What Lee is doing to invite men into gender equality conversation
Amidst the push for gender equality, young men still struggle with expressing their emotions due to gender and societal roles. On some college campuses, this may be impacted by a higher rate of female enrollment than male. However, Lee University students are working alongside faculty to create opportunities for men to engage in these conversations.
In a recent study featured in the New York Times, boys said strength and toughness were the male character traits most valued by society. Of those polled, 82 percent said they had heard others criticizing a boy for “acting like a girl.”
Sophomore pastoral ministries major Alex Hooker believes culture has put men and women in a box that confines them to these gender and societal roles.
“One thing that is often attributed to men is being strong and not being able to show emotion,” said Hooker. “However, suppressing emotions doesn’t solve any problems. It just creates larger problems later on, and I think it is important for guys to really solve their issues by speaking out.”
Lee has been facilitating conversation about these issues for women with Worthy Now and other similar events but seems to struggle with finding the right way to include the men on campus in these discussions.
In 2016, there was an event for male students called Forged, modeled after Worthy Now, but it was poorly attended. As a result, Director of First Year Programs Rochelle Mayberry believes there is an active effort to figure out how to best engage male students on campus in meaningful ways.
“While we know that both men and women struggle with issues of identity and worth, we can’t assume that the way we approach it must look the same,” Mayberry said. “Worthy Now was created because a group of women saw the need for this type of dialogue in their own lives. There are already men on our campus having these conversations regularly. A question many of us are now asking is, how do we all join together to intentionally empower and uplift one another in understanding our God-given worth?”
Senior communications major Jarod Noel argues that spontaneity resonates with the men on campus to help them feel part of something. This was demonstrated by an impromptu worship session that occurred throughout the boys’ dorms during Summer Honors.
“What started as just a few guys playing guitar for fun ended up being a spontaneous movement with the whole dorm parading around and knocking on people’s doors until it converged into a bunch of guys singing the song and having a good time,” Noel said. “After that night, it generated a discussion with the RAs that made them think maybe guys need things like this to make them feel a part of something, rather than a formulated event that happens bi-yearly and covers certain topics.”
Though Greek clubs, choirs and other organizations are forms of student engagement, a majority of them are exclusive. Specifically at Lee, because the ratio of men to women is low, providing ways for men to find their place on campus is a difficult yet important endeavor.
Hooker and Noel both work on campus in various areas and feel that their jobs have given them the opportunity to take a sense of ownership while also fostering relationships that allow them to have these discussions.
“I think that is what drives people to stay at Lee and drives males to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves,” Noel said. “Finding that sense of ownership without losing your identity within that place is the hard part.”
There are several students and faculty actively discussing and planning events on campus specifically geared towards men: for example, a “mega desk session” in Walker Arena for the men on campus to study and play games together before finals. Also, Assistant Professor of Choral Music Dr. Joshua Cheney is starting an all-male choir in the spring of 2019.
Residential Life and Student Development faculty are always open to ideas for clubs and events to keep the male population engaged. If you have any ideas that you feel will be beneficial for the men on campus, talk to your Residential Life staff or email Amy Hunley at the Student Development Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.