Simi Valley Sophist

The Simi Valley Sophist ruminates on all manner of topics from the micro to the macro. SVS travels whatever path strikes his fancy. Encyclopedia Britannica: Sophist "Any of certain Greek lecturers, writers, and teachers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, most of whom travelled about the Greek-speaking world giving instruction in a wide range of subjects in return ..."

Location: California, United States

Retired: 30years law enforcement-last 20 years Criminal Intelligence Detective.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

YMCA Doesn’t Stand for Christian or Male Anymore and You Can’t Go Nude

Yesterday, I had a great day with my almost four year old granddaughter. The occasion was a “Family Day” at the local YMCA. The Y is really different than when I was a boy.

YMCA stands for Young Men's Christian Association, but don't misinterpret this to mean that YMCAs are only for "young, Christian men." From its start more than 150 years ago, when George Williams founded the YMCA as a substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets, the YMCA was unusual because it crossed the rigid lines that separated all the different churches and social classes in England in those days. This openness was a trait that would lead YMCAs to recognize their strength is in the people they bring together – Ys are for all people of all faiths, races, ages, abilities and incomes. YMCAs' financial assistance policies ensure that no one is turned away for reasons of inability to pay.

Take note that the word “Christian” is prominently within the name of the organization. I think perhaps the historical underpinning of Christianity is all that remains in today’s organization.

I was a member of a YMCA when I was a child. Some of my happiest memories were of after school and Saturday trips to the Y where I engaged in swimming, gymnastics, craftwork, field trips, and Saturday morning viewings of the Green Lantern and other classic films with other boys and men of varying ages.

Back then there was also a YWCA, the female counterpart of the YMCA. The YWCA is still around today, but by self-admission it is an activist organization. Their home page greets you with these words prominently displayed, “eliminating racism” and “empowering women.” On their website there is absolutely no mention as to what “YWCA” stands for. Or, perhaps more precisely what it used to stand for. In other words, don’t expect to see the word “Christian.”

The YWCA is the oldest and largest multicultural women's organization in the world.

Across the globe, we have more than 25 million members in 122 countries, including 2.6 million members and participants in 300 local associations in the United States.

More important than the numbers, is our mission to eliminate racism and empower women. We provide safe places for women and girls, build strong women leaders, and advocate for women's rights and civil rights in Congress.

Women come to us in times of crisis, as survivors of rape or domestic violence. They come for job training and career counseling. They come for childcare. They come for health and fitness. They come for a variety of reasons. But they come. And they leave with a renewed spirit, new skills, and stronger lives.

When I was a kid, and as you might guess from its very name, the YMCA was an organization for males only. How quaint and sexist, don’t you think? Gee, what an opportunity it was for we males to do male things and bond in male ways. We even did such things as swim in the nude. Can you imagine such a thing today? As I recall, there was no shyness among us males. You got undressed in the locker room, went to the pool and showered in a communal shower area, which was nothing more than the wall facing the pool, and then you swam naked as a jaybird. Well, at today’s YMCA you can’t do that because there are more female members present than males. What the heck is that all about?

Speaking of nakedness; I’ve noticed an interesting change in males at the YMCA. We still have a communal shower, only it is now in the male locker room. But, now there are a considerable number of males who are obviously not comfortable with being seen nude by other males. The trend is mostly among the younger set, but that is not exclusive. Some won’t take their swim trunks off in the shower area and when they do remove them they cover-up with a towel and face away from everyone else.

Some might say that the new male shyness is a good thing, modesty wise. I say that explanation is a crock, and it is a sign of body phobia. And, that is not healthy.

Follow-up 3/31/09:
Stigmatized and Narcissistic