All the King's Men
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Winston Churchill, C.S. Lewis, and Ronald Reagan—these four namesakes represent masculinity, chivalry, honor and courage. They are historical male figures embodying a culture each House at The King’s College strives to cultivate, but understanding what a male should be at this school is not so straight-forward. Each student has their own perception on what traits a man should hold.
“I think King’s men lack a sense of duty to stand up,” said Senior Ryan Mitchell. “A duty to stand up for themselves, for those around them, their ideas, their liberal opinions, their [non-liberal] opinions.”
The proportion of women to men at King’s is nearly 3:1. Almost 70 percent of the population is female. As a minority, and in a classical Christian environment, one would think the men would embody a strong masculine nature—but the majority of students would say that is an incorrect observation.
“The expectations are very different than what I expected. Sometimes masculinity altogether is discouraged,” said Freshman Colin Phillips. “Sometimes if you're a strong man, that makes people uncomfortable, more so here at King’s. For the first semester, It's harder for a guy to feel or find their community of other men that he can be around or confide in.”
Some individuals think the men at King’s come across as timid.
"Us being in New York, it's so diverse. I think we’ve started to accept everything and everyone.”
“Because the number of women is so much higher than male students, there's a conception or stereotype that a guy is too scared to ask someone out,” said Junior John McOrmond. “Not that he is dishonorable, but there is a consensus that every male is here either secretly homosexual or is just a wimp.”
“I think it all relates to the gossip culture here at Kings,” said Junior Kyle Kendrick. “The size of the school makes it so that guys are afraid to put themselves out there. Not just because they're afraid of getting rejected, but because they think that if they develop a relationship with a girl the entire community is going to see them and think they are dating.”
Although many students feel as if King’s lacks a sense of strong manly culture, other students express a contempt for times where hypermasculinity appears to be the social norm. With the lack of a clear understanding on how a man is supposed to act, some students have observed others attempting to overcompensate for their lack of visible strength.
“People perceive [that] to be masculine you have to be strong…” said junior Jared Neikirk. “Now men have to project a strength when its not there. Men are not able or willing to express their weaknesses, and that ends up being debilitating, because they can't resolve some of those issues.”
Although historically the idea of masculinity has been considered a positive male attribute, the perception of masculinity has become synonymous with misogyny in the modern era. In placing The King’s College into the secular hub of the world, the influences of a predominantly liberal city has impacted the students and staff.
“Being a guy at the King’s college is wonderful. I don't think you have to be a certain way or act a certain way,” said Senior Sadiq Keshwani. “A lot of the people here at King’s are gay, and some of them are feminine, and some are more masculine, and I don’t think its made a difference either way for me. I’ve just been myself. I don't think I’ve had the pressure of being something I don't want to be. At King’s you’re just so integrated together, with everyone.. You don't feel the need to be a masculine person if you're a man. Us being in New York, it's so diverse, I think we’ve started to accept everything and everyone.”
Other students don’t think this “acceptance” found in the city is always a positive thing.
“Everyone thinks their going to be silenced by this liberal majority,” said Mitchell. “I think there are a lot of people in the background who say they are pretty conservative, but would never speak out their true beliefs.”
Merriam-Webster defines “masculine” as having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man. In reality, the understanding of what makes a man is being challenged by modern day culture.
“I think masculinity has a lot to do with building an identity around what you think it means to be a man,” Neikirk said. “It does not only have to do with women, but on your expectations for yourself, and how you project yourself to the world. It has a lot to do with ideations on power and strength particularly, especially if a man feels as though he needs to be powerful.”
"It’s okay for guys to cry and open up with other people about what they're struggling with."
Within the House community, men from every walk of life feel challenged in adjusting to the group dynamic, while others quickly adapt and thrive in their newfound community.
“It’s funny looking at it now,” said Senior and Student Body President Michael Martinez. “I actually felt at the beginning of my time at King’s that I went to an all boys school and now I couldn’t think more of the opposite. At King’s more than anywhere else, I have felt like it’s okay for guys to cry and open up with other people about what they're struggling with, and to have this vulnerability with direct access to their friends heart and soul. That's something so rare and we take advantage [of] at [this] school, and that’s something that’s changed my life.”
Some men feel uncomfortable expressing their own personal attitude of being masculine—they feel a pressure to find a spouse immediately, feel objectified, or feel unable to completely express themselves.
Each friend group and House has to decide what it means for that small community to be a man. This can become a complicated task for students juggling life while being randomly placed into a House with men from different cultures, locations and lifestyles than their own.
“I think it depends on what group of people you find yourself in, your roommates, your House or the friends you make,” said Junior Jon Adler. “There tends to be one view of masculinity… I think in an ideal world, King’s students would have a better realization that masculinity is such a broad topic, and that there are so many different ways of looking at it.”
Not all the Houses put masculinity at the forefront of what it takes to live a virtuous life. Regardless of what virtues are printed on a House’s crest, each class of male students decides how they want to embody masculinity. Everyone can observe how these gentlemen want to be defined.
“King’s is not very masculine in all honesty,” Keshwani said. “Masculinity, following a traditional definition, is being a regular Ron Swanson. Meat eater, [he] cares about sports and beer, shows little feelings. So looking at King’s I’m not sure I see any of those guys around. I’ve seen more skinny jeans at King’s than I have ever seen living in Pakistan and England combined together. So it just doesn't really matter, especially at King’s. That's why I love it here.”
The original version of this piece was published in Issue 8 of the EST Magazine