A bigger push for men’s studies?

I’ve noted this before but here is another article suggesting that there is a bigger push for men’s studies in academia:

The male stereotype of the all-powerful protector and provider is doing a disservice to men – pressuring them to conform and ultimately, leaving many powerless to face the challenges of modern society.

That’s the thesis that binds many academics in the new area of masculinity studies, who say their examination of how the culture of maleness effects men, rather than those around them, has been a long time coming.

“Clearly it’s at a very nascent stage in its development, in the humanities and social sciences,” says Concordia University sociologist Marc Lafrance, who teaches about men and masculinity…

Synnott, who has been teaching a course on the sociology of men for 10 years, believes that the rallying cry of “male chauvinist pig” has ignored important realities that men face. “Men dominate at the top and also the bottom,” he points out.

Alas, there are no numbers or larger stories in this article to inform us of whether this is a larger push in academia or not. It would be interesting to hear people comment on whether these calls for more studies of masculinity are related to larger economic pressures where men are having more difficulty finding jobs and educational shifts where women are now getting more degrees. Because men are feeling more vulnerable today, this leads to a new interest in men’s studies?

I also wonder if there is a large number of undergraduates who would be ready to follow this course of study. Would such programs take students away from women’s or gender studies programs? Would students who don’t see the point of women’s studies programs suddenly see the value of men’s studies?

The counterpart to women’s studies: men’s or male studies?

Women’s studies programs are common at American colleges and universities. And in recent years, courses about men and masculinity have increased in numbers. An article in the New York Times explores this phenomenon and the split between proponents of men’s and male studies:

Male studies, largely the brainchild of Dr. Edward M. Stephens, a New York City psychiatrist, doesn’t actually exist anywhere yet. Last spring, there was a scholarly symposium at Wagner College on Staten Island, intended to raise the movement’s profile and attract funds for a department with a tenured chair on some campus. A number of prominent scholars attended, including Lionel Tiger, an emeritus anthropology professor at Rutgers, who invented the term “male bonding,” and Paul Nathanson, a religious studies scholar at McGill University, who specializes in the study of misandry, the flip side of misogyny. Both are on the advisory board of the Foundation for Male Studies, which Dr. Stephens founded last year…

The people in men’s studies, like those in women’s studies, take a mostly sociological perspective and believe that masculinity is essentially a cultural construct and that gender differences in general are fluid and variable. To Professor Kimmel, we live in a world that is increasingly gender-neutral and gender integrated and that this is a good thing for men and women both. “That ship has sailed — it’s a done deal,” he said recently, dismissing the idea that men and women are as different as Martians and Venutians.

The male studies people, on the other had, are what their critics call “essentialists” and believe that male behavior is in large part biologically determined. Men think and act differently from how women think and act because that’s how evolution shaped them. In the most extreme formulations of essentialism, men are basically still Neanderthals: violent, clannish, sexually voracious and in need of female domestication.

The article points this out but this sounds like another episode in the nature vs. nurture debate.

But the study of masculinity does seem to be a growing field of study. I don’t know much about this particular field  but it seems to me that there has been a growing recognition that there is a wide range of male experiences. And more men seem to be interested in at least thinking about this and how their lives have been shaped by cultural expectations.

What is the “typical” role for males today? Take a sector of the media like video games. These are popular among males, particularly the younger generations, and many of these games present particular views of masculinity and the world. Should one be an soldier shooting others in Black Ops? Should one be a 13th century assassin? Should one be a puzzle solver or an athlete? There are a number of roles, realistic and otherwise, that are presented. And all of this has real consequences: with terms like “man-cession” or “he-pression” being in the news recently due to the loss of certain jobs, what happens to males matters for society.