AC’s ongoing pursuit of civil discourse in society was challenged during this year’s Sophomore Forum. Following its counterparts for the Junior Class, Should Celebrities Speak Out?, and the Senior Class, Standing Up for Civil Discourse, this year’s Sophomore Forum tackled the topic of “Toxic Masculinity”, prompted by the recent Gillette commercial, “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”. The ad has stimulated a lot of discussion on social media about what toxic masculinity is, if it’s a bad thing, and what we should be doing (if anything) to address it.
Students are looking at both the issue of toxic masculinity itself,” explained Dr. Vincent Bissonette, who guided the student participants, “as well as the question of whether or not companies like Gillette should be making commercials about issues like this.”
Moderator Brynn Peters showed the video clip, defined the term “toxic masculinity”, and set the stage for the participating students.
Jack Wheeler argued that masculinity is a positive characteristic that is unfairly maligned by the commercial and others.
Chinara Dorancy took the perspective that the commercial draws important attention to the problem of toxic masculinity.
Marlin Bassett argued that the whole notion of “toxic masculinity” is a stereotype that leads us to jump to conclusions about bad things that men do.
Finally, Sushen Penakalapati argued that the commercial does encourage us all to be better but that toxic masculinity isn’t actually that widespread.
“From the process, it’s clear that the students have a range of opinions on these issues,” said Dr. Bissonette. “I have been impressed by their willingness to take a step back from their own positions to give each other feedback so all the papers are stronger.”
Judges for the Forum included Ebets Judson ’64, Wendi Plenge ’78, Stephen Hill ’03, and AC Director of Advancement Karen Higman.
Each Upper School class conducts a Forum during the school year, a tradition that goes back well over 30 years. A panel of judges evaluates the participants’ performances, and the best of the forums wins the Forum Award at Convocation. The views expressed by the participants are not necessarily their personal views, as they may defend a position to fulfill a particular angle or argument. The statements expressed at Forum do not represent the views of Allendale Columbia School.