Women’s Center brings ‘Men & Masculinity’ lecture for 10th anniversary

GVL/ Eric Coulter
Jason Laker gives a lecture on Men and Masculinity this past Tuesday.

Eric Coulter

GVL/ Eric Coulter Jason Laker gives a lecture on Men and Masculinity this past Tuesday.

Haley Otman

Guest lecturer Jason Laker shared his perspectives as a man on masculinity and how it can lead to violence on Wednesday.

Laker, conveniently clad in Laker colors — blue shirt, Laker blue slacks and black shoes — shared his research and professional opinions during his “Men & Masculinity” presentation at Grand Valley State University. He was invited to campus as part of the Women’s Center’s 10th anniversary celebration.

“I have had the opportunity and privilege to work with Jason the last two days,” said emcee Theresa Rowland, who coordinates the violence against women grant work for the Women’s Center and helped bring Laker to campus.

Laker, a Michigan native, is an alumnus of Central Michigan University, but Wednesday marked his first visit to GVSU. He is currently a professor at San Jose State University and Laker has also published pieces in two edited volumes related to men and masculinity.

“My interest and the way I approach these topics is invitation, not accusation,” Laker said.

He told the audience that his goal is for men’s development to occur, because once that happens, it will lead to an end to violence. His operating assumptions, which he shared before delving deeper, included “Most men are not violent” and “Men’s violence (among other behaviors) is related to masculine role socialization.”

Laker did not keep the tone too serious or too deep, though, as he continually interjected the seriousness with moments to keep the audience engaged and interested.

“I’m a nerd. Whatever, I like it,” he said during one of his slides.

Laker asserted that the media is a large problem in terms of perpetuating masculine and feminine roles and that it pits people against each other instead of welcoming everyone.

He asked the audience members to raise their hands if they are involved in student organizations. Most people did raise their hands, and then he asked who joined because someone approached them and asked them to, because of a comment made in class or something said in a conversation.

Few people raised their hands, and he said this is where every person at GVSU can improve, by helping to create a culture of invitation.

“Let’s be careful about judging, we all have work to do,” he said.

Rowland said the Women’s Center is starting a men’s group that will deal with some of these issues.

“This is a movement that all of us can be involved in,” Rowland added.

Laker said a struggle for many men is confronting the social norms that dissuade them from straying from masculine stereotypes, which include being either “edgy” or “bad.”

GVSU professor Jennifer Jameslyn brought her Introduction to Gender Studies students to the presentation, because it is directly related to what her class discusses every day about the construction of gender.

“It’s always framed as a women’s issue,” Jameslyn said, but she said men can rise to the challenge and take action as well.

Jameslyn’s student Ashley Martinie said she learned a lot from Laker’s lecture that can apply to her women and gender studies course.

“It was kind of enhancing everything we’ve been learning there,” she said.

Laker ended his presentation by asking attendees to recognize how they perpetuate scripts that are handed to them at birth, and to try and stop doing it.

“My request to you is that you take it to heart,” he said.

[email protected]