The University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosted the fifth annual Men@Nebraska Conference on Men and Masculinities on April 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Nebraska Union.
Men@Nebraska is a UNL registered student organization that aims to change current notions of masculinity and provide a space for men and women to discuss the issues affecting them.
The event kicked off with an all-day art and posters showcase in the Heritage Room. The showcase featured art designed by several UNL students and local illustrators, from sculptures representing masculinity and femininity on pairs of underwear to poetry challenging masculinity and love in the Shakespearean era.
The event continued with an opening session led by UNL Women’s Center director Jan Deeds and Chord Sheriffe, the men’s programs coordinator for the Women's Center.
Ángel García, a UNL doctoral student, author and poet, delivered the keynote address from 12:30 p.m to 1:30 p.m in Regency Room A. Garcia is the award-winning author of “Teeth Never Sleep,” a collection of poems discussing the culture of dominance and what it requires of men, specifically men of color.
The conference featured several break-out sessions from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., with topics like “Fraternity Men and Masculinity” and “Mythology and Masculinity in the Spanish Civil War.”
Chris Morton, junior sociology and communication studies double major, discussed how to address and organize transformative and counter-hegemonic masculinity inside and outside of academic spaces.
“What we want, overall, is a way of being masculine that’s not harmful, that’s positive and promotes community,” Morton said
Sheriffe said he hosted a workshop titled, “Re-thinking your Role, Organizing for Transformative Justice and Healing,” where he discussed the current role of transformative justice — a strategy for responding to conflicts — as it relates to organizing to heal trauma and the societal norms of masculinity.
“We, as men, need to organize healing spaces for ourselves so we can better heal and name our traumas,” he said. “We don’t think about the harm of men and how men are associated with patriarchy.”
Jacob Morrow, the Men@Nebraska president, said he comes from a place with a hyper-traditional view of masculinity.
“I come from a tiny town in Nebraska where the only way to be a dude was to drive a big pickup truck and have eight shotguns,” the freshman broadcasting major said. “It’s important to have a space and set aside time to talk about ways we can be better as people.”
Sheriffe said this conference is an opportunity to create dialogue around men and masculinity and talk about men-related issues that aren’t often discussed, like body issues and dealing with emotions.
“There’s these stereotypes around men and male bodies where it has to look a certain way,” he said. “This conference allows people to look at masculinity and gender for what it is, instead of continuing to think that there’s one type of masculinity that exists.”