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MASCULINITY STUDIES GAINS RECOGNITION AS AN AREA OF RESEARCH
2018-03-16 00:00:00
Vittorio Hernandez

The #MeToo movement has focused on the need for masculinity studies to understand the abusive behavior of some men. Like women’s studies, male studies is now a recognized area of research, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

It is more relevant than ever right now and #MeToo has helped validate the field and allowed for a deepening of the discussion right now, Michael Messner, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, said. Messner is among the scholars who formed in the early 1980s within the National Organization for Men a men’s studies group.

Growing interest in men

Since then, there are now over 150 academics from all over the world that belong to the NOM which promotes men’s studies and holds conferences. When men’s studies was born, a lot of the initial work was an outgrowth of the activism of male academics in feminist movements that focused on violence against women and related issues.

However, since then, the filed had expanded and became more diverse. The studies range from grooming choices and man caves to the role of gender in suicide and mass killings. Cliff Leek, the president of the American Men’s Studies Association, observed that the studies have grown to a point where they are not just addressing men’s perpetration of violence. They are now exploring a really wide range of topics.

One of the pioneers in male studies is Tristan Bridges, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose studies include bodybuilders, barflies, fathers’ rights activists, and pro-feminist men. While the role that Louisa May Alcott’s gender played in her writing is familiar to students of 19th-century literature, masculinity studies have helped academics to do the same with male figures like Charles Dicken.

Bridges pointed out that for most of history, most of what has been taught are the ideas and experiences of men. But they have not been studied as men. He noted that it seems odd for males to be lecturing about the inclusion and equality of women which professors in the field said is a complaint they do not often hear. At times, there can be an awkward balance, Bridges said, but men need to know their place in the conversation.

The work on male research has earned the approval from some feminists. Among those who approve of the idea is Gloria Steinem who sits on the advisory board for the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, established by Michael Kimmel, a key figure in masculinity studies. The center is preparing to roll out the first master’s program in masculinities in 2019.

The importance of the message about masculinity coming from men was stressed by Alicia Jones at a recent workshop in Stony Brook that Kimmel held for a group of invited students. Jones said that men listen to other men, but they do not listen to women. If they were going to listen to a woman, they would have already done it, she said.

Crisis in masculinity

Michael Ian Black, a comedian, began a thread of Twitter that led to a debate about the role of gender in gun violence after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz was accused of shooting 17 people at Parkland in Florida. He wrote in his tweet, which was liked almost 65,000 times, that deeper than the gun problem is the fact that boys are broken.

Black said there is something going on with American men that is giving them the permission and space to commit violence. Deeper than the problem of guns and mental health is a crisis in masculinity, he said, USA Today reported.

In Letters to the Editor at the New York Times, James Tackach from Bristol in Rhode Island wrote that Black is correct in his assertion that America’s boys are broken. He said that boys must be encouraged to put down their phones and pick up books which deal with issues that growing boys face. He suggested starting with Mark Twain’s classic “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Black said that the problem, toxic masculinity, is something that feminists have been talking about for decades, Psychologists and sociologists said that the stereotypical sense of masculinity that embodies behavior – such as denying help or emotions – are harmful to men and society. Men are told by the toys they received and movies shown that being a real man means to repress one’s feelings and consistently demonstrate strength and dominance.

Jennifer Carlston, a sociology professor at the University of Arizona, noted that when people talk about gender, they see women as getting the short end of the stick. But she pointed out that masculinity is not easy either. She said that it used to be easy to be a man in the US. However, demands placed on men, from being a protector and provider to responding to situations in certain ways to prove one’s masculinity, men end up not just being outwardly destructive but also inwardly.

Carlston cited a 2017 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health that found many norms around gender, what is expected of girls and boys, has become entrenched in adolescence and have negative effects that are carried into adulthood.

[researchpaper 리서치페이퍼= Vittorio Hernandez 기자]


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