On the evening of Thursday October 27, the Brock community was invited to discuss the importance of mental health and masculinity.
The event, hosted by Brock University Student Union Advocacy and the Student Justice Centre, began with a talk from special guest speaker, Jeff Perera.
“Perera is a Speaker and Facilitator with Next Gen Men, a youth-led non-profit building better men by engaging, educating and empowering men and boys to be part of change where we work, live, study, worship and play,” said Laura Hughes, the Student Justice Centre Supervisor, when introducing Perera.
She continued to explain that Perera has spoken to thousands of men, young men and boys across Canada over the last decade, in hopes of inspiring new models of possibility for manhood. Perera’s focus is to explore how limiting ideas of gender impact men in everyday life.
Perera began his speech by sharing with the room that he is “always looking for the conversations that should be had but aren’t happening because of stereotypes, awkwardness and so many other factors.”
He continued to say that “the ideas of masculinity in our society are very toxic,” but he added that “I’m here to hopefully inspire all of you to go into society and have these conversations that can help shape and shift discourses [about masculinity].”
Perera believes that the construct of masculinity is toxic in many ways. He explains that, due to these constructs, men cannot express emotion openly, that men must always be ‘the man’. It’s often socially expected that men cannot be feminine or they are considered weak and other expectations that society has dictated to the concept of manliness such as having to be strong, and sometimes even angry, to prove oneself as a man.
Speaking on the notion of being labelled a certain gender from birth, Perera stated that “when we carve out only half of a gender’s characteristics, we become only half of what we can be.”
Perera highlighted the importance of keeping conversations going, even if they are uncomfortable at first, since they need to be talked about. “I’m just a guy on a journey and I’m here to learn from all of you too,” said Perera
Madi Fuller, the BUSU Advocacy Coordinator, proceeded to introduce the five student panelists by stating that “the goal of this night is to focus on highlighting Brock students from different walks of life with a focus on mental health and masculinity.”
The panelists in order of sitting arrangements were: Colton Clause, a member of the Onondaga Beaver Clan from the Six Nations Reserve and a current student in the Biological Sciences; Stephanie Di Matteo, a second year psychology student and the Social Media Executive Member at Brock Active Minds; Michael Dubé, a fifth year Math and Computer Science student who also works within the Department of Residence as the Head Resident of DeCew; Keanna Hogg, a third year student majoring in Sociology and the Vice President of events for Brock Pride; and Christopher Lawrence, a social justice advocate, writer, and student currently pursuing a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing.
“This event is important to me because I want to create a better tomorrow for everyone,” said Lawrence, “I [also] want to make it easier for black men to be themselves in what is currently a very hyper masculine culture.”
“I don’t think that genders should be clearly defined,” said Hogg. “Although I identify as a queer, cis-gender woman, my gender expression is quite variable in the sense that I like to be mostly masculine. I want to [help] break the gender barriers [in society].”
The event, which was the first of its kind at Brock, welcomed roughly 40 people from various backgrounds and gender identities. Julia Wood, the BUSU Vice President of External Affairs, said that “it’s great to see students at these events because these conversations need to be had to break down the labels of masculinity in our society and at Brock as well. We want Brock men to know and recognize that they have support too.”
To learn more about the event, the guest speaker and the student panelists, you can visit the Facebook Event Page titled ‘Mental Health and Masculinity Talk & Panel’. Link here: https://www.facebook.com/events/247153969021347/