Class Profile: DANC 340 examines masculine stereotypes

Visiting assistant professor of dance Mark Broomfield’s class DANC 340: Black Masculinities: The Body and Performance is focused on informing students about the prevalence of black male stereotypes in current society in order to revolutionize their perspectives on masculinity.

The class was formed from Broomfield’s research focus, which culminated in his forthcoming book and documentary Passing for Almost Straight, documenting performances of masculinity both on and off the stage.

“You can’t talk about male dancers without talking about the social context in which they find themselves,” Broomfield said.

According to Broomfield, most students think of women and feminist theory when the term “gender studies” comes up. The focus is shifting, as evidenced by his class, to include men’s studies and masculinity studies. The class looks at stereotypes that influence the portrayal of black males in film, on stage in either dancing or acting, and off stage in real life.

“Usually when we think of masculinity we think of dominant masculinity and so there’s no room to discuss other forms of masculinity,” he said.

The class is made up mostly of textual analysis, though the class is listed under the department of dance.

“We will be working with some movement,” Broomfield said. “The class is called ‘The Body and Performance.’ But the class is a gender studies class. I would, in the future, have it cross-listed with African diaspora studies and gender and sexuality studies.”

Each week, students bring in a personal artifact relating to the text they just read - it can be an item, an article or a story they share - so as to humanize the black male experience.

“It’s a way to bring the students closer to the reading, and to make a connection between the reading and their personal life,” Broomfield said.

The students will read and discuss texts and articles throughout the course that include “How Gay Stays White and What Kind of White it Stays” by Allan Bérubé, We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks and “Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface” by Audre Lorde.

According to Broomfield, the course discusses the diversity and full spectrum of black masculinity which includes race, sexuality and femininity.

“It’s a small seminar class, so we have time to really unpack the concepts and ideas from the readings, and relate them back and forth to the personal artifacts,” Broomfield said.

Another important question for the class is how people “do gender.” On the first day of class, Broomfield asked students to perform black masculinity in order to start the conversation about how race and gender function in society and modern culture.

“People are trying to find ways to grapple with, in their own lives, these issues, and it’s important to understand how masculinity limits our humanity,” Broomfield said.