Real Men Volunteer

I’m a pretty average guy. I like sports and beer and lowbrow humor. I am not particularly sensitive, nor am I good at expressing my feelings. That’s why I feel so funny when I look around my Students for Environmental Action meetings and see that I am once again the only male in a room of twelve girls. My attendance record at these meetings is sporadic at best, but when I do show up, I feel like I’m crashing a Gray’s Anatomy party.

This vast gender disparity is not limited to SEA. According to COVE Assistant Director Betsy Busche, of the 56 current COVE leaders, only 19 are male. And a full 80 percent of the 500 students who signed up for COVE groups at recent student involvement fairs wear bras. That’s crazy, brah.

All of this begs the question: Are Colgate men, in the words of Jewel, fashionably sensitive but too cool to care?

Junior Ben Callaway seems to think so. Callaway, who will be interning with the COVE next year and looking specifically at its gender gap, thinks the remarkable male-female ratio is just a part of Colgate’s culture. “I think at Colgate peer pressure causes many men who are thinking of volunteering to reconsider,” he told me. “Some guys see volunteering as something that’s not fun or cool and they ridicule friends who do it.”

I agree with him on a certain level. For whatever reason, I am always a little bit hesitant to tell my friends when I’m going to entertain some old folks or tutor Hamilton High kids. And while plenty of sorority girls sign up to visit the elderly or man COOP tables for Amnesty International, dudes who do the same are usually the more alternative types.

Junior Rob Frankel, who is involved with a litany of COVE groups, takes a different approach. Frankel says that some volunteer organizations are just geared towards girls – the Breast Cancer Awareness Coalition, for example. “On the other hand, you have Habitat for Humanity,” he said, “which has been run by male students in the past, and I’m sure has a strong contingent of men.”

Frankel makes a good point. It’s true that Habitat for Humanity has been run my men in the past, and is again this year. It’s also true that Colgate’s fraternities do an admirable job in making philanthropy a priority. Beta hosted last week’s AIDS benefit banquet, Theta Chi raises tons of funds with its Spring Party Slices-eating contest and Phi Delt holds enough blood drives to replenish any rugby team.

The difference, as Callaway noted, is that these are once-in-a-while events, while COVE involvement usually requires a commitment, like hanging out with a Best Buddy and or a Sidekick on a weekly basis. And we all know it’s women who crave commitment.

There’s also the argument that future mothers are more nurturing than their male counterparts? Could it be that females’ maternal instincts drive women to be mentors before they become mothers? My instincts tell me no.

It seems impossible to me that men simply do not care as much about their local and global communities as much as women do. And the paternal instinct is a pretty big deal too – just ask your dad. Many of my male friends are fully cognizant of the plights of other people, and they seem genuinely interested in doing something about it. It’s just that when it comes down to it, most of them don’t.

At Colgate and beyond, our culture cultivates a striving for ubermale status among boys and men. I think Habitat for Humanity draws more men than most groups because members have the sun on their necks while they use power tools to build houses. It’s a manly endeavor, and a terrific program. But personally, nothing tests my manhood more than walking into a room full of cranky senior citizens and, armed only with a guitar, trying to get them to crack smiles.

When men abstain from community initiatives and volunteer projects, both the men and the communities miss out. COVE groups are often short on members or leaders, and missing out on most of our campus’s manpower doesn’t help matters. Meanwhile, the abstaining men don’t get the satisfaction inherent in helping someone who could use some help.

The COVE could use an infusion of testosterone. So be a man and volunteer.