What does it mean to be a man in student affairs?
I can only speak from my experience, not on behalf of all men, but I would say that it is an ongoing exercise in humility. Being a man in student affairs means constantly challenging stereotypes that men aren’t all aggressors, dominant, jokers, jocks, idiots, or strong silent types. Men can follow, listen, be intelligent, creative, be sensitive, be affectionate, and be good partners. Especially with the work done in student affairs, it is imperative for us to reflect upon our actions, our positions, our language, and even our physical presence in all situations. It comes with opportunities to both lean on and challenge other men to acknowledge inequity and that there are many ways to be a man, despite what we have been told.
There are challenges everywhere for men in student affairs. There is the work that we must all do to continually grow and change our language, heart, and attitude towards negative aspects of gender stereotypes. It’s the work to courageously challenge other men to look at their actions, language, and beliefs about masculinity and femininity. It’s challenging ourselves to exercise our privilege to speak up, step aside, or actively engage with behavior that is counter cultural. Student affairs and education has often been described a feminine profession and it can be challenging to appropriately engage with the hard work that needs to be done.
There are opportunities everywhere for men in student affairs. There are opportunities everywhere for men to challenge the traditional depictions of what it means to be man. There are opportunities to engage with men on masculinity on various levels. Men in student affairs should consider engaging with their peers, their students, and their leaders on this topic. Men have the opportunity to engage with women about what it means to be a man and learn from women about what they think too. There are opportunities in almost every facet of student affairs ranging from athletics to advising to student activities to leadership to greek life (the list goes on and on). There are opportunities to grow in how men can explore how that part of their identity intersects with other parts of who they are. There are many opportunities to advocate for women in the journey to make our field more equitable, but we must not forget the support that our men need too.
Does privilege affect the work that is done?
There are various ways that societal issues come into play in student affairs and gender. Higher education isn’t exempt from the privilege that comes with being a man. Men in student affairs have more opportunities for positions, more opportunities for advancement, more male mentors in senior leadership, and of course the power to change the system. With the greater percentage of women in the profession, this also adds to male privilege in student affairs when it comes to job search and positioning yourself professionally. This can also play in dual career searches as it more socially acceptable for their partners to follow men to a new location for a position compared to the alternative.