March Masculinity Madness: How critical masculinity studies may force college leaders to be more responsible.
March Madness isn't only becoming a big time pastime for those who have attended college or enjoyed college sports growing up, it is becoming an increasingly growing financial incentive for participating universities. Besides all of the crazy money that the television networks and corporate sponsors make, double the amount of money wagered during the Superbowl will be circulating. The point is, there is a ton of money in this. Read more about that here.
To be a man of color on a basketball team that participates in March Madness requires a certain level of dehumanization through the mainstream construction and sustainment of masculine norms for this group.
Athletes in this group cannot be presented through mainstream media channels as showing emotion, intellectual curiosity, rebelliousness, etc. because these images would negate the images of the dehumanized male servant that was created a few centuries ago. He can be hypersexualized and incredibly athletic/fit to the point that he is superhuman. This superhuman label is not the best approach as it further distances the players from the people they actually are. Afterall, they are humans, right? Furthermore, the athletes are rarely given an opportunity to be more than athletes, which presents a problem because the data is clear that the vast majority of college athletes do not make it to the professional level.
My thinking is this: Part of the problem is that we have not only constructed March Madness around this simplified narrative of male athletes of color but these players live their lives after we shut off our television sets and this is most likely an integral part of their identity. How are we not helping them by pigeonholing them into an identity that is defined - at least partially - through dehumanization and exploitation for profit?
It is imperative that we fight the urge to think of these young men solely as basketball players and engage their entire lives. It is less important for us as consumers to do that - although that would be ideal - and more important for the leaders of the colleges and universities that these students are representing on the national stage. I think many folks have engaged this idea that our athletes need support in other areas of their lives but tonight I thought maybe critical masculinity studies will help us get there.
Disclaimer: I've intentionally and unapologetically focused on self-identified Black and Latinx/Hispanic men.