unmascing pt. I: The Comprehensive Vassar Boys Chart

Image by Klara Kaufman

 

Introduction to unmascing, a series by Saskia Globig

It started as a joke. My friend Klara grabbed a piece of chart paper and, pretending to be a teacher, drew a flow chart of “types” of boys at Vassar. The implication was that all of them were annoying.

I’ve seen myself and my friends repeatedly exasperated and even traumatized by male-identifying and masculine-of-center people who participate in toxic performances of masculinity at this school. Klara’s chart, pictured below, is funny because it’s accurate. It catalyzed me to think more in depth about formations of masculinity, and how harmful – and specifically white – masculinity is enacted on Vassar’s campus, as well as other liberal art colleges.

The following chart serves as an introduction to a forthcoming series. Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear Vassar students of various identities speak on their encounters with toxic masculinity. The series does not aim to center masculinity, but to expose, question, and critique the ways it’s invisibilized within our everyday lives at Vassar through individual narratives. It’ll look primarily at masculinity with the awareness that its formations are gendered and racialized, and that certain forms are made visible and dominant. The series will confront the realities and ramifications of what it means to embody masculinity in the here and now.

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This Should Have Been in The Best American Infographics 2016: The Comprehensive Vassar Boys Chart
by Klara Kaufman

In winter 2014, a friend sent me Gavin Thomas’ iconic, seminal article “The Portrait of the Alt-Bro as a Young Dumbass” roasting a guy she almost dated. Then in October 2016, as I marveled over the disquieting parallels between boys at her school and ours, the Vassar Boys infographic was born. Thinking about the antics of college age boys – mostly white college age boys – I realized how prescribed the performance of masculinity can be. There’s a special flavor to liberal arts boys that makes them so easy to put into these rigid categories – and I’ve become so used to navigating the pitfalls of toxic masculinity on this campus that I can easily identify its many manifestations. I’ve always been fond of categorizing people by personality, probably because it helps me make sense of the multiplicities of our identities. This chart was a vehicle for me to understand cishet [white] dudes’ masculine traits as they are performed in our small-liberal arts bubble.

I started with the basics: your traditional Nerd and Bro, tropes as old as time. But in my infographic, I wanted to reach beyond the Nerd/Bro dichotomy and explore the new ways these dudes manipulate their privilege into social and sexual capital. Some of the categories, like Gavin Thomas’ Alt Bro and Alan Hanson’s Soft Boi/Sad Boi, were already floating around on the Internet, so it was just a matter of examining what was there and adapting it to Vassar culture. (For example, the Vassar iteration of the Alt Bro might live off campus, be involved in the VC music scene, or bare his ankle in a pair of double cuffed jeans.)

Other categories, like the Golden Boy, SmugNerd, and LostBoi evolved from me and my femme friends’ lived experiences. The Alt Bro, our nouveau hipster, contains multitudes – from the Fashionboi to the Eco Bro, he is everywhere and will often claim to be a LostBoi in disguise (don’t be fooled – he’s not). You know that kid in your Intro Econ class who gave you the stank eye whenever you deigned to ask a clarifying question, or mansplained politics to you during the presidential primaries? Classic SmugNerd maneuvers. That self-satisfied handsome boy who heads an org or two and acted like he was dating your friend even while he was messing around with someone else? Golden Boy O’Clock.

In my experience most of the boys on this campus can be placed into one of these categories, from the MugNerd to the SoftJock, whether they think so or not. And with some variation, so can college boys all over the country (according to my pals at other schools). Despite its prescribed rigidity, the Vassar Boys chart is always evolving. There are always new subtypes to discover and new trends to record. As boys’ ridiculous behavior finds new, devious channels, so must we. As for when I’ll make a Vassar Girls chart? My answer is simple: girls (and anyone who doesn’t identify as a cishet man) are real, complex people, so I don’t have to.

Image by Klara Kaufman

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