A bright red, eight-foot wooden board sits outside of the cafeteria at the University of Redlands. Next to it, paint and sharpie markers. From Monday morning to Thursday night, they are open to anyone who wishes to share their vulnerabilities and let people know about the misidentification and stereotypes they struggle with daily. There are already a few phrases scribbled:
“I am not your playtoy”
“I am not your Dyke bitch”
“I am not your gay boy”
“I am not your typical black man”
“I am not your Ghetto boy”
The “I Am Not Your…” board was part of the programming of the University of Redlands’ DUDES Week, held on the last week of November dedicated to addressing a multitude of social issues within the spectrum of Men and Masculinity. DUDES stands for Dudes Understanding Diversity and Ending Stereotypes and is a group that provides support for students who are looking for a brave space to talk about men’s issues regarding masculinity, media, gender roles, current events, etc.
The public board served as an empowering and eye-opening experience for participants and observers alike. The goal was simple—to talk about struggles that are taboo on this campus and place them in your face. The board’s goal was to be loud for you—so loud that even if you don’t wish to participate in the writing of your own struggles, you can’t help but see others’ hardships.
DUDES Week then moved to the more light-hearted Fashion Walk. A long red carpet, music, cameras, words of encouragement and affirmation—and, of course, fashion. Here, the runway was an open place of gender neutrality and fashion as a tool for self-empowerment. There was no “you walk like a girl” or “you dress like a boy” during this Fashion Walk. It was simply you and your attire. All bodies doing the same thing. All being accepted, celebrated and loved.
The week ended with the I Am My Brother’s Keeper demonstration, followed by a discussion titled The Intersectionality of Black and Latino Males. In the words of one of the two DUDES Interns, Emari McClellan ‘18, “The message would be to advocate for respect amongst all people, recognizing their presence and their story, and then standing with them as their keeper.”
In an effort to further break down direct barriers of masculinity through physical touch and intimacy amongst men, participants walked by the cafeteria and were asked to hold hands openly with each other as their picture was taken—which unexpectedly led to a group sharing their bonds and standing in solidarity.
Later, a discussion broke down the tale of two stories—Black and Latino Males. As the second DUDES intern, I noted, “We are here to talk about how we, as men of these communities, express masculinity and how, through cultural and historic oppression, we can be seen as one cohesive community. This talk is meant to cultivate an atmosphere of similar background and expose the intersectionality of these two men through the recognition of our current places in society.”
The DUDES program has continued to bloom in dynamic ways, and this year’s DUDES Week displayed this growth. Not only were there more participants in each event than in the past, but they reached a broader audience of students. The participation of athletes, students of a multitude of majors, club leaders, Johnston Center for Integrative Studies students, and more led to a rare sense of multiculturalism—all in the power of social equity and all in the belief of never being silent. We are louder than ever and will continue to be loud.