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What is it to be a man?

A NAIT pilot project is creating a conversation
on what it means to be a man.

The Men At NAIT (M.A.N.) program is
launching to educate men at NAIT on sexual
violence and masculinity.

“It’s my job to ensure [NAIT] students
know what sexual violence and consent
are [and] how to stop it [sexual violence],”
said Tim Ira, student programs coordinator.
“Working with men on concepts
of masculinity and violence, even getting
them talking about their feelings, can be a
positive first step in building a culture of
consent.”

Ira believes the eight-week program is
particularly important at NAIT due to its
predominantly male population.

“NAIT’s student population is 68 per
cent male; it’s a very masculine campus.
Depending on which building you study
in, you may go all day without seeing a
woman,” said Ira. “Masculine culture is
here and there can be a tendency for it to
lean into the toxic masculine realm; I just
want to be proactive about it.”

Toxic masculinity is defined as “a practice
that legitimizes men’s dominant position
in society and justifies the subordination
of women, and other marginalized
ways of being a man.”

M.A.N. is expected to begin in early October
and end in late-November, with
the sessions being made up exclusively
by NAIT staff, with the intent of using
these men to facilitate the winter student
sessions.

The curriculum and eight-week structure
was modelled after similar programs
that Ira saw success in. NAIT consulted
programs from Northwestern University,
Kansas University, and the Calgary Communities
Against Sexual Abuse to craft
a course. Ira cites the biggest difference
between M.A.N. and similar programs is
the lesser focus on the social justice aspects
that other curriculums that are tied with
sexual assault centres or American institutions
place more emphasis on. Social justice
is defined as “justice in terms of the
distribution of wealth, opportunities, and
privileges within a society”.

M.A.N. will feature weekly discussions
on gender, healthy relationships, LGBTQ+
issues, sexuality and many other topics
related to masculinity within society.

Although much of the program will
focus on mens’ interactions with women,
Ira also found it important to address issues
within inter-male relationships.

“I don’t think we as men are often
used to talking about our feelings and how
important they are in how we interact with
others,” said Ira.

“Sometimes, as men, fitting in is really
important and having those tough conversations
with a guy who you want to be
friends with, a guy you genuinely love can
be really hard. [This program shows] how
we can do that.”

NAIT is holding a wider sexual violence
campaign in November through the
White Ribbon cause that focuses on ending
violence against women. Ira hopes to
“double-up” recruiting for the January sessions
with that campaign.

Male students looking to join M.A.N.
will be able to partake in the discussions in
January after it goes through its staff-only
trial run.

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