When people thought of the members of the non-male affinity group, FMG, one common attribute came to mind: they were all female-identifying. Now, one brave student is starting to change that. Brian Lansburgh (‘20) is the first man to lead an all female-identifying affinity group, shattering the glass floor. At first, many members of the group were hesitant about letting a man into an all-female space; however, they say they’ve come to appreciate Brian’s presence. “Sometimes our female brains get so twisted in knots that we just can’t seem to focus. Brian really knows what us girls want,” said junior Tonya Evans, a member of the group. Though some outside observers wondered how a white male student could claim to best represent the opinions of such a diverse group of women, it is important to acknowledge that Brian’s struggle was not that far from theirs. Brian has also overcome adversity, as he was the only man in Katherine Dunbar’s “Contemporary Women’s Literature” course.
After reading a Wikipedia article on Lucretia Mott and following Gloria Steinem on Twitter, Brian felt that he had truly grasped the tenets of the feminist ideology. He attended a meeting, and, after he slowly explained how their group could use some restructuring, the members decided that Brian should be in charge. “Though traditionally all-female affinity groups have been a place for just women to talk about our shared experiences, we really think Brian adds to the group because he adds that male validation that we need,” said senior Michelle Collins, former head of the group. “How else would we know if what we were feeling was, like, legitimate?”
During the weekly meetings, Brian does his best to keep the group on track, and whenever a group discussion is derailed with stories of personal experiences regarding sexism at GDS, Brian helpfully interjects with remarks such as “Not all men!” and “Are you sure you weren’t misinterpreting that?” In this way, he helps the other members avoid falling prey to their over emotional tendencies due to their periods. “Before I joined, they kept having all these ‘opinions’ which just didn’t seem productive,” said Brian. “There’s only 35 minutes in a lunch period.” Brian then realized that he had accidentally made a pun, and laughed about it to himself.
Brian also is on the tennis team, but leaves half an hour early on Mondays to attend after-school meetings. Though he’s been bumped down to 3rd doubles, Brian feels that his sacrifices are worth it. “Some might call me a hero and a martyr, but I don’t see it that way. I think just think it’s my responsibility to help these gals figure their stuff out, ” says Brian. He tries to extend his allyship outside of club meetings. In class, whenever a woman is mentioned, he makes sure to nod in approval and say “good for her!” even if it’s Kellyanne Conway.
Though many in the group have proposed organizing a community event such as a bake sale for Planned Parenthood, it’s Brian’s belief that more important discussions should occur before any action takes place, such as how great it is that the Wonder Woman movie exists, or whether or not Rupi Kaur is this generation’s Betty Friedan. Still, when he believes they are ready, Brian is prepared to lead his fellow sisters to freedom through action. “I consider myself almost like Moses for these girls,” said Brian. “I really feel like my role here is to guide them to the promised land of gender equality.”
Brian himself has started to put his own ideas into motion, and put it upon himself to plan a march on the Capitol against what he perceives to be the most significant issue to the feminist community: The lack of male leadership roles in feminist advocacy. “No one understands how hard it is to teach these women about feminism. I’m marching to fight for the male voice to be heard on feminist issues, ” said Brian.
After much debate over which members of FMG would go to the Capitol, Brian ultimately decided that none of the other members were yet proficient enough in feminism to attend and decided to go alone. This suited the female members of the group just fine. “I’m so happy Brian took the initiative to go without us,” said Collins. “I don’t think my delicate womanly body was prepared for a protest.” On the assigned day, Brian held his own school walk out and marched in front of the Capitol, carrying a sign that read, “Men for educating women.” He stood there for nearly an hour, stoically looking at the Capitol building by himself before getting tired and going back to school. Upon his return to FMG, the women were thrilled to hear about his achievements. “I really hope other men see his actions and decide to get involved,” says freshman Leah Gregors, a member of FMG. “The more men we have teaching us about feminism, the better we can get at it, and maybe even start to try it out on our own one day.”
By Lucy Walker’19