The Austin Chronicle

Limbaugh Rant Puts UT MasculinUT Program in Limbo

University program halted until after summer

By Mary Tuma, May 25, 2018, News

Taking aim at the University of Texas' still-nascent MasculinUT program, right-wing radio man Rush Limbaugh wondered in a late April blog post about "the odds that a bunch of women are running this." He slammed the program, geared in part toward expanding rigid and patriarchal definitions of masculinity, as well as UT for supposedly treating masculinity "as a mental health challenge, that too many men are simply crumbling under the pressure to be a man."

"So if it's not a good thing for a man to be a man, then what are they going to turn men into? What do you think is the alternative? If masculinity is a problem, then what are these guys gonna become?" Limbaugh echoed the criticism lodged by conservative news site PJ Media, who sparked a ripple of unnecessary outrage among other outlets, including right-wing media mothership Fox News.

But rather than brushing off the sexist blather, UT on May 2 put the program on pause. Feeling the need to clarify the gross misinformation, the university issued a statement noting that while MasculinUT is housed administratively in the university's Counseling and Mental Health Center, it does not treat masculinity as a "mental health issue," and any statements claiming so are "simply not accurate." CMHC Director Chris Brownson says the program is meant to widen the population working to address interpersonal violence and sexual assault. "The foundation of sexual assault prevention is often viewed as a women's issue and what this program is really aiming to do is to bring all people to the table, including men, to address it," he said. Through their poster campaign – another point of criticism among conservative commentators – the program colorfully depicts men in roles that go beyond traditional definitions of what it means to be masculine, including not participating in sports and being emotionally vulnerable.

Created in 2015, the program is part of Voices Against Violence, which seeks to prevent interpersonal violence, including sexual and dating abuse. MasculinUT was ramping up after a boost in UT system funding in February to pay for a head coordinator who would be based in Austin but also work with other UT campuses. However, the right-wing media's attacks have stalled progress on that front. UT has decided to temporarily discontinue its search for a coordinator while a steering committee examines the program this summer to ensure its goals are aligned with its original intention, despite the fact that no complaints have actually come from university students.

Major sections of the program's website have also been removed and replaced with a statement clarifying their intent, informing readers the site is "currently under review." UT added a note to the program's poster campaign, writing that some of the posters "have drawn recent criticism, with people questioning their effectiveness at engaging a broad audience in discussions of masculinity."

Might we suggest a more precise clarification: The posters "have drawn recent criticism, with right-wing sexist blowhards questioning their effectiveness at maintaining the patriarchal status quo that they benefit from."

Copyright © 2022 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.