre would most likely be somewhere blokes could go specifically to avoid “douche-baggery” in all its more macho and unreconstructed forms. They thought that the “No” campaign was showing many of the traits of dismissive stereotyping that were often experienced by, amongst others, women’s groups in their campaigns for similar facilities, and that this was somewhat unfair or even hypocritical.
Of course, you’d imagine that a men’s centre would not really get off the ground, in terms of funding or space from the university, if the plan submitted contained provision for a 72-inch plasma screen, a load of beanbags, a fridge and a stuffed moose head. And, by implying that this was pretty much what would come out of the idea, the anti lobby went some way towards rubbishing their own point, not helping things by lacing their po-faced diatribe with first-year sociology terms such as “hegemonic patriarchy” and expecting to be taken seriously.
And obviously, that wasn’t what was being proposed. Indeed, the article went so far as to suggest that one of the aims of the centre would be to provide a space away from the more standard frat-boy atmosphere of many of a university’s social spaces. However, I would go further than this, and suggest it might also provide a haven from the sort of people who use terms such as “hegemonic patriarchy” in their everyday conversation, while expecting to be taken seriously. And, as such a place, the centre evidently needn’t be limited to men. It could just be a “non-wanker centre” for people to get away from all the different kinds of irritating idiot that litter universities – from the “hegemonic patriarchy” of the frat boy to its equally annoying nemesis, the humourless tit with a new text book and no sense of self-awareness.
I don’t want to trivialize the need for support for students with problems or issues of any sort. In fact, I think a non-wanker centre could help with this sort of thing. Hell is other people – so why not provide a space away from some of the worst of them? A wanker-free space would benefit people of all sexes and couldn’t, by definition, be colonized by those who would seek to turn it into a den or a debating chamber. They should put the whole university in it.
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