Evan Aroko ’20 documents fatherhood and American masculinity for John C. Young project

This article is part of a series featuring Centre College’s 2020 John C. Young (JCY) Scholars. Centre’s JCY program, now in its 30th year, is designed to serve highly motivated seniors, allowing them to engage in independent study, research or artistic work in their major discipline or in an interdisciplinary area of their choosing.

For his JCY project, Posse Scholar Evan Aroko ’20 (Salem, Massachusetts) conducted an anthropological study on fatherhood and American masculinity that developed into a documentary film reflecting this topic.

His study involved starting off with a literature review, where he read scholarly, peer reviewed articles about fatherhood and masculinity to get a sense of what has been said about both concepts.

Aroko interviewed seven fathers—from Massachusetts and Kentucky—who reflected diversity in a variety of ways—race, ethnicity, religion and sexuality.

“Questions asked allowed me to hear about their fatherhood experiences, as well as their personal thoughts about notions of American masculinity and how the concept has played a role in their personal lives and in the ways in which they raise their sons,” he said. “My interviews were used to develop a documentary film that reflects the heart or true essence of my project.”

According to Aroko, fathers have the potential to serve as strong role models who can raise boys and young men in ways that allow them to define masculinity on their own and in ways that allow them to combat against the very many limiting and harmful societal expectations regarding true masculinity in the U.S.

The idea for his project came from a few places.

“The concept of fatherhood is something that is serving as a core component to a film script project I have been working on for quite a while now—since my junior year of high school,” Aroko said. “I also lost my father at a young age, and I believed conducting a study on the concept would be a healthy way for me to reflect on the time I spent with him, how he performed his duties as a father and so on.

“The masculinity component of the project was inspired by a unit my classmates and I explored in my Introduction to Sociology course with Professor Kaelyn Wiles,” he continued. “In this unit we spoke about a variety of social constructions that exist in society, gender being one of them. We watched a film titled, ‘The Mask You Live In,’ which explores how our culture’s expectations of masculinity is harming boys and men in society and what we can do about it.”

As he began to think more about the focus of his project, Aroko desired to read about differences in fatherhood experiences, but he also became interested in the role fathers have in raising their sons in ways that combat damaging notions and societal expectations around masculinity.

“My experience conducting research was challenging—as expected—but very interesting and rewarding,” he added. “Since the JCY project serves as an independent study that replaces one of my normal classes, I really had to discipline myself when it came to organization, how much work I got done each day, keeping my motivation strong and genuine.

“Keeping myself focused during my literature review stage was the hardest part,” Aroko continued. “I became overwhelmed with all the information I found and read about fatherhood and masculinity. Often times, I would read things that strayed a little bit from my own research plan. As time went on in the year, my work ethic and concentration got better, especially when it came to meeting with, interviewing and filming each of my participants.”

When Aroko finished his project, he said he made himself a promise that, as he continues to participate in the Anthropology/Sociology discipline, he will be sure to purse research projects that interest him, projects that relate to his identity and that relate to his experiences, as well as projects that will allow him to help others think about, understand and speak up about meaningful topics.

“As an Anthropology/Sociology major at Centre, I’ve learned so much about people and about the world, and throughout the process I felt very overwhelmed,” Aroko added. “I would constantly ask myself, ‘How can I fix [blank]?, How can I help [blank]?, Where should I start?’ Right now, I believe starting small, working my way up to tackle huge social issues and topics while I use my talents and interests to help me stay motivated and to help me make a difference is the best thing to do.”

For Aroko, being a JCY scholar means dedicating yourself to a project that is challenging and rewarding.

“Now that I’m out of a part of my life where I constantly had to think about getting a good grade to pass, I can now use what I have learned to work on social projects at my own pace, social projects that I genuinely care about,” he concluded. So long story short, I guess I would say that my biggest takeaway from doing my project is that I’m glad I was able to explore meaningful social topics that challenged my strengths and weakness and topics that I genuinely cared about.”

After Centre, Aroko will be working as an assistant language teacher in Japan as a member of the JET Program.

View Evan Aroko’s project here.

by Kerry Steinhofer
June 22, 2020