New Club Addresses Male Privilege

William Passannante, Staff Writer

Signs for a “Dudes Collective,” which have been hanging around campus since the beginning of this semester, have garnered both positive and negative attention from several members of the Oberlin community. The group, which has tentatively changed its name to “Masculinity and Male Allyship,” held its first meeting Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Posters for the group, advertising an organization called “Men’s Club” or “Oberlin Dudes Collective,” read, in small print, “How cis males can recognize the privilege we have and best be allies to women, queers, transgender folk, and each other[,] … work towards gender equality and a non-violent, rape-free society … All are welcome.”

This message proved problematic for some, including those who took issue with the apparent targeting of “cis males.” On one poster, someone had written “Trans Men are Men??” and circled the phrase “cis males.”

College junior Ryo Kimura said, “By putting the term cis males right after the name of the organization, the impression is that the group is restricted to cis males by definition, that it is an integral part of the organization’s purpose,” he said. “Granted, there’s nothing on the poster that directly states that the group is restricted to cis males, but by putting that phrase at the beginning, I think there is a large chance of it being misinterpreted.”

Laura Jessee, College senior, said that the posters could potentially upset those who might otherwise have attended.

“I think they should have specifically included that trans men are invited … I think their general interest meeting will be plagued by people who were upset by the posters and they will have difficulty being a successful men’s club on campus until they smooth over the campus’s feelings.”

Paul DeRonne, double-degree fifth-year, organized the first meeting and said the perceived implication of the poster’s phrasing certainly does not reflect a desire to exclude them from the organization.
“I think the perspective that trans men could bring to [a] men’s club would be invaluable, just hugely invaluable … I really do want as many perspectives as we can get,” DeRonne said.

According to DeRonne, the idea for the organization came out of a conversation between himself and former Dean of Students George Langler. DeRonne said Langler mentioned that in the 1960s, the men’s club was “instrumental in bringing affordable birth control to campus … and so I started thinking, ‘Why don’t we have a men’s club that’s committed to activism today?’ ”

“[Langler] got me thinking about how I could be an agent of social change, and so starting a men’s club is my effort at that,” DeRonne said.

One focal point of the new organization is understanding male privilege.

“The privilege that men have been afforded is the foundation of gender inequality, and so recognizing the privilege that we have is the first step in creating gender equality,” DeRonne said.

Associate Dean of Campus Life Adrian Bautista said, “[DeRonne] presented me with an idea for a men’s club, which I found really interesting … He was thinking about creating a space where men could think about their role in society and with family units, talk about privilege, nonviolence, compassion between men and amongst men. I thought it an excellent idea.”

“Moreover, I do think exploring issues around gender seems consistent with Oberlin’s mission and our students’ interest,” Bautista said.

Tony C. Mosley, co-chair of The Brotherhood, a group of male-identified individuals of color, and second-year African American Studies major, attended the meeting.

“I feel that this is a very promising group … being here, being a student of color, seeing a group of mainly white males try to better themselves and their community… it’s awesome to see the majority joining the minority in efforts to change the campus,” Mosley said.