gender justice

Where Are All the Men?

(Photo Credit: teachingonpurpose.com)

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?

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The 3 Most Destructive Words a Boy Hears

Be. A. Man.Joe Ehrmann, Coach and Former NFL Player, The Mask I Live In

In 2011, director Jennifer Siebel Newsom produced the feature-length documentary Miss Representation, and in so doing begun (or simply contributed – depending on who you ask) a “movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change.”

I chose to screen Miss Representation later that year with a host of colleagues (mostly female) that wanted to explore the issues raised by the film: gender injustices that limit girls in modern Western culture; media and advertising and its effects on girls, for examples. It provided for much post-film dialogue where we facilitated some very intense discussion groups. The thinking was that more of these kinds of conversations were needed.

Yet, that is only one side of this issue’s coin. The other acknowledges that much work needs to be done in order to address and challenge the same destructive narrative for Western society’s boys and men: the bravado, the code, the veiling of true emotions we’ve been told aren’t “manly”. They are absolutely on point for highlighting that the intersectionality of this conversation needs to be in focus. Not doing so would make Miss Representation an effort in vain.

Enter The Mask You Live In

I am very much looking forward to this film, its potential impact in the English-speaking world, and for the conversations it will spark. When we (all) feel encouraged and supported in being vulnerable enough to share our true thoughts, emotions, and ideas in a safe and positive space – that which is so close to our hearts – true understanding can really occur. I know, this sounds all soft and easy, but trust me, it’s not. If the cultural norms and fronts that have stayed the course of time are still with us, it’s clearly not.

While much of the themes can hold true across cultures, we need to be mindful that this documentary should not serve as a blanket for masculinity world-wide. Let’s understand that this conversation talks largely about American masculinity. In fact, the protective, dominant, and detached male archetype has endured this long for a reason. It’s just time we revisit it’s purpose in our modern society.

What do you think are the most destructive words or phrases a boy or man hears?