Project Focuses On Defining Masculinity

What does it mean to be a man? This is a question that men everywhere are constantly confronted with, particularly during the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood.

In an attempt to answer this question, three CJ seniors are using their Senior Capstone project to help seventh grade boys gain a better understanding of masculinity.

Seniors Alex Juniewicz-Fogle, Danny Meyer and Sam Stidham created a presentation exploring the representation of masculinity in the media and the effects it has on middle school aged males. The young men presented their project to a group of seventh grade boys at St. Christopher’s Middle School in March.

“We had a PowerPoint with videos and facts,” said Juniewicz-Fogle. “And we talked to them about personal experiences that we’ve had with understanding masculinity.”

The seniors were inspired to create their project when they saw a Ted Talk video about masculinity in their junior year religion class.

The seniors believe that there are a lot of prevalent messages in the media today that can encourage negative cultural norms.

“Being a man isn’t about having a lot of women, money and power,” said Juniewicz-Fogle. “Watching the Ted Talk video made us realize that’s really not how manhood is, so we decided to show the boys a clip of the video during our presentation.”

“We really wanted them to learn to look at manhood in a good way instead of a negative way and to grow up and be good people rather than following negative cultural norms. They should respect women and not try to get a lot of money and power. It was cool to see it have an impact on them like it did on me.”

“They’re just now sort of learning what masculinity is now,” added Stidham. “That’s why they were our target age group”.

As part of their presentation the seniors showed the seventh graders a diagram of a man and asked them to label it with words they thought represented masculinity. “At first they all used words like ‘big’, ‘strong’, ‘tall’, and ‘athletic’,” said Meyer. “But after we talked to them we asked them to re-label the diagram and they used words like ‘reverent’, ‘respectful’, ‘courteous’, and ‘well-mannered’.”

“I really liked seeing the kids change and have a completely different view on it,” said Stidhan.

“We focused on the Marianist characteristics we’ve learned throughout our years here,” added Juniewicz-Fogle. “We told them about the Marianist Catholic teachings that you can use to apply to masculinity.”

“The more we researched about it the more we found people around the country talking about it,” Juniewicz-Fogle continued. “It’s a serious issue that’s not really talked about a lot and we wanted to do something about it because it really hits home for all of us”.