The Plan that Goes Wrong

An organization called Male@MIT is founded to provide support for male-identifying students in professional, academic, and social settings. The executive board of the organization aims to host numerous workshops and events for males of different ethnicity and cultures, males from LGBTQ+ community, and males from traditionally masculine or feminine sports. As they try to cater events to numerous subgroups, Male@MIT applies for substantial funding from MIT. This causes a backlash from students and organizations who argue it is not fair to reduce budget for other student groups to provide funding for a group—male—that already benefits much as a social class and experiences many systematic advantages.

The members of the organization tries to defend the purpose of the organization by emphasizing how different subgroups of male gender students have different experience regarding their gender identity, masculinity, social expectations, etc. However, many students continue to argue that such issues can be addressed within cultural and social groups already present on campus. For example, a Hispanic cultural group can host an event regarding how they deal with masculinity in the context of their own culture, norms in American society and on campus, instead of relying on an external event hosted by external board members of another organization who do not fully understand what issues are the most relevant and prevalent to Hispanic male students.

As the debate grows and spreads throughout the campus, there are further objection and hostility from around the campus. Students label Male@MIT as “epitome of first world problem.” Publicity emails are followed by long threads of hate mails and event locations are sabotaged. The members of the organization and students who attend the events are accused of whining about smallest inconveniences while being completely ignorant of many privileges they hold, and their names are called out in public.

Quickly, male students from minor communities, such as minor ethnicity and LGBTQ+, stop being involved in the organization and its events. The organization does not provide strong enough of a support, and it is not worth facing the general hatred associated with the organization. This decrease in diversity further perpetuates criticism against the organization failing to truly embrace and support oppressed and underprivileged male students.

Most active voices from both sides—advocating the existence of Male@MIT and protesting it—are strongly emotional and come from personal and vulnerable experiences. Both sides are unwilling to listen to the other side, and every opposition and disagreement is taken harshly and as a personal attack.

Moreover, the tension spreads to outside the context of Male@MIT and to general student body. Every action and conflict is framed in gender binary context and gender discrimination. Different gender identities are overlooked. More importantly, complex intersection and relationship between gender and other components such as race, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, social class, religious affiliation, ability, etc. are ignored. Everyone is accused of either being the oppressor or playing the victim based on their binary gender identity. People deeply involved in the conversation continuously feel hurt and angry, while many others are exasperated by unending conflict and want to leave the entire conversation regarding gender identity and discrimination.

Over time, gender identity and discrimination becomes a taboo topic, since it causes flame war and heated argument the moment it is brought up. Students find small, homogeneous groups they can belong in without conflict and primarily reside there. There is barely any interaction or exchange between different communities. The gap in people’s level of awareness increases, and people become unaware of how they can simultaneously experience more privileges in some aspect while facing more discrimination in other areas, instead of being strictly in one group.

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