When talking about the Women’s Centre on campus, it’s not uncommon to immediately hear the sarcastic question of “well, where’s the Men’s Centre?”
The idea of a Men’s Centre on University campuses is one embroiled in years of debate. It is common for universities to offer to make resources available for the entire student body, but typically there is nothing specifically for men.
SFU has one of the longest-running Women’s Centres in North America. Being a presence since soon after the university began, and a physical space for over 30 years, they cater to a wide variety of the SFU population. The resources provided extend to students of all genders — something of which many SFU students are unaware.
The idea of a Men’s Centre has been floating around campus for years, and has brought about heated debate over the last few in particular. A group of SFU students did briefly come together in 2012 to try to start a Centre for men on campus. However, nothing was really produced from their ideas, because they seemed to only have a few powerful people behind the project, rather than a community to speak to its necessity. For something to one day come of this, students will need to come together with the existing structures that are available, and work in tandem to fill the lack of men’s programming available at SFU.
One of the major problems with the idea of a Men’s Centre both at SFU and other universities is that, more often than not, those who propose a space specifically for men are doing so as a reaction to the presence of a Women’s Centre on campus, rather than because they recognize the lack of men-centered resources at their university. It’s as if the presence of a Women’s Centre somehow negates men’s experiences, when in fact, they simply work to support self-identified women who systemically experience violence and marginalization at a much higher rate.
The Women’s Centre’s resources extend to students of all genders.
This is not to say that it is not possible to establish successful spaces for men to access resources and discuss their issues. The University of Victoria is a great example of an institution that provides successful programming for men. Their men’s circle, according to their website, creates a safe space for men to “challenge gender-based violence and dominant constructions of masculinity” through discussion of their everyday issues with other men, alongside broader issues of violence, sexual assault, and consent. This all takes place through an activism-based, anti-racist, anti-colonial framework.
But here’s the thing: resources already are available for men at SFU. The Women’s Centre resource area is open to all genders, with a “masculinity” section in their library, many resources for men like the safer sex supplies, referrals to local organizations, and peer and crisis support available to men as well. SFPIRG also has many resources available to anyone at SFU, and has run critical masculinity workshops in the past. These are only some of the resources available to men on campus, and even more can be made available if men are willing to join together to challenge their ideas of masculinity and organize for change.
In the end, a Men’s Centre is something that would definitely add to the university experience. However, for it to be successful, non-sexist, non-racist, and unprejudiced, more students need to be interested than just the few who pushed for the centre in 2012. This kind of space cannot thrive if men’s goal is to exist solely in opposition to existing feminist frameworks; rather, they need to critically look at the structures of masculinity that they’ve been taught and accept.