Brandon University students pitch new masculine role model features to book author

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Class assignments may next be headed for publication after a Brandon University professor set up a special opportunity for students in one of his classes.

Instead of a single model of how a boy can grow into a man, the book ‘Boy Oh Boy’ offers 30 stories of people whose lives demonstrate that there are endless possibilities—that boys and men can do and be so much more than what we think of when we say things like “boys will be boys.”

As part of Dr. Jonathan Allan’s course on Diverse Masculinities, he has his students examine a children’s book called ‘Boy oh Boy’ — which presents 30 different masculine role models through coming-of-age stories that feature famous sportsmen, artists, politicians, educators and scientists.

“Children absorb gender roles from a very early age, and this book does an excellent job of showcasing the very many ways that ‘manliness’ can be presented,” said Dr. Allan, who is a professor in both English and in Gender & Women’s Studies as well as being the Canada Research Chair in Men and Masculinities at BU. “It features brief biographies of men from Gandhi to Prince, from Oscar Wilde to Lebron James, showing different ways of being a man. Although it’s a children’s book, that makes it an excellent introduction to the course as well.”

Taking it to the next level for his class, Dr. Allan challenged students to find their own masculine role models, to research them, and to create two-page spreads similar to what they had read in the book.

“I was blown away,” he said. “The depth and scale of their research was phenomenal, as was the wide breadth of different role models they uncovered and wrote about so passionately. I was thoroughly impressed by the creativity and care that they brought to their presentations — many put together artwork that easily rivaled what was published in the book.”

That’s no idle boast. For their presentations, Dr. Allan actually wrangled a video-chat appearance from the book’s author, Dr. Cliff Leek — an acquaintance of his and colleague on the board of the American Men’s Studies Association.

Student Reagan McConnell chose to profile wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen, researching his life and creating a two page spread about him.

“It was really an honor to join Dr. Allan’s class and have the opportunity to interact with and learn from the students,” said Dr. Leek, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Northern Colorado and current Vice-President of AMSA. “Technology allowed us to temporarily bypass the issues of distance, borders, and financing travel to provide a learning opportunity for the students. I can’t thank Dr. Allan and Brandon University enough.”

While Dr. Allan says that the opportunity was sparked by the online teaching requirements of the pandemic, those constraints actually provided new and valuable insights for the students.

Doing this assignment meant a lot to me and my ability to express where I come from,” said student Amanda Hutchinson. “Many assignments I receive are done from in a Canadian context, and as interesting as that is, I am not Canadian. My heroes who fought, died and worked to contribute to my history and shape the person I am today mean the world to me.”

Another student said she learned a lot from the other presentations as well.

“Everyone in the class put in so much work into their assignments and it was incredible being able to listen to their reasonings behind who they chose,” said Reagan McConnell. “My classmates taught me so much about people that I had never heard of who are doing incredible things they are accomplishing.”

The students chose to highlight fascinating people like Terry Fox, Rick Hansen, Jeremy Dutcher, Justice Murray Sinclair, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Yungblud, Chadwick Boseman, Robert Munsch, Marcus Garvey, Louise Bennett and Jackie Cox.

“I don’t know how easy this assignment would have been in a classroom setting, but I am glad that we could make it work during COVID,” Dr. Allan said. “Learning online, we all feel so distant from one another and I am so glad this assignment worked to bring us together.”


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