Where Are All the Men?

(Photo Credit:

Here’s the scoop:

A few weeks back, I looked around the room I was sitting in and found myself as the only man there. There I was, surrounded by 20 other people, and I was the only guy. 20 women, and me. There are certainly many ways that this statement can be interpreted, but I’ll curb the mystery.

I work as a university administrator in higher education, and more specifically, in student life. I was in a room with 21 people, and I was the only man.

Our jobs are to provide meaningful opportunities for post-secondary students to grow and develop awareness and skills in everything from leadership, global cultures, professional skills, etc. Pretty much everything that isn’t academic. This can be done in a variety of forms, from mentorship to peer-to-peer learning, to service learning and community engagement, to international mobility programs (or exchange as it’s called more typically). It’s all really great stuff, and I’m delighted to be to be a part of it.

My own professional background is in community- and youth-oriented initiatives and arts and culture, so I fit right in. Effectively, the programs and services we develop and offer help students (ideally) to figure out who they are, and to discover all the (non-academic) things that they’re made up of.

On the surface, this is great stuff, and I am blessed to work with such a committed group of individuals that are highly educated and honestly concerned with how to do this work well. But with this power to create educative (as well as miseducative) experiences, I’m left wondering “where the hell are all the men?” Have we entirely given up on participating in this conversation?

The answer isn’t so clear.

Maybe this is simply a trend that represents education as a whole. This Queen’s Journal article reflects on a “2011 survey of Queen’s reported that 59 per cent of full-time students are female. In 1950, only 21.6 per cent of Canadian undergraduates were women, according to Statistics Canada.” While there are still male-dominated faculties and professions (engineering, computer science, finance, for example) we need to ask ourselves: why is this shift important?

Perhaps the women’s movement and progress towards equal rights has a lot to do with it.

Perhaps our economic model is at play here – universities need students, and need money. This argument can also be used when thinking about the civil rights movement, and the equity and diversity movement with respect to the LGBTQ community. Just a thought.

As the only man in the room, here are a few thoughts that I had, which I’m sure would not have been the case 30 years ago:

1. They all make more money than me. I know this because they are either in higher positions than me, or I’ve seen their salaries.

1b. Where’s the justice? I mean really, we’re doing the same work, so they can’t be paid more. That’s not right. Right? Sarcasm has its benefits, and is always a welcomed delivery device.

2. The system is reversing, and young men need to be prepared to compete. Queen’s sociology professor Cynthia Levine-Rasky hopes that this will lead them to step up their efforts to do so because “[i]n the past, male privilege went unchallenged.”

I won’t attempt to answer these questions here. Our work is to help students become who they are, and how to best exist in this ever-changing world.

But, when this conversation is missing an entire side of itself, young men will still have to compete. For those of us in the workforce, and in leadership roles, and in education, we need to understand that we’ll have to be better role models simply because there are fewer of us here.

That’s where we are. What are you thoughts on the male presence (or lack thereof) in education?


Yes, and: Why I Play in a Female-Fronted Rock Band

(Photo: the black umbrella)

LXRY is a successful experiment in gender justice. It is about two people coming from backgrounds where full self-expression was hindered, by the army, by communism, or by society itself. It is about the luxury that we have in the West to be able to say what we want, when we want, how we want. And so we do this.

As many musicians in the city, I have gone through what I call the “craigslist” phase. This is a period of any musician’s life when scouring the classifieds in search of a musical connection seems like the appropriate thing to do. Sure, I had gone to open jams, and connected with folks here and there, but there was something that clicked when I met Bandana, on craigslist.

At no point in the time it took to correspond together did I ask myself whether working with a woman, working towards a collective goal with a woman, or working towards collective artistic fulfillment with a woman was ever worth it. It just seemed normal. We connected through our love for early 90’s grunge, community- and youth-oriented initiatives, and being loud.

We met, and we played. It was that simple. We used the improv principle of yes, and to facilitate our sessions. The yes, and principle is simple: whatever the idea, you treat it with the same approach, no matter what. You work with it until it either doesn’t make sense, makes perfect sense, or is just a moment in time. In this way, we’ve naturally established a safe working space for our collective creative process to thrive, be stifled, and exist.

