"Man-Feminist is not an oxymoron," reads a shirt that hangs in Ryan Barone's office.
Barone coordinates the Men's Project for the Office of Women's Programs and Studies. The program, which started last night, aims at helping men address issues surrounding sexual assault.
"One in four women will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 25," Barone said. "That could be my sister. I want to make a safer climate for people like her."
Twenty men were chosen through faculty nomination and an interview with Barone to participate in the 10-week program focusing on gender socialization, sexism in society, gender roles, homophobia and sexual assault.
The project has four goals: developing a long-term project to educate others about sexual assault, dispelling rape myths, increasing bystander intervention and creating awareness of how masculinity contributes to sexual assault.
"Men are socialized to act aggressively," Barone said. "But we have to think past that because it is not helping anyone."
Gender roles are not a result of biology, but of society, he said. Part of the program works to break down those stereotypes.
"Both men and women are put into boxes," Barone said. "But it doesn't have to be that way."
The program specifically targets undergraduate men involved in groups where peers play a large role like ROTC, varsity sports, fraternities and the residence halls. Barone said he hopes men who belong to these groups and take part in the Men's Project can challenge their peers to think differently.
"Peers are so important in these groups," he said. "I hope they can infiltrate their groups to challenge and support their peers in addressing issues around sexual assault."
Barone said he looked for men who were already thinking about women's issues when choosing participants.
"I wanted a group who could think deeper into the issues," he said. "We're not starting at the ground level."
Peter Dearth, a junior theatre major, said he is participating in the program because he wants to know more about women's issues and take action.
"Men can make a difference in women's programs and studies," Dearth said. "There hasn't been much of an opportunity before this."
After 10 weeks, men in the program will have the opportunity to participate in a 3-credit class though the Office of Women's Programs and Studies. The course, called Student Alliance for Gender Education, will teach participants how to give formal presentations on sexual assault.
The class is not required, Barone said, but is an optional continuation of the Men's Project, which will provide some informal presentation skills.
Traditionally an office of all women, Barone treads new territory as the first man to work there.
"I walk a fine line," he said. "I'm not sure what a man's role is in the office, but it is important to make the office more open to men and women. It serves all students, and I want to convey that."
Barone said he has always considered himself a feminist and working with the office helps dispel stereotypes about feminism.
"I want to create gender equality for both men and women," he said. "I want to break down generalizations about feminism and being in the office is ideal because we can hold each other accountable for what we are doing."
Colorado Sexual Assault Prevention fund, a Fort Collins-based organization focusing on sexual assault prevention, funds half of the Men's Project. The Division of Student Affairs funds the remainder.
Barone credits Chris Linder, director of Women's Programs and Studies, with the vision to make the Men's Project a reality.
Linder, who has been working on this project for more than a year, said often times people focus on women when they educate about sexual assault, even though most perpetrators are men.
"We talk to women about reducing their risk," she said. "We need to educate men about their role in ending sexual violence."
Linder said it has been rewarding and exciting to work on her vision and watch it become a reality, but it seems the best is yet to come.
"It will be more exciting when men in the program act on what they learn and positively influence their peers," she said.