Another offering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this one on masculinity, is drawing fire from conservatives as an example of ideological excesses at the school.
The target is the Men’s Project, a six-week voluntary discussion program that “aims to explore masculinity and the problems accompanied by simplified definitions of it,” according to a UW Health Service news release.
Cultural influences distorting ideas of masculinity include “media, hook up culture, alcohol, violence, and pop culture,” said another promotional piece posted on UW-Madison’s Multicultural Student Center website. “Understanding the connections between our experiences and experiences of masculinity and issues in our society can help build stronger communities."
State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, a long-time critic of the UW and vice-chair of the Committee on Universities and Colleges, on Wednesday said the UW-Madison offering “declares war on men.”
Nass was recently joined by State Rep. David Murphy, R-Greenville, chair of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, in blasting an African Studies course set to begin later this month called The Problem of Whiteness.
Nass and Murphy last month suggested that legislators use their control over funding for the university in the budget-writing process now underway to force UW System schools to “reform.”
Nass repeated that call Wednesday in an email to Republican legislators.
“Our friends at UW-Madison not happy enough with labeling 'whiteness' as a societal problem, now are attacking another societal ill…, Men and their masculinity,” Nass said in the email.
“The supposedly underfunded and overworked administrators at our flagship campus have scrapped together enough dollars to offer a six-week program open only to 'men-identified students.' UW-Madison has become part of a national liberal effort to rid male students of their 'toxic masculinity.'"
The offering of such a program reveals how the highly paid leaders at UW-Madison “believe that Wisconsin mothers and fathers have done a poor job of raising their boys by trying to instill in them the values and characteristics necessary in becoming a Man,” Nass wrote.
“Will we have the courage to reform the UW System in the 2017-19 biennial budget?” he concluded.
The term “toxic masculinity” was sounded in a post a day earlier by The College Fix, which noted that UW-Madison is among many colleges with offerings that “seek to purge male students of their so-called toxic masculinity.”
As UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith McGlone put it, the Men's Project tries to address the negative way in which typical understandings of masculinity can affect male students.
“These expectations influence the decisions men make about friendships; spending time outside of class; careers or academic majors; and sexual and romantic relationships. Men are socialized to believe they need to act a certain way to be accepted as ‘masculine’ or have what it takes to be a man,” she told The College Fix.
“This can lead to self-destructive behaviors that impair their ability to complete their education,” McGlone wrote in an email message. “Research indicates that young men are less likely to enroll in and graduate from college, less likely to seek help from campus resources and more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as abusing drugs and alcohol. Research also indicates that programs such as the Men’s Project can counter these negative trends and support college men in their educational experience.”
Criticism of the program has been taken up by a number of conservative outlets and includes an essay at the National Review bemoaning the spread of feminist ideas that Nass linked to in his email to colleagues
“Feminism has infected child-rearing and modern education so thoroughly that legions of parents and teachers are adrift and clueless. They have no idea what to do with their sons, and absent fathers compound the confusion and create yawning cultural voids. Yes, there are some pajama boys out there, the guys who embrace the feminist project (truthfully in part to hook up with feminist women), but there are countless others who reject feminism’s version of a 'man box' and are instead adrift in purposeless masculinity,” wrote staff writer David French.
Another site referred to the program as a continued “jihad against what it means to be a man.”
Nass spokesperson Mike Mikalsen said Wednesday that instead of reprioritizing its spending, UW-Madison is asking for more state money.
“They continue to believe they can operate as they always have with personalized agendas," Mikalsen said.