There is nothing special about me. I simply believe that we should all be treated as equals. This is what LXRY is to me.

(PS: Bandana has this to say about her experience, in music, in uprooting and moving – lots – and in creating safe spaces for self-expression. You’ll be happy that you read it.)

recent article by Derek Clifton suggests that there are 11 rules to consider in being a male feminist – which I wouldn’t go so far as to label myself. It is a timeless article. Yet, while each rule is important – and each on its own merits a discussion – in one regard or the other it’s just too complex to approach this conversation this way. If we truly want to work towards gender justice and a happy-feel-good place where everyone is accepted for who they are, compensated equally for equal work, treated fairly from one situation to the next, etc., we need less rules. The rules, norms, and stereotypes of such a rubric – specifically one that is attempting to war with the pervasive power dynamics of gender – hinder this kind of thing from happening.

We need to rethink what it means to be human, and to coexist with each other without preconceived notions of what that entails.

To do this, it’s much more simple:

1) Open Your Ears, Expand Your Perception – listen to what people are saying while they are saying it. Stop thinking about what you want to say while that is happening. No dialogue happens this way. Use the yes, and principle. Learn to discover, be surprised, and be open to all that is around you.

2) Humility Wins Every Time – Consider (and this may be hard for most of us) that the way you do things could be tweaked. That’s hard, even for me, but 7 billion people makes for a whole lot of perspectives.

That’s it.

Oh, yeah, and the shameless plug for our band, in case you were wondering:

Anyone out there have a similar story? Have you worked successfully or unsuccessfully with a member of the opposite sex? What lessons did you learn? Would you add any points on coexisting?

Diesel and the Idiocy of the ‘Global Warming Ready’ Campaign

(Photos: Found at, after a google search for stupid ideas)

(Author’s disclosure: I have not been paid by the company featured in this post or anyone else for that matter.)

I’ve long wanted to write something about advertising and the impact it has on us as a society, and on our gender roles. I heard a quote somewhere (I forget where) saying that advertising is the greatest form of education that isn’t actually called education. How true those words are. This is a rant that I’ve been holding onto for years, forgetting and remembering from time to time. I’d like to get this out into the world – how advertising as education makes equality and all justice (social, environmental, gender) that much harder for us all to achieve.

I remember waiting for the subway on day back in 2007. By this point, advertisers had innovated to create the all consuming, cover-it-all physical ads that are now seemingly normal. No longer did ads only belong in defined physical frames. Depending on the flexibility of a landlord, adverts could now cover anything (stairs, walls, ceilings, or entire buildings – legally or illegally). And so, while waiting for the subway, I spent 3 minutes wondering “what the hell are you thinking?”

Diesel’s Global Warming Ready campaign was built on the notion of style being the most important element of society – clearly. Some, and certainly the creative directors, would suggest that they were drawing attention to an important issue. Others, like me, would suggest that their business model doesn’t really give a shit about global warming. It can’t.

Without question, Diesel also caters to a specific market. My guess is that their audience doesn’t give a shit about the environment, either. And why would they?

Exhibit A

Tropical Midwest

Tropical South Dakota

Hey now, if I was in South Dakota, and found myself at eye level with Mount Rushmore, my first thought would definitely be “how’s my hair?” or “maybe she needs some lotion” not “holy shit, where’s my next meal coming from?” Or maybe these two are making the best of the inevitable, and should really dress well for it – if indeed, that is what well-dressed looks like. How progressive. It is this severe disconnect that is reinforced by advertising on a day-to-day basis that we all have to combat.

Exhibit B

Parrots in Moscow

Parrots in Moscow

I’m sure locals would love to see Parrots in Moscow, really. These two are surely enjoying the tropical climate, and not having to wear fur in the oppressive Russian winter. Amazingly, parrots are some of the most polite creatures in the world – pigeons could learn a thing or to about considerate defecation practices. How realistic.

