BYU student Thomas Call’s gift and passion is his major: dance. In pursuit of his passion, Call attends his 1:30 p.m. contemporary technique class and prepares to dance. A quick look around the room will reveal that Call is in the minority because most of his classmates are women.
Dance is one of many majors that attract large numbers of women. Other majors include nursing and elementary education. However, men still venture into these majors and find challenges, advantages and humor in being the minority.
Call appreciates being one of the only males in his major but was bothered when people would tell him that he would get accepted to the major because he was a male.
“It was upsetting,” Call said. “I wanted to get in on my own merit. … People assumed I would get in because of my gender.”
Now that he is in the major, Call enjoys being able to dance at a university that can see dancing as manly.
“It’s nice to be at a school where people are OK with guys dancing,” Call said.
Call has noticed that there are differences between the style and abilities of himself and the women in his dance classes. He enjoys having unique abilities and knowledge as a man to benefit his classes.
“I can do something that is harder for girls,” Call said. “I might not be able to kick my face, but I can stand on my hands and stay upside down. … It’s nice to know that as a guy I do have some strengths that help me as a dance major. I like being a guy and dancing like a male. … I’m OK with not looking like my peers by dancing the same way the girls do, but in a masculine way.”
Jason Hart, an elementary education major, feels like he stands out in his female-dominated major classes.
“(I notice it), especially when I’m in class and professors say, ‘Sisters, and Jason. …'” Hart said.
Sometimes his roommates tease him about his major, but he finds the joking funny and is proud of the work he does.
“Occasionally they do joke,” Hart said. “I’ll pull out my picture books while my roommates are doing calculus. They say, ‘Your homework is play,’ and I just say, ‘You wish your homework was more fun.'”
As an engaged man, Hart is concerned with fulfilling his role as a provider on a teacher’s salary.
“That is my main concern,” Hart said. “(But) you can find a way. … The guys I’ve talked to are able to support their families and are very comfortable. … I wish more guys were willing to go into it.”
Hart believes men can play a beneficial role in the teaching field.
“We are valued in the field because we provide some variety and perspective the kids don’t always have,” Hart said. “For kids who don’t have male role models, we get to serve as that, at least for a time,” Hart said.
Rebecca de Schweinitz, an assistant professor of history at BYU who specializes in women and gender, explained that societal gender expectations are unique to the place and time in history.
“Ideas about gender and appropriate jobs change over time and may have been different in another time or culture,” de Schweinitz said.
She explained that some of the professions dominated by women became that way because they were seen as similar to the roles women already filled in the home.
“(Some jobs) became accepted because they were part of women’s traditional roles … nursing was seen as an extension of women’s caring and nurturing roles,” de Schweinitz said.
Brian Hayes, a nursing student, believes that nursing is beginning to appeal more to men.
“It’s not just touchy-feely anymore,” Hayes said. “We get to deal with the blood and guts.”
Hayes also thinks that having men in the nursing profession makes things better in the field.
“Guys have a calming influence in female-dominated areas,” Hayes said.” With all the estrogen running around, having a guy there with a little testosterone helps even things out.”
Hayes feels like people are generally supportive, but he has gotten the occasional feeling that people still see what he is going into as unusual for a guy.
“Everybody is supportive to your face but … (people) are like, ‘That’s a girl major,’ but … never (say) that to my face,” Hayes said.
Alex Christman, a comparative literature major and women’s studies minor, thinks it is beneficial being the minority in his female-dominated classes.
“I’m the token guy,” Christman said. “I get praise for it from the women in the program. … Since I am the only guy I do get singled out and have the opportunity to form good relationships with my professors, and I see that as a material advantage.”
Curtis Penfold, a women’s studies minor, believes that individuals should not be afraid to venture from their stereotyped gender role but should find what is right for them as Christman did.
“I know gender affects me and the way people treat me,” Penfold said. “Every individual needs to find (his or her) own role in life rather than society telling you what to do … (you) need to decide what is best for you as an individual.”