On Thursday, March 9, Gay Lesbian or Whatever (GLOW) hosted speaker Wade Davis in the Pause. Davis is one of the few professional football players to have publicly come out as gay and is also known for co-founding the YOU Belong Initiative. In addition, he has served as the executive director of You Can Play, an organization that aims to combat homophobia in professional sports. Davis is a renowned speaker who left quite an impression on campus.
Dylan Walker ’18’s thoughts on the talk encapsulated much of the audience’s response.
“Honestly, what didn’t I enjoy?” Walker said.
Davis’ presentation entitled “Masculinity in the Locker Room,” detailed his personal battle with the concept of masculinity as a closeted homosexual participating in a sport that idealises “hypermasculinity.” It took some audience members by surprise when he began his speech on masculinity by declaring, “I don’t believe in masculinity.”
Throughout the speech Davis described how the common perception of masculinity forced him not only to hide his sexual orientation, but also to outwardly display stereotypically masculine roles. He called this a “performance” that he felt he had to keep up for all those around him. Whether it was getting a girlfriend, bullying kids in school or being a star athlete, Davis did it. For most of his life, Davis explained, he wore a self-proclaimed “mask” of masculinity in order to get through the day.
However, he said that the roles of masculinity and femininity and the pressure to perform these roles impacts everyone.
“I think St. Olaf needed to hear him talk about how the need to [project] masculinity hurts everyone regardless of their identity,” Walker said.
Davis went on to claim that, by giving in to the pressure of fulfilling these roles, people do themselves a disservice. By constantly being something they are not, they are not loving themselves, Davis said, a sentiment that fit within his overarching belief in the importance of self-acceptance. He said that once people do love themselves it opens ourselves up to love one another and be unified in vulnerability.
Among the most memorable aspects of Davis’ speech was his plain straightforwardness and honesty, some listeners noted. Audience members noted that they felt at ease and comfortable, and that Davis set a good example of how to have a tough conversation.
The speech has been archived on the St. Olaf website and is available for anyone to watch. A number of students endorse the speech, including Jon Hollister ’19.
“Important, mindful, entertaining and informational,” Hollister said about the talk.
Davis’ message is encapsulated in his call to action.
“As you [all] continue to grow as individuals make sure that you build networks of support, so you can take the kind of interpersonal risks that allow you to challenge the status quo.”