Monday, June 06, 2005

Randolph man makes history in Rutgers graduate program

By Matt Manochio, Daily Record

Roy Bumiller is about to make history at Rutgers University.

He's set to become the school's first male feminist with a master's degree.

Bumiller, 27, a Morristown native who lives in Randolph, is due to graduate next week from Rutgers University-Newark with a master's degree in English with a concentration in women's studies.

He'll be the first man to receive a master's degree in that program, which has been offered at the school since 1970. The school has had undergraduate males minor in the program, but never has had a man earn a master's with that concentration.

"I've always been interested in social justice," Bumiller said during a phone interview Thursday.

"I think studying feminism is the most direct way to address social justice."

Bumiller plans to teach English at the high school level and plans to use his background in feminist theory in his lesson plans.

He's preparing to teach English and American studies in Japan starting this summer.

Bumiller said he was primarily the only male in classrooms full of women for his women's studies courses.

"It was absolutely positive," he said of the experience. "I never felt any ill will or 'what are you doing here?' us-against-them aspect of it."

Jyl Josephson, director of the women's studies program at Rutgers-Newark, said she appreciated having Bumiller in the program.

"It's really great to have feminist men in this program," she said, adding that Bumiller took part in women's symposium during the spring. It was a "panel of young men who are feminists talking about whether men can be feminists."

Bumiller said he taught at an all-boys school prior to his master's degree studies and was drawn to feminist theory, in part, because of how boys treated other boys.

"I had to deal with a lot of young kids who had no exposure or little exposure to women," he said, adding that some of the boys' behavior was "outright misogyny."

Bumiller said the boys wouldn't do well at something, say sports, other boys would heckle them using derogatory words associated with women.

"That bothered me," he said.

Josephson said it's important to have men involved in women's studies because it can only lead to social change.

"When you talk about any issue of inequality ⿦ that it's important
for people of the majority group, or the dominant group, to attend to those issues," she said.

Bumiller and Josephson said part of the discussions on the panel centered around men questioning the idea of masculinity - not in the sense of sexual orientation.

"It's about what it means to be a man, more (about) men who are questioning traditional roles of masculinity," Josephson said. "Women's studies has made some of those questions possible."


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