GQ hosts “Real Talk”
The Gentlemen of Quality (GQ) club hosted an event in the Pugh Center on Oct. 27 entitled “GQ Real Talk,” which was meant to give male students the opportunity to freely respond to questions audience members posed relating to topics such as the hookup culture, masculinity and more.
The event was held in a “fishbowl” setting with five or six men in the center of the room, with the rest of the attendees surrounding them. “The original purpose of the event was to change the way we talk about gender on campus,” GQ President Edwin Torres ’12 said. Clayton Brown ’13, a GQ member and an organizer of the event, said, “The event gave people the opportunity to hear men talk candidly and honestly about the topics that came up.” Both agreed that the event was successful, as it sparked emotion and thought, and got people talking.
It was important to GQ that they, as the organizers of the event, made sure it ran smoothly by facilitating the conversation and asking the questions without getting involved in the discussions. Many of the members on the GQ executive board have taken Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) courses where they discuss gender issues in an academic setting. Therefore, they believed they would have skewed the conversation, which aimed to honestly portray the thoughts of what is perceived to be the typical male.
The group also wanted the circle to be organic and wanted the men to feel comfortable to freely share their opinions. In order to achieve this, they held off hearing responses from those outside the fishbowl until the question and answer session was complete. However, that meant letting the men in the center completely direct the conversation, while others in attendance were not allowed to open up a dialogue or respond to the men when the subject turned to some of the more difficult issues of sexuality, masculinity and race.
The controversial event elicited varied reactions, from anger to understanding and everything in between. There were males who agreed with points made by others in the fishbowl and others who disagreed. Some women in the audience were interested in what the men had to say, while others were upset by their responses. Quite a few audience members were annoyed by different aspects of the event including the opinions of those in the circle and having to wait to express their emotions.
The organizers were not fazed by reactions to what the men had to say, though; they expected them. Brown said, “I understand why [women] would be mad, but their opinion is only right, after what’s been said.” Some agreed that the controversy was needed in order to question opinions and lead to change. Cassie Smith ’15 said, “When you ask the opinion of the male perspective, you can’t get mad at their experience or opinion. It isn’t the whole view of males, and it’s not right to undermine people’s experience and attack them.”
Torres said, “I’m a big fan of controversy. I’ve always been against sacrificing education [to remain politically correct], but we want to follow through with the issues that the conversations bring up.” He found that many of the comments in the one women’s round at the end of the event were negative, criticizing the event as an exhibition of structural sexism and as counterproductive. However, there were some positive comments made about how to alter the way the event was run to get a better dialogue in the future.
“We know the event was heteronormative,” Torres said, “but the first step…was to get guys to talk.” GQ hopes Real Talk will get males involved in campus conversations on gender. Feedback from the surveys Torres sent out on the General Announcements “to alternate between a round of guys and a round of girls, is something we are considering for next time,” he said.