Exhibit C

N why?

N why?

Diesel’s reference to romance, and love. Do those satellite dishes in the background even work any more?

It’s clear that 7 years later, nothing has changed with respect to gender stereotypes, roles, and objectification – but that’s to blame on global warming, naturally.

So, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that they were drawing attention to an important cause, which would be the minimum acceptable rationale for this campaign. But wait, you might ask, how can I maintain my glamorous lifestyle without making any changes? Try denial. Or try reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. You’ll find an answer there, and it will cost you less than a pair of jeans.

In this Torontoist post, Christopher Bird says it all: “…the Diesel campaign isn’t going to convince anybody that global warming is a problem, and more likely will convince a few stupid – but crucial – people that it isn’t.”

So what’s the key takeaway? The seemingly fundamental disconnect between reality and consumerism that is necessary for advertising to work. It wreaks havoc on our own points of reference, and rears its uninvited head at the dinner party where one has to contemplate notions and images of self. It normalizes the unnatural and the fantasy. It happens every damn day.

And to think, if all of the energy that went into selling to the masses went into something more useful, like, I don’t know, actual sustainability or education.

I’m thinking that instead of jeans, or lotion, or money, or crap that is really overpriced, people might need this instead in their times of catastrophe.



(Photo: William Colgin)

Musings of a Male Granny: This Retired Schoolteacher Spends His Free Time Skyping With Indian Schoolkids

The School in the Cloud and its Skype Grannies. This is an essential view into the evolution of both local and global education as technology becomes a main vehicle for its delivery.

“Within this, children need to be allowed to take more charge of their learning, with the teacher acting in a more supporting role. Letting go, allowing this to happen, is a big challenge for teachers, as there is security when you are setting out the agenda. But really, this approach doesn’t take anything away from the role of the teacher. We will continue to be instrumental in setting up these learning situations.”

Definite points awarded for accessibility of education and self-organized learning, but we can never truly rely on anything but a great teacher to support solid learning. Recent research out of MIT suggests that “[t]hese technology-enabled projects allowed professors to efficiently apply a range of evidence-based techniques in classrooms, leading to substantially improved student outcomes.”

What are your thoughts on online education? Have you participated in a MOOC? Would you be interested in being a Skype Granny? Why or Why not?

TED Blog

Kids at TK school gather around as David TK leads them in a clas.. Kids at a school in India gather around a computer as David Swancott leads a School in the Cloud session.

David Swancott is a retired biology teacher who lives an hour southeast of Bordeaux, France. He spends his free time bicycling, traveling and, for the past two years, being a “Skype Granny.” Swancott is a part of the “Granny Cloud,” a project created by 2013 TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra to make teachers available online to mentor children participating in his School in the Cloud. As children explore the big questions that matter to them, they get nudges in the right direction from a Skype Granny. But don’t let the name fool you. While many Granny Cloud participants are female and retired, just as many are male or in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Now that the school year is underway, we checked in with one of our male grannies to ask about his experience mentoring kids through…

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A Guerilla Education: Rage, Isolation, and the Band that Made me a Man

(Photo: AP; Jeff Chiu)

In 2013, I wrote a piece for the Good Men Project, and opened up a little about what the power of experiential education and music had to do with the man I am today.

Ultimately, it is about how arts and culture can be as powerful an educator as anything else, while highlighting that the public education system itself still has a ways to go in terms of either being unable or unwilling to provide the whole picture when it comes to global and local issues, such as NAFTA, indigenous genocide, or big oil.

“To me, the suburbs are like the top 40—easy, apolitical, and blasé. There was, and continues to be, absolutely nothing in the top 40 playlist that I can relate to; not forties and blunts, not bitches and hoes, and not “Britney, bitch”. The content in these songs has nothing to do with me. In scanning this landscape, I wondered where the hell was my voice reflected in all of this nonsense. I am a first-generation Canadian, whose family narrowly escaped the horrors of both the Holocaust and Communism. I had to find my place. It was through this lens that I began my quest into the musical landscape.”

Read the article in its entirety here.