Growing up, I never understood why anything would be single sex (aside from the obvious such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers of course). I never understood why anyone would want to go to an all boys school or an all girls school. The inclusion of girls on a male sports team was good, as were the inclusion of women in any club or organization. To me it was atrocious that a woman could not smoke cigars and drink brandy with the guys. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I began to question such things and then only a little. On the education front I eventually became convinced that single sex schools were better than co-ed schools for forming men and women. What convinced me was the witness of a young woman who had gone to co-ed schools through high school and then to an all girl university. What she said astounded me. She spoke of greater willingness and confidence to speak up in the classroom, answer questions, volunteer, debate, and work on projects. This astounded me because she was the valedictorian of her high school and so far as I could see never had a problem stepping up in any way in the classroom. (She was a former student of mine). Yet this was her experience and that which she saw in the other young women at her university.
The next eye opening moment came a few years later. It came through my observations of altar servers. In my late teens and early 20s, I trained the altar servers at my parish. It, like everything else in my life, was co-ed. My parish had a lot of altar servers, boys and girls; it was a flourishing program. The question of girl altar servers was a no-brainer, so I dutifully gave it no thought. Fast-forward to my late 20s and early 30s (by which time I had been in three different states since leaving home in California) there was a noticeable trend, a common visual in parishes: fewer boys altar servers, more girls, and not at all uncommon to see only girls, three or four at a time but no boys. Then it happened. A priest dared to institute male only altar servers. The program went from a few altar servers to a veritable army of them – all boys! Some of these boys who became altar servers had a certain reputation: they weren’t exactly good students who enjoyed being at school. But they flourished as altar servers, took it seriously, were committed. I wonder how they would have done in school if it had been single sex.
For more than 10 years in both the secular and religious spheres there has been a growing movement among men to be men. A sense of lost masculinity is being responded to by searching for it. The Art of Manliness, Those Catholic Men, The Catholic Gentleman, and St. Joseph’s Farm serve as some very few examples. This search for regaining manliness has begun to bourgeon into a movement in which men are drawn around so-called prophets of manhood such as Jordan Peterson. These and so much more all point to one fundamental truth: men are men and women are women. There is a true difference between us, a proper relation between us in accordance with these differences, and our growth and flourishing as men and as women needs to be restored. For this reason, I was thrilled to learn of a network for women called The Wing.
The Wing is a network of work and community spaces designed for women.
If I was a woman, I would speedily and happily become a member. I would be ecstatic about a place such as this. It’s a place I could go to on my own and, while working or reading, simply be in the company of other women. I could go with friends and co-workers for work, play, conversation without the interruptions or presence of men. Women speak differently with each other than they do when men are present and men do the same. A place where you can be with women and just be women. Magnificent. It also hosts events specifically geared for women and provides many amenities all covered by the membership fee.
What I said above had a preface: “If I were a woman.” I’m not a woman. While the spaces look fantastic and I can see they would appeal to women generally, they do not appeal to me. It is not where I would want to hang out or work. While, as a man, I am not interested in The Wing, I certainly appreciate it and am grateful that women have this available to them. It is a place that can foster the growth and flourishing of women as women.
We need places and organizations that foster that same growth and flourishing for men as men. I want a place where I can go and know that I will be in the company of men. I want to go where I can freely be a man with men without worrying about the presence of women. Men need places where they can simply relax with a cigar and a stiff drink, casually play billiards, engage in intellectual conversations or just tell lies. The Wing may not appeal to me. but this does:
… and this.
This’ll work too.
Call me an old soul, but this isn’t simply a want; it is a need, a need that is left empty.
The absence of men’s clubs is a hole left empty. The problem with an empty space is that it will eventually be filled one way or another. I believe that there will be a return of clubs for men only. The question is what kind of club and what kind of men. This is an opportunity for men of virtue to create places that truly strengthen men, foster manhood, and build up men who will also relate rightly to women.