Saturday, May 30, 2009

Challenging the stereotype of male students - "I need love and affection, not the house of correction!"

Granted, a white male who raises gender issues is like playing hopscotch in a minefield while blindfolded - it won't take long to set off the explosions.  Casting caution to the wind, here's a very interesting story from Inside Higher Ed about two studies that examine the male perspective on being an undergraduate student (remember - many, if not most law students are fresh out of college themselves).  In short, being, um, a dude ain't as easy as it looks.

The researchers found that males feel a great deal of pressure to conform to the male stereotypeof what it means to be a man meaning affecting an unemotional, cool-under-pressure persona.  Being "competitive, aggressive, self-assured; to not be gay, feminine or vulnerable."  

Furthermore, 'It was not manly to put a lot of time and effort into academics,' [one of the researchers] said. It’s not cool to study, to read the book:  'Sometimes it’s not cool to even buy the book. But you’ve got to ace the test. You’ve got to make the grade,' continued [the researcher], who described male students studying on the sly, telling their buddies they were spending the evening with their girlfriends and then hitting the books instead.  'The script to be a manly man means you’re good at everything and you don’t have to work at it.' 

The downside, as you might guess, are all the psychic problems that ensue from living an inauthentic life.   As one of the researchers said:  "I lose my authenticity when I pretend I’m someone I’m not.  And there’s a loss of humanity when you deny who you really are.”

In terms of strategies and recommendations, [the researchers] suggested first giving college men permission to stop performing and to be themselves. 'It’s really about creating some kind of balance to the external pressure,' said Harris. 'We talk about challenge and support, challenging the negative behavior" (such as acts of violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment that are overwhelmingly committed by the males on campus).

One hopeful outcome from these studies is to challenge the notion that educators don't have to focus on the needs of men simply because they out-earn women once they leave campus.  "We should continue to be concerned about the status of women,” [one of the researchers] stressed. 'In higher education, unfortunately, we are notorious for falling into the either-or trap.'"

Read the full article here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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