By TYLER PATCHIN
Being a male in a female-dominated field has its pros and cons; but in my opinion, the pros drastically outweigh the cons. It was an easy decision for me to choose such a demanding profession, but the lack of males in the social work program at the University of Southern Indiana was truly shocking. I assumed, just like many other fields, that there would be some sort of balance between males and females; but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In the undergraduate program, males weren’t prevalent, and there were even fewer once I got to the graduate program. So why is there such a shortage of males in social work? I think the answer is simple. Males are conditioned from a very young age to “act like a man” or are told things like “suck it up, don’t cry.” These little phrases have more impact than people realize sometimes. Phrases like “man up” tell young boys that they have to act a certain way to obtain the things they want most in their lives. Children look up to their parents, especially their fathers; and many of the fathers they look up to are telling them who they should or should not be.
I believe there is a stigma against males who talk about their feelings or show emotions. Guys who show their emotions are sometimes viewed as weak or lesser than other guys — all because they are in touch with their emotions. I believe being a male in such a female-dominated field shows young men that it is okay to talk about their feelings; it’s okay to feel sad sometimes; and it’s okay to know how to express feelings to others. Not only does it positively impact the males on my caseload, but I also believe it leaves a lasting impression on the girls as well.
Because there are more girls on my caseload, I believe being a male affects them just as much as the boys on my caseload. I would like to believe that my female students who come to me for advice like seeing things from a different point of view. Many of them want to understand why a certain situation would happen the way it did and enjoy hearing a male’s point of view on the topic. It also shows young women that males can, in fact, be trusted people in their lives. Fortunately, I have had few students resist talking to a male social worker about feelings; but that won’t always be the case.
Unfortunately, so many children today are raised without a father figure in their lives; and that leaves a sour taste for many of the young people I have the privilege of working with. Continuing to be a support person for the students in need and letting them know that I will be there unconditionally are things I take great pride in. I whole-heartedly believe that if there were more males in the social work field, specifically the school setting, that we could continue to break down the stigma against males being open about their feelings.
Tyler Patchin is a Youth First social worker at Reitz Memorial High School.