Michael Kimmel: Masculinity's Role in School Culture

Posted by Scott Allenby

10/19/2015

Earlier this fall, we posted THIS BLOG on the Proctor Sister’s Program aimed at building relationships among our female students. We know that for all of our students continuous education, accountability, and tough, honest conversations with ourselves are central to the intentional cultivation of school culture. Friday night provided a tremendous opportunity to further cultivate Proctor’s culture as we welcomed renowned sociologist and gender equality expert, Dr. Michael Kimmel, to campus.

Proctor Academy Michael Kimmel

While the Proctor Sister’s Program and work done within our advisory groups this fall has focused largely on supporting and educating members of our community around the issues facing girls in today’s society, we know that with 55% of our students being male, we must also educate and provide resources for our male students. Dr. Michael Kimmel’s work as one of the world’s preeminent male feminists was just what our community needed!

Proctor Academy Michael Kimmel

Prior to his presentation, he met with a select group of twenty boys (above) identified by their advisors, coaches, or dorm parents as influential community members. The goal of this conversation was to empower a unique cross-section of male voices to have increased ownership and commitment of this conversation around masculinity within the community.

The full community presentation (see the video of the presentation above) masterfully provided historical context to the issue of gender in our society, and the role entitlement plays for males wrestling with the notion of gender equality. He framed the conversation for us by presenting the powerful dichotomy present in each male’s life: what it means to be a ‘good man’ and what it means to be a ‘real man’. Society tells us what it means to be a ‘good man’, but this is in direct conflict to the expectation among the socially acceptable definition of what it means to be a ‘real man’.

Dr. Kimmel noted, “There will be times in your life when you will be asked by other guys in the name of proving you are a ‘real man’ to betray what you know it means to be a ‘good man’. That fear that other guys will see us as not a real man is a really powerful part of our growing up. We are constantly, relentlessly policed by other guys on how we should be acting.”

Proctor Academy Michael Kimmel

It is this internal battle each male faces, regardless of age, that is not only exhausting, but can be crippling to a school culture. The manner in which each of student deals with this challenge is linked directly to his resilience as he seeks to follow his internal compass. Dr. Kimmel noted, “Resilience among boys is predicted by the presence of the following three relationships: a good male friend, a good female friend, and a charismatic adult who sees you.”

Proctor Academy Michael Kimmel

When these three relationships are present in a young man’s life, his willingness to stand firm in his understanding of what it means to be a good man increases significantly. This is our goal as a community; to create an environment where each student feels supported by genuine friendships built through shared experiences alongside adults who see and validate each individual. We know at the heart of a healthy community is a plethora of healthy relationships, and at the heart of each healthy relationship is trust.

Proctor Academy Michael Kimmel

Thank you, Dr. Kimmel, for sharing your expertise with us and for giving us so much to think about as we continue to actively shape our school culture this year! 

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