If you’re a female on campus this week, you’ve probably heard about the Women’s Center’s Love Your Body Week. If you’re a male, you probably heard about the events, and then proceeded to go about your everyday business, since “women’s issues” don’t concern you. It’s no secret that the majority of participants in social justice issues at Boston College are female. Pulse, 4Boston, Arrupe—all of these programs typically lack male participation due to an observable stigma that guys don’t partake in activities that discuss social justice if it involves any type of reflection. At a school that is 54 percent female and 46 percent male, the numbers of female to male involvement in events and programs that focus more on emotions, self-image, and reflection, just don’t seem to add up.
Why is it that there is typically a dearth in male participation in programming on campus, and on a macro-level, when the subject matter involves a more reflective component? In her book Longing for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation, author Ivone Gebara focuses on the issues facing this division in factors and traits that have been culturally assigned to men and women over the years. She discusses the lines of division that have been drawn in many societies where men are typically associated with the brain, productivity, and individualism, while women are commonly paired with emotion, the subjective world, and the body.
This plays out extensively in the world today, specifically on our own campus. The gender distribution in an undergraduate school like CSOM—which focuses on productivity and individual achievement, and is more numerically leaning towards male students—is starkly different from a school like CSON, which delves into the care and emotional dimension of work, and which has far more female students enrolled than male. In my service learning, social justice-oriented study abroad program, only three of the 17 participants were males. The image of masculinity does not need to denote a lack of care for others in a reflective environment. By not showing up to these types of discussions, the rest of the population experiences a lack in the full truth of the matter. One of the tenets of modern feminism is that men are integral parts of the conversation for equality; because of the “bro” or hyper-masculine norms of our BC culture, we all miss out on valuable insights that must come from all groups of people.
In a world—and on a campus—so racked with inequality, it is important that all of us join in on this conversation for social change in all of its many facets. An event focused on body image does not mean it is just a woman’s issue. A service program that seeks to form community should not scare off any interested men who are too worried about the stigma that this could have on their masculinity. These are not just women’s tasks, or women’s issues. All perspectives and experiences are needed to strengthen the conversation about social justice and social change. This is a call to action for the men of BC. If we truly all “are BC,” then let’s prove it by showing up, speaking out, and breaking the stigma.