Second Annual Conference on Male Studies

Below I reprint in full a letter from Mr. Joseph Notovitz regarding the upcoming Second Annual Conference on Male Studies.  I do so for our readers’ information and because I think advancing curricula of Male Studies is a good idea and one whose time has come.

By way of introduction, I’d like to douse one fire that flared up last year around the first conference on male studies and may do so again this year.  Last year the conference got some attention from the press and, along with it, a number of shoot-from-the-hip opiners on the subject or at least what they chose to characterize (caricature?) it to be.

One of the frequently-made criticisms of Male Studies was that it’s redundant.  The study of males and masculinity is already accomplished in courses on Gender Studies (formerly Women’s Studies) so the argument went, and therefore Male Studies merely duplicates that pedagogy.

At the time, I was unable to locate my copies of the work of feminists Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, but now I have.  Their work on Women’s Studies and academic feminism constitutes the most articulate and thoroughgoing rebuttal possible of the assertion that Males Studies is subsumed by Gender Studies.

Patai is a feminist through and through.  At the time of her and Koertge’s rhetorical dismantling of Women’s Studies programs, she taught literature and Portuguese at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  In the past, she had taught Women’s Studies for as much as 10 years.  She thus had an up close and personal look at not only the curricula, but the professors and students who inhabited the programs that supposedly teach us all we need to know about men and masculinity.

I can only summarize her and Koertge’s views, but if you have an opportunity to read her essay entitled “Feminism and the Future,” it succinctly summarizes them.

To put it mildly, Patai is utterly disdainful of what she found in Women’s Studies programs.  Her prose is peppered with words and phrases describing the pedagogy like “belligerent,” “intolerant,” “intolerance,” “anti-intellectualism,” “propagandizing,” “scare tactics,” “ideological policing,” “patently false,” and  “simple-minded.”

She calls the feminism of these programs “pious and narrow, scornful and smug, dismissive of the past and derisive of those who dare to disagree…”  Patai paints a picture of the world of Women’s Studies in which anything is believed that promotes the favored political ideology and everything is rejected that doesn’t.

In the service of that ideology, students learn to “readily believe the wildest statistics…and show themselves incapable of establishing facts and exercising independent judgment on them.”  The pedagogy of Women’s Studies has “nothing to do with ‘education’ in any meaningful academic sense.”  “What students tend not to learn is that sound and unsound reasoning must be differentiated…”

And why would they?  After all, students in the Women’s Studies arena learn “that everything that might be criticized in women is due to social construction while everything they admire is a mark of women’s inherent nature.  Men, of course, get the opposite treatment.”

That gives an idea of the general level of intellectual dishonesty pervading Women’s Studies, but not the level of misandry.  Men and masculinity are indeed the subject of much attention in the courses Patai describes.

The primary pejorative term in Women’s Studies is “masculinist” which seems to mean anything that might contradict the political ideology of the Women’s Studies program.  That necessarily includes such insignificant disciplines as science, logic, the scientific method and quantitative methodology.

Koertge, a professor of the philosophy of science, was understandably dismayed when she “offered a women’s studies course on feminism and science and discovered during the first class that almost all of the women’s studies students who signed up for it had no knowledge of science, hated it, and were enrolled in the course in order to get validation for the notion that they need learn nothing about it.” 

By way of stating the obvious, Patai writes, “I sometimes wonder if the whole point of of the feminist attack on male science and knowledge isn’t precisely to allow feminists to say whatever they like, without being held to any standard of logic, thoughtfulness, or intellectual rigor — all of which, of course, can be (and have been!) readily dismissed as ‘masculinist.'”

In Patai’s experience, women’s studies students often simply refuse to read male authors.

All of this “leads to the cultivation of ignorance.”  

In this atmosphere, men are “grossly caricatured” by, among other things, claims that we “force” women to “conceive and bear children,” and that, were it not for men, “childbirth would be painless.”  This “exaggerates to the point of absurdity the awfulness of men.”

I won’t go on.  Suffice it to say that these are the people, these are the courses, this is the pedagogy that some want us to believe should be allowed to describe and define men, boys and masculinity.  In fact those people argue that these programs and their methods should do so to the exclusion of all others.

It’s an offer I can easily decline.  Above all, what Male Studies offers is a fact and science-based inquiry into men and the meaning of masculinity.  It promises to be rigorous and balanced and above all, non-ideological.  If it succeeds, it will inevitably draw to it students and faculty with the type of respect for intellectual honesty and rigor that Women’s Studies have for so long not only ignored but disdained.

Here’s the Notovitz letter:

Dear Supporter,

On Monday, Dr. Edward M. Stephens, President of the Foundation for Male Studies, presented to undergraduate students and faculty at Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York. He defined Male Studies – what it is – and why the discipline is so timely and so crucial to making our society a better place for men and women.

He started off by sharing a startling statistic about the college: Enrollment shows 68% women and 32% men. The implications, he said, are vast. Failures in school: The winners, men. Suicides: The winners? Also men. Incarceration? Unemployment? Again, men are the winners. Looking out into the audience, he asked, “What is happening to them? Why should we care?”

The answers to these questions are as complex as our society as a whole, and must be rigorously analyzed and addressed.

The lack of understanding of boys from nursery school through college is contributing to many failures both academically and socially as these individuals mature. The manner in which classes are held, most directed by this lack of understanding, are causing boys to tune out and fall behind. Failure in school = failure in life for countless males.

Looking for more answers, Dr. Stephens discovered and presented a disappointing comparison. At U.S. colleges and universities, there are over 400 programs on the study of women. Male Studies? 2. And one of them is an online-only course.

Among college students, female/male undergraduate and graduate degrees are presenting an exponentially-widening gap. In 2010 the percentages were 58/42. Projections for 2020 are at 68/32, even worse at the graduate level. We learned that textbooks – even “reprints” are filled with inaccurate and outdated information and statistics regarding males.

Dr. Stephens then presented the male in advertising and the media. Portrayal of the male as a criminal, moron or disposable entity is frighteningly rampant. Products aimed at women and men consistently reinforce shame and low esteem – watched by millions of boys and men. Even the attitudes of girls and women towards males are shifting from bad to worse.

He explained why we should care. Because the failure of boys and men will hurt everyone. What will happen if educated women suddenly cannot find educated males to start lives together? What will happen to families in the future?

On Monday, Dr. Stephens’ first presentation was overwhelmingly well-received by both students and faculty of Dominican College. And he touched off some interesting and controversial questions and responses, posed by the male and female, young and mature participants. What is happening outside of the United States? Why aren’t men speaking up as women have for their benefit? Why aren’t women speaking up?

All this just begins to scrape at the iceberg compared to what will be discussed at our Second Annual Conference on Male Studies: Looking Forward to Solutions, on April 6, 2011. With speakers from a variety of disciplines, hope will be presented, and workable solutions will be offered. The next stages will be set.

If you haven’t registered for this historic event, now is the time to make your decision to participate, and become a part of a new discipline. Click here to see the program.

Click here to register. Take advantage of our early-bird discount, and get complimentary access to the post-conference materials, including videos, recorded conference, transcripts and poster submissions. Remember the course fee is tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Our Second Annual Conference promises to set the stage for both genders to vastly improve the environment we live in.

Joseph M. Notovitz
Director of Communications

333 Mamaroneck Avenue – 444
White Plains, NY 10605
(917) 685-7866

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