Campus gender forum brings all the boys to the room

'Surprising' number of men attended Philosophers' Jam discussion on which sex has it tougher

Philosophy instructor Kurt Preinsperg leads the first Philosophers' Jam of 2019. Photo: Jennifer Blake
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Reported by Jennifer Blake

Men outnumbered women four-to-one in a recent gender-focused talk on campus — a shocking reversal of the typical attendance trend, according to a Langara philosophy instructor who says women usually fill the seats.

Kurt Preinsperg, who led last week’s Philosophers’ Jam ‘Women & Men: Which Sex Has it Tougher?’, said he was surprised that men were so interested in the event.

He said when he took a women’s studies class at UBC in the late 1980s, there were only three men and 35 women in the course.

Men opt out of gender studies

“In my judgment, it has to do with men feeling that they don’t need consciousness raising around relationships issues,” Preinsperg said.

Preinsperg said when he first arrived at Langara he offered to teach men’s studies courses. But he soon realized that men didn’t often take those classes. It was mainly women who took men’s studies, too.

“I think the time is right for a men’s studies course at Langara,” Preinsperg said.

Changing tides

One of the men who attended, Michael Cobbler, a philosophy student, said he’s glad he went to hear the discussion.

“I loved it. I enjoyed the discourse,” Cobbler said. “An exploration of the question was really satisfying to me.”

University of Calgary professor Michael Kehler, who specializes in masculinities studies, said he attributes the lack of male participation in gender discussions to a number of issues, including the inability to reflect critically, and in some cases, privilege.

Kehler said in his experience, conversations around masculinities and expression of masculinity are often perceived by males as “common sense conversations.”

“There’s this sense that there’s no need to discuss it because in a sense, we own it,” Kehler said.

Preinsperg said that non-binary and transgender experiences were not topics raised in this Philosophers’ Jam because people who don’t identify with their biological sex face their own unique struggles, and there was a limited time to cover the issue.

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