Surviving as a Man in a Women’s World

My eyes slide over the title of the top of the page, reading “The Women Behind the Magazine.” The women behind the magazine? Someone in layout is going to have to change that graphic when they add my picture. I am a member of Arches, but I am not a woman. I am a man.

This happened at my first Arches staff meeting as I was handed a copy of the most recent issue.  I’ve seen the publication around campus and have read it in the past, but this time I was looking at it with not the eyes of a reader, but those of a staff member.  I opened it up to the first page and there it was, an array of headshots of all the people who work on Arches, about 20 in total, and all female.

The first time that this “matter” (I dare not call it a problem) of being a male student at Mount Mary University came up was when I got my student ID. The security team assumed I was a faculty member or some other employee simply because I am a male. Although I could’ve had a better parking space, I had to correct their assumption and tell them the truth: I am a student. 

The second time something came up was when I went to the business office.  I got an email saying that I could pick up my tuition refund check.  I entered the office and told the lady (who I had never met before) why I was there. 

She took a stack of envelopes, paged through them, handed me my envelope, but never asked me my name. I questioned her about this and she said, “You’re the only boy in the pile.”  She got that right, but she got something wrong.  I haven’t been a boy for decades.  Perhaps I should be flattered that she thought I looked so youthful, but actually, I’m a card-carrying member of AARP.

This is my second semester as a graduate student at Mount Mary studying creative writing.  After joining the Arches staff, it was suggested that I do some writing for this publication.  I was reluctant to do so, and I had my reservations because I also have a considerable amount of writing in my classes.  As a graduate student I am not only working on class assignments, but I’m also continuing to write a novel.  Having assignments in both Arches and my writing classes due at the same time seems like an overwhelming and concerning prospect. Perhaps the female staff members and students can do several things at once, but I can’t.  I can only do one thing at a time. It has been said that multitasking is a united struggle for the male.

Anthropologists say that it started with the primitive man.  The men of the village would go out and have only one task: kill an animal and bring home the meat.  The women of the village would stay home in their huts or caves and do a multitude of tasks: gather vegetables, take care of children, get water, tend the fires, sew clothing, etc. The few men of the village who made it to the age of being old and feeble, no longer able to hunt, would stay back at the dwellings with the women and children.

I am that old man who stays back with all of the women as the only male member in my village of the Arches staff. I must on occasion remind the staff of my multitasking struggles. Unlike those ancient old men, I live in the modern world, and I can’t sharpen a spear.  All I can do is sharpen a pencil.  As for arrows, I don’t even have a quiver to put them in.  What I do have is a book bag and a laptop, my modern tools for writing this column.

So, there you have it.  I am a 50-something-year-old, male student taking classes at a women’s university, and this is my story.


1 comment

  1. You know why this is news? It’s news because American society continues to celebrate male prominence as norm, thus any deviation from that has that “man bites dog” interest. If parity for women was being achieved, there would be no need to publish a piece about how a male feels when removed from the typical full privilege.

    In contrast, one could also approach this piece by asking this person how they justify pointing out that “women behind the magazine” will have to be changed, while these same women making this accommodation deal every minute with male-centric language?

    The English language, in which all living things are assumed “he” while inanimate objects (ships, cars, etc.) are “she”. (What’s the psychology behind that?) Blatantly male words are everywhere–manhandle, manpower, manage, mandate, manufacture… not to mention maleness that clings to professions–fireman, mailman, alderman…where are the female equivalents? Here’s the female equivalents in professions–you add the prefix “lady”. As in “lady cop” “lady golfer” “lady judge”…you never hear anyone say “male cop” “man cop” “gentleman cop” “boy cop”. So many last names include son and man, no female equivalent. Even in words that should be utterly female: MENstruation, MENopause, feMENist, etc, so on.

    Yet someone male joins a womens college and has to have their opinions heard…not because they’ve been harassed or harmed…but because the culture around them that encourages women has made them uncomfortable a few times for a few moments. And A.J. Perkins makes it clear he will not sit by silently for the slightest inconvenience, no matter if he signed up for it, nor if it helps another human grow.


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