Why don’t people want to talk about women?

I believe it to be vitally important to have discussions of our society’s notions of masculinity and begin to address how it has affected boys, girls, men, and women.  There is no doubt in my mind that the way we raise our young boys can very severely negatively impact their development; particularly the aspects of their development that we, as a culture, have feminized (emotions, relationships, intimacy etc.).  These are aspects of the individual that we as a society encourage boys and men to minimize in themselves.  Discussing these issues and figuring out what to do about them is enormously important to the future generations of men and women. 
As a psychology graduate student, just about all of my colleagues and friends would agree with me.  Most are interested in having these discussions and readily engage in reflection on how boys and young men are being impacted.  This is awesome!  And yet I feel irritated.  I’m not irritated that people want to talk about the construct of masculinity.  As I’ve stated, this is an incredibly important topic to me.  I am irritated because my experience has shown me that people are much more interested in discussing masculinity as it relates to boys and men (often ignoring how it relates to those who are not cisgender males) than they are to discuss issues more specifically related to girls and women.  Often, when I bring up issues related to women people’s eyes glaze over, they zone out, or in some cases they immediately become defensive.  Of course, there are many, many people who are invested in exploring issues as they related to girls and women but in my experience that has been the exception and not the rule.  What is the deal with this reaction?   Why are people so “over” talking about women? 
These frustrations re-emerged after co-hosting an event for a screening and discussion of a documentary examining masculinity and how it impacts boys/men and girls/women [an awesome documentary that everyone should check out if you can! http://therepresentationproject.org/films/the-mask-you-live-in/ ].  When advertising for this documentary, the response I got was incredibly positive.  People were interested, wrote down the event in their calendars, and many of them even showed up.  Last semester, when I co-hosted a screening and discussion of a documentary about the impact of the media on girls and women [another awesome documentary, http://therepresentationproject.org/films/miss-representation/ ], I had a few people who were interested and a total of four people attend the event.  I could feel a difference in how people reacted to me when I told them what my event was about.  For the event last fall, I could immediately tell that most people had no interested in attending an event related issues of girls and women.  Of course, some key factors play into folk’s reaction to the event about masculinity: the topic of masculinity is not discussed very often in classes, very few events on campus have focused on this topic, etc.  But guess what else is true: we don’t really talk about women either and hardly ever have campus events focused on girls and women!
Now obviously the context from which I am sharing these experiencing is a very specific one: a graduate school for clinical psychology in the Bay Area, CA in a program whose mission statement includes a commitment to the integration of cultural and diversity issues into all classes and curriculum.  It is likely that outside of this school, the interest in both of these topics would be much less; however, based on my experiences speaking to others about discrimination towards women outside of my academic and professional life, I believe that outside my school I would see a much stronger interest in discussing issues that more closely pertain to men.  My question today is: why don’t people want to talk about women? 

- Written by Vanessa Shafa, M.A.

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