Sillier Than Women’s Studies

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

For decades we have devoted ample space to the deconstruction of women’s studies only to find that there is something even more inane being taught on American campuses—men’s studies.

This year, the American Men’s Studies Association (AMSA) held its annual convention in Tacoma, Washington.  AMSA is dedicated to “advancing the critical study of men and masculinities.”

“Even though the association has been around for 22 years, and even though men’s studies dates back to at least the 1970s, outsiders still tend to greet it with derision and disbelief,” Tom Bartlett writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Imagine.

“Men’s studies is not men’s rights, which advocates for changes in, for example, child-custody laws,” Bartlett explains. “It is not the mythopoetic men’s movement of the 1990s, though influences from that movement linger.” We missed that movement.

“The collection of researchers is highly interdisciplinary: anthropologists, professors of medieval literature, along with therapists and residence-life staff members,” Bartlett reported after attending the annual AMSA conference. “The topics they study include the very general, like ‘What Do Men Really Want in Their Lives,’ and the very specific, like ‘Diaspora in a Gendered Sport: a Study on Chinese Gay Amateur Volleyball Players.’”

You may have already guessed that, “Men’s studies tends to be light on hard science,” as Bartlett relates. “If you’re eager to learn something about the inverse relationship between cortisol and testosterone, or about gender differences in episodic memory, you should look elsewhere.”

“If you want a genuinely interesting analysis of male chastity in the Twilight series of books and how that compares with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, you’ve come to the right place.”

That’s not all:

  • “For example, the conference included a session on ‘Masculinity as Cruel