Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine a “Womens Studies” department at Average University. Who runs it? Who teaches in it? Who promotes it? If you said “people with an interest in women,” I’m pretty sure you’d be right. And by “interest,” I’m pretty sure it *wouldn’t* be “interested in women in the same way Donald Trump is interested in women.” Chances are *real* good that you’d find a whole lot of feminists in that Women’s Studies department.
I don’t think anything I’ve written so far would be seen as being all that controversial or troubling.
But here’s where the thought experiment gets tricky: flip the scrip a bit, and imagine a Men’s Studies department. One that focuses on “Masculinities.” Who’s in on *that* one?
In a rational world, you’d expect that the “Masculinities” department would be filled with people who support the idea of the masculine. You know, manly stuff. Manly men.
Yeah, well, about that. In a rational world, NASA wouldn’t pay people to serve in a PR capacity who publicly advocate *against* manned space exploration, and we’ve seen how that has worked out.
So… Stony Brook University in New York has themselves a Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. What do you want to bet that it’s filled with people who think that men being men doing manly things like engineering and hard labor and hunting and fishing and fighting when necessary? Well, let’s wander on over to the Center’s blog, and check on the “Editors and Contributors:”
Who’s up first?
Amanda Kennedy is a PhD candidate at Stony Brook University (SUNY). Her BA is in women’s studies and feminist science and technology studies from the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University. Her main areas of interest are race, gender, sexuality, and the body, issues she approaches from a critical race/postcolonial feminist perspective.
Cheryl Llewellyn is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Stony Brook University. Her research addresses disparities in immigration policies, particularly asylum and refugee status, across gender, sexuality, race, and nationality. Her most recent publication in the Journal of Homosexuality describes the barriers for gender conforming gay men who apply for sexual orientation based asylum.
Cliff Leek is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Stony Brook University (SUNY). He has a BA in US Race and Gender Studies from Willamette University and has worked as Prevention Specialist for the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force. His primary research interests are non-governmental organizations (NGOs), violence prevention, race, and gender (with particular attention to the intersections of whiteness and masculinity).
Markus Gerke is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Stony Brook University (SUNY), working primarily on issues of race, class and gender, and masculinities more specifically. … His MA thesis deals with constructions of (white middle-class) masculinity in newspaper articles about the so-called ‘boys crisis in education’. In addition to issues of gender and education, his work also explores the intersections of whiteness and masculinity in right-wing politics in the US and Germany, as well as the intersections of masculinity and sports.
Tara Fannon is a PhD student at NUI, Galway. She received her MA in sociology at University College Dublin. Her main research interests are gender, disability and the body-self connection. Her dissertation research uses feminist disability theory to investigate narrative accounts of identity and diversity- specifically the ways in which blind and visually impaired men claim, contest and adapt dominant masculinity and disability narratives to construct a sense of self.
Clay Darcy is a PhD candidate in the School of Sociology, University College Dublin (UCD), and a Lecturer in Sociology of Childhood at St. Nicholas Montessori College, Ireland. His PhD research explores Irish men’s recreational use of illicit drugs and how this may relate to their construct of masculinity.
Andrew Morrison-Gurza is a Disability Awareness Consultant with an MA of Legal Studies from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, specializing in Persons with Disabilities. Andrew’s passion is “making disability accessible to everyone.” In his work, he highlights the lived experience of Persons with Disabilities to show that disability is a universal experience we can all embrace. Within the LGBTQ+ community, Andrew works to deconstruct our homo-normative, body beautiful ideals and show that Queers with Disabilities deserve representation.
And. So. On. “Iron John” these folks ain’t.
Where on Earth, in the entire history of mankind, has “being a man” been defined as *anything* like what seems to be taught at the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities? If you read through the bios and take a look at their blog, there is an seriously outsized interest in “queer” studies and the like. Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That, but when you are defining “masculinity” around issues of homosexuality… you’re gonna be kinda outta whack with the bulk of reality.
What exactly does it mean to “be a man?” Cultures differ some on that point. And the majority of cultures have some sort of ritual for becoming a man… some trial that the boy must go through to show to the tribe, the village, the nation that he has turned from a Child into a Man. Women, in a certain sense, have it a bit “easier” here… at the very least, nature lets you know in glorious Technicolor that hey presto, you have become a woman. But without a manhood ritual… how does a boy become a man? *Does* he become a man, or just continue on as an overgrown child? In the United States, becoming a Man often meant leaving home and joining the military. Or at the very least… just leaving home. Striking out on your own. Making your way in a world that is not out to coddle you, to give you want you want simply because you want it. But it seems that this has faded away, especially if you read the bios above. Those PhD candidates… how many of them, do you think, are having to dig ditches to afford their schooling? I’d bet good money that a sizable fraction of them come from money… because who the hell else would focus their schooling on areas so fundamentally useless? Everybody else has to get an education that stands some sort of chance of paying off.
Some of the characteristics that seem to be reasonably universal in the definition of Masculine (i.e. your chances of being a Man are reduced if you don’t have at least most of these): toughness (physical and emotional), bravery (which doesn’t mean you’re not afraid), a willinngess to self-sacrifice if needed (anything from throwing your body on a grenade to save your comrades to working a crappy job to provide for your family), a take-charge/take-responsibility attitude, the ability to be *both* a team player and independent. A common poem that helps to define what it is to be a man is “If” by Rudyard Kipling, who seemed quite good about such matters:
A lot of this basically boils down to genetics and evolutionary pressures. Men aren’t Men because some conclave of cavemen got together and picked out random characteristics from a pot and decided that’s the way things would be from then on. “Masculine” properties are those that help propagate the species. They help a guy to have a bunch of kids, and help that guy make sure that as many of those kids as possible live long enough to have kids of their own.
Look, my own Manliness is in doubt because women don’t dig me. Whatever it is they want, apparently I ain’t got. But I look at the world and while the bulk of humanity baffles me, there are a few things that are abundantly clear. What kind of male do most females want to sire their kids? Do they *really* want the Obamacare Pajama Boy or whiny SJW douchenozzles… or do they want Real Men?
And so… what the hell are schools doing when they try to turn boys into something that goes against evolution and genetics?