21 August 2011

We are but men

I recognize it was only a couple blog posts ago that I wrote about my visit to Andrews University.
Well now I can say I am writing from this hallowed mecca of Adventism, a school I will come to terms with as home.

As part of orientation week for incoming freshmen at the university, it has been a tradition for the men's residence hall to go on a retreat for the weekend. From what I had already heard about this retreat (strangely named "Man Up"), this was going to be a rough-and-tough, deliberately masculine sort of event. "Boot camp" was also used as a synonym for this event. I was displeased.

Since I began boarding school in Auburn, I've been well-aware of the promotion of the male stereotype in centers of male dominance, such as gyms, the wilderness, and the dormitory. My freshman year in academy dormitory, there were several guys who worked out in the weight room a lot, who kept the television on subjects like cars, hunting, and football, who made ignorant comments on the world, and asserted their manliness to fresh fish like myself. Those guys were intimidating but I learned to deal with it. Eventually those guys left or graduated and I was able to foster an environment of intellectuality in the school.
Not really. I wanted to.

When I came to the campus of Andrews about a week ago, I knew I would encounter the promotion of the male stereotype again as I returned to dorm life, and I have seen a bit of it. But I was wrong about the dorm retreat.

What I had thought was going to be a weekend of running miles and doing push-ups turned out to be something better. Instead, this "Man Up" event focused on the what it meant to be a man in Christ, how to handle for the burdens of the school year with the help of God, and what it meant to have a community of faith, especially for us as Adventist men. Once again I was assured that even though most of these guys don't exactly understand the gospel and righteousness by faith, there was loyalty and respect for this faith of ours.

I'm not sure why I was uncomfortable with this weekend, or with the promotion of the male stereotype. I mean I've served in Pathfinders for eight years so I'm familiar with wilderness survival, obeying orders and such. I guess it's just that I don't identify with guys who like cars, football, and working out. Of course I'd much rather read a book, go to a museum, or cook in the kitchen. Perhaps I'm subscribing to the post-modern view on gender where boys are free to play baseball or bake cookies or write. Regardless I'm thankful for what I found here.

Ellen White wrote a letter to a fellow who I suppose wasn't the most gentleman of characters, on what it means to be a man:
"You have looked upon it as a weakness to be kind, tender, and sympathetic and have thought it beneath your dignity to speak tenderly, gently, and lovingly to your wife. Here you mistake in what true manliness and dignity consist."
- The Adventist Home, p. 228.
After all, the greatest want of the world is the want of men.

1 Reactions ✈:

SivartM said...

That's interesting, because your expectations were pretty much the way it was last year, though with the religion-is-manly part also. I had to do so many push-ups (after never having done many before) that I was sore for weeks. I did meet a few cool people, but it really wasn't a whole lot of fun.
I couldn't care less about sports or working out; I don't need to prove some masculine ideal. Being a good person has nothing to do with your sex. It's about being compassionate; interacting with others with empathy rather than making yourself into a stereotype to try to garner "man points" (or "woman points", for that matter).
I don't know if you've heard about the "Man Class" they have here on Thursdays(?), which was advertised to me as involving useful skills for men like cars (or something). Never been, don't care to, thanks to gendered advertising. Also, a friend told me that in Lamson they have programs focusing on "women's skills", the one example I have being knitting (I write this with a half-knitted hat on my desk). I'd rather they didn't separate skills into arbitrary groups the way they do; car maintenance, knitting, and cooking useful for anyone.

P.S. In case you didn't infer it, I'm at Andrews too. I've followed your blog for a while but I can't for the life of me remember where or when I found it.

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