Colby’s participants in the Men’s Story Project started meeting in March 2020 — just before the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting things down in the U.S. Even though the group only got through two workshop sessions before Colby sent students home, the unique community the participants started building in that room inspired them to reconnect to continue the project in 2021.
Over 10 weekly sessions in 2021, thirteen male students – ranging from sophomores to seniors, biologists to philosophers – co-created a safer space to get vulnerable, curious and accountable as to how social ideas about masculinity influence and impact society and their own lives and behaviors. Nine of the participants crafted deeply personal stories — poems and narratives — addressing genuine self-expression, self-care, harmful notions of masculinity, and healthy relationships as they relate to sports culture, military culture, substance misuse, sexism in popular media, family and romantic relationships, and the importance of consent. They shared their stories in an online event attended by students, faculty and community members.
“It was an incredibly touching and insightful journey to have been a part of, and I am so excited for even more of this sort of work! I feel like sharing these intimate stories and having them shared with me has increased my sense of shared community with the individuals who participated. The actively involved story-building sessions kept me grounded and provided me with the genuine constructive criticism that I thrive off of, in a medium I rarely frequent. I’ve gained an understanding that it is our shared responsibility to be cognizant of the life experiences of others and encourage emotional and mental growth whenever possible… The environment that was cultivated was incredibly conducive to the work we’d set out to accomplish. It felt so comfortable to be so intimate with relative strangers (even those in the group who’d be my future roommates, who I’d known for years, learned more about me through my stories than they had in all our previous interactions).” -Tiger Nguyen, Presenter
“I felt like I learned a lot about myself and how I feel about gender/masculinity. Having a consistent group to build a relationship with was really great for learning about myself and the others while building trust.” -MSP Presenter
“Powerful, authentic, and breathtaking. Really felt their emotion and rawness even through a virtual platform! It was an amazing experience. I learned that everyone is dealing with their own masculinity in some form. Opening up that dialogue and engaging with other men is vital for growth!… I appreciate the community and gratitude that each presenter had for each other. It felt as if there was a genuine brotherhood.”– Kenny Douyon, Colby College Rising Junior
“As a facilitator, I was blown away by these young men’s level of introspection and depth of insight. Their willingness to be open with one another, while also asking critical questions, fostered an environment of genuine connection and growth. I am inspired to be part of a community of men who are comfortable living out truths that oppose and provide counternarratives to stereotypical, sexist expressions of masculinity.” -Dan Kipp, Facilitator
Colby College Gender & Sexual Diversity Program
Eniola Adeoye-Lawal, Arthur Benson, Conrad Hampson, Alex Facq, Jackson Herz, Oliver Lawrence, Tiger Nguyen, Giuseppe Stelluto, Henry Toulmin