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Men’s Studies

April 9, 2010 | NeW Staff

The most recent academic discipline to emerge in the field of gender studies may surprise you. According to Jennifer Epstein, writing for Inside Higher Ed, “Male Studies” is on the horizon: 

Scholars of boys and men converged Wednesday at Wagner College, in Staten Island, N.Y., to announce the creation of the Foundation for Male Studies, which will support a conference and a journal targeted at exploring the triumphs and struggles of the XY-chromosomed of the human race — without needing to contextualize their ideas as being one half of a male-female binary or an offshoot of feminist theory.

More than anything else, the event was a chance for supporters to frame men and boys as an underrepresented minority, and to justify the need for a male studies discipline in a society that many perceive to be male-dominated.

Lionel Tiger, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, said the field takes its cues “from the notion that male and female organisms really are different” and the “enormous relation between … a person’s biology and their behavior” that’s not being addressed in most contemporary scholarship on men and boys.

“I am concerned that it’s widespread in the United States that masculinity is politically incorrect,” said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.

The culprit, said Tiger, is feminism: “a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon.”

Primary and secondary schools, as well as higher education, have been so heavily influenced by feminism, Tiger said, “that the academic lives of males are systematically discriminated against.” If the female-favoring gender gaps in post-secondary enrollment and graduation rates damaged a group other than males, “there would be an outcry.” But because men and boys are perceived to be a powerful group, few academics and policy makers see much of a problem.

But don’t expect to see “Male Studies” on course packets just yet; some are already up in arms about a whole study devoted to males. In the meantime, what do you think? As a NeW reader who understands the difference between men and women, is expanding college gender study classes a way to counter feminism’ pervasiveness on campus?

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