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Saturday, August 08, 2015

A Master’s Degree in ... Masculinity?

"The case for women’s studies has long been clear. But now a professor has made the argument for a graduate-level study of men and masculinity." writes Jessica Bennett.

Michael Kimmel stood in front of a classroom in bluejeans and a blazer with a pen to a whiteboard. “What does it mean,” the 64-year-old sociology professor asked the group, most of them undergraduates, “to be a good man?”

From left, Cliff Lee; Michael Kimmel, a sociology professor and the founder of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University; and Dhakir Warren, discussing masculinity studies in Dr. Kimmel's home in Brooklyn. 
Photo: Yana Paskova for The New York Times

The students looked puzzled.

“Let’s say it was said at your funeral, ‘He was a good man,’ ” Dr. Kimmel explained. “What does that mean to you?”

“Caring,” a male student in the front said.
“Putting other’s needs before yours,” another young man said.
“Honest,” a third said.

Dr. Kimmel listed each term under the heading Good Man, then turned back to the group. “Now,” he said, “tell me what it means to be a real man.”

This time, the students reacted more quickly.

“Take charge; be authoritative,” said James, a sophomore.
“Take risks,” said Amanda, a sociology graduate student.
“It means suppressing any kind of weakness,” another offered.
“I think for me being a real man meant talk like a man,” said a young man who’d grown up in Turkey. “Walk like a man. Never cry.”

Photo: New York Times

Dr. Kimmel had been taking notes. “Now you’re in the wheelhouse,” he said, excitedly. He pointed to the Good Man list on the left side of the board, then to the Real Man list he’d added to the right. “Look at the disparity. I think American men are confused about what it means to be a man.”

You’ve heard of women’s studies, right? Well, this is men’s studies: the academic pursuit of what it means to be male in today’s world. Dr. Kimmel is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, which will soon start the first master’s degree program in “masculinities studies.”

No, Dr. Kimmel joked, the department title doesn’t just roll off the tongue. But it’s called “masculinities” (plural) to acknowledge that there is “more than one way to be a man.”

And he would know. For nearly 40 years, long before anybody was particularly keen to listen, Dr. Kimmel has been touting understanding men and boys. “In the beginning,” he said, “people sort of looked at me cross-eyed and said ‘Huh?’ ”

He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them, “Angry White Men,” “Manhood in America: A Cultural History,” “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men” and the “Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis,” of which he was a co-editor. He is the founder of an academic journal devoted to men and manhood. He has studied manhood in more than a dozen countries. And he has a 16-year-old son. (He lives in Brooklyn with his son and wife, a professor at Fordham University.)
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Source: New York Times