Dr. Edward Stephens of the Foundation for Male Studies sent me an email the other day that I thought I’d mention.
Several months ago I posted a piece on the first conference of like-minded academics intent on establishing Male Studies as a campus discipline. Part of the purpose was to counteract the many strange and misandric views of men and masculinity peddled by feminist academia, but there’s more to the idea of a Males Studies curriculum than that.
The simple fact is that men tend to play certain roles in society and be viewed in certain ways and those roles and ways are worth analyzing and understanding. To many of us, that’s not a frightening or subversive notion, but to many others Male Studies is both of those things.
Feminists and assorted hangers-on reacted strongly to the conference and what was said there. Unsurprisingly, their reaction showed not a hint of understanding of the concept or of empathy with men.
To the extent that anyone actually thought about the concept of Male Studies, their reactions tended to be some version of “we don’t need Male Studies because the material is already covered in Women’s Studies,” now coyly called Gender Studies. That was seconded by the claim that college is full of the study of men, so a Male Studies program would be redundant.
The first claim holds some merit. There’s an extent to which masculinity is a gendered construct. It should come as no surprise that culture plays a role in our identification as sexual beings. But masculinity and femininity are not exclusively cultural; biology plays its role as well. We’re still finding out exactly what roles nature and nurture play in our male and females selves.
But the idea that Women’s or Gender Studies cover the waterfront of understanding men as men is far from the truth. There’s far too much misandry in those courses for them to serve a very constructive function for men or boys. Young men have a way of coming out of those curricula with an understanding of men (or at least white men of European ancestry) as something few of them are – violent, controlling, sexually obsessed and bent on destroying the planet.
That take on men began with the misandric wing of feminism and has never recovered. Male Studies would seek to understand men biologically as well as culturally and above all with a less condemnatory stance than the current offerings.
As to the second complaint against Males Studies – that we already study men enough, there’s a quick and dirty test we can do to see if that’s really true. Just ask college students or recent graduates what they know about the realities of men in society. Dr. Stephens’s email can be used as a starting point:
According to the US Census Bureau, more women are going to college today than they did a decade ago, while the percentage of men attending college is decreasing relative to women. The number of females enrolling in college after high school increased by 20 percent from 1967 to 2000, while the number of men has decreased by 4 percent. This, combined with women graduating at a significantly higher rate than men, currently result in 1.5 million more women than men graduating from college each year. The psychological and sociological consequences of this have not been fully assessed, but are appalling and potentially harmful to our society;
More than two million adult males, over nine times the two hundred thousand adult females, are now in state and federal prison, according to the Pew Center on the States. This represents the highest incarceration rate along the industrialized nations;
The suicide rate for males is 300% higher than that of females, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. From the most recent data available, there were 24,672 male suicides and 5,950 female suicides during that year;
Men accounted for 82% of the US jobs lost in the current economic downturn and now for the first time in US history comprise a minority (49%) of the nation”s work force–according to the US Department of Labor;
At last accounting, the National Institute of Health established that government grant monies at all levels devoted to the study of health problems (physical and emotional) unique to women totaled $3.4 billion, while those grants specific to general health problems suffered by both male and female totaled only $340 million;
International politics continue to require the service of American males in the military. Those who die or are maimed become an outgrowth of the attitude that males are disposable;
Our legal and family systems fail to honor the importance of men in families by awarding 90% of custody of children to mothers, effectively limiting fathers from family participation;
Boys now represent 73% of children diagnosed with learning disabilities and 76% of those classified as emotionally disturbed–according to the US Department of Education;
8 out of 10 children being medicated for behavioral problems are boys. Often these drugs are prescribed to quash the kinetics of boys in schools, while the real problem lies in the schools themselves–geared to the learning styles of girls.
We could add others, like 75% of the country’s homeless are men and 55% of those without health insurance are men.
I think it would be interesting to give a short test to those who claim to already be sufficiently educated about men to find out if they know these and other basics. If they don’t, it strongly suggests that college generally and Gender Studies specifically haven’t been doing their jobs. If they do know those basics, the questions “Does it concern you?” and “If not, why not?” immediately follow.
As I said, I for one would find the answers fascinating.
Many of the difficulties fathers encounter in their efforts to get face time with their children stem from culturally-established misunderstandings of men. Some of those are straight out of the misandric part of academic feminism. Others come from cultural/societal roles men have played since time immemorial.
But whatever the source, Male Studies can play a role in helping both sexes and all ages understand the complex realities of masculinity and men and boys. Only when we cast off the misandric ideology that underpins so much of Gender Studies will those realities fully emerge.
Male Studies seek to do just that and it can’t come too soon. Fathers and their children need what Male Studies have to offer.