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BC student's minor a major gender twist

Scott Kearnan might not watch the Lifetime Network or worry about his biological clock, but he does know a lot about women's issues. The senior at Boston College, a double major in communications and sociology, is the first male in school history to minor in women's studies. The 21-year-old from Mendon says he finds it odd that more men don't bother to learn about oppression and inequalities suffered by females. But then, he thinks it's also strange that among his mother, sister, and many female friends, he's the only one to call himself a feminist.

Q: Why did you decide to study women's issues?

A: I initially wanted to major in communications because I wanted to do something related to journalism and public relations. And then, through my communication classes, I started dealing with issues that were more sociological in nature. And once I went into the sociology department, I started focusing my classes on things like the structure of gender and gender inequities. So then I thought the natural progression was to minor in women's studies.

Q: Is it ever awkward to be the only guy in a room, talking about issues that face only women?

A: The only time I ever feel strange, honestly, is when there might be issues that are particularly sensitive, like health issues or violence against women. That's the kind of situation when you know there are probably women in the room that have endured it. So, you just temper yourself and watch what you say more than you normally would. At the very least, you try not to be provocative with anything that you say.

Q: Do your classmates always look to you to provide the male perspective?

A: I do feel like I'm supposed to speak on behalf of all men. So I'm always very careful when I get into topics like that. I'll say, `Well, I'm sure a lot of men think . . .'

Q: What does your mother think? Is she a feminist?

A: My mother is very much the traditional sort of `Suzie Homemaker' kind of thing. She cooks and cleans and does all the things feminists supposedly wouldn't do. She believes in things like equal pay for equal work. But she would never identify herself as a feminist. She thinks little boys and little girls grow up different.

Q: And your dad?

A: My father is a conservative, so he has a sort of typified father role. But they're both very interested in it and when I start talking, they don't dismiss me. It's not, 'Oh, we sent our child off to college and now he's this scary liberal feminist boy.'

Q: Are you a feminist?

A: I would definitely call myself a feminist. Before, I had the same misconception of what that means, which is, if you're a feminist, you must value women more than men. Now I have come to understand that just wanting to promote possibilities for people does not mean that you are favoring one over another.

Q: Do you have a girlfriend? I ask because I wonder if she thinks you're more sensitive now.

A: I'm actually gay. But most of my female friends are far less interested than I am in women's issues. They tease me about it all the time. My female friends would never want to be identified as feminists. And it's not because they don't stand for the same kinds of things. But the label to them doesn't apply. I think it's hilarious. I am probably the most womanistic member of all my friends.

This interview was conducted by Globe correspondent Carlene Hempel.

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