On Tuesday evening, a group of male- and non-binary-identifying students gathered at the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center to discuss the role healthy masculinity plays in the outdoors.
Shielded from the fresh snow outside, the hour-long conversation, led by Benjamin Felser ‘22, Ethan Strull ‘22 and Noah Gans ‘22, served as the first of a three-part, monthly conversation series that will focus on the historical presence of masculinity in outdoor spaces and the means through which one can create a safe and caring space in the outdoors and beyond.
Though initially worried about the turn-out, the student leaders were pleasantly surprised by an almost full house.
“A bunch of people showed up,” Strull said. “They were clearly excited to be there.”
While conversations like this necessitated vulnerability to a certain extent, the general enthusiasm shared among the participants kept the talk vibrant. The student leaders were also mindful about creating a safe and confidential environment where everyone felt comfortable discussing and sharing.
“It’s a really nice space—definitely very conversation-oriented,” said Miles Berry ‘25, one of the participants. “I think there’s a lot of space for people to just explore themselves and different ideas.”
While this preliminary event focused on the traditional definition of masculinity, future talks aim to broaden the scope and address intersection of masculinity with other types of identities, such as gender, race and class.
“We plan to talk about how those kinds of complexities function together and how we can work against problems like that,” Gans said. “The last one is going to be specifically about the BOC [Bowdoin Outing Club] and how to implement what we’ve learned to create change for the community.”
The inspiration for this event, the leaders said, stemmed from daily conversations, personal experiences and the need for proper tools to call out insensitive or problematic behavior. Instead of bringing in lecturers and instructors, the student leaders focus more on establishing a common space that fosters these conversations. They hope to build an understanding and supportive community, for that is where these talks ought to eventually return.
“Hopefully these conversations will happen outside of the space,” Strull said. “When you run into people in the dining halls or Smith Union. We want to make it a more casual part of our thinking and our language.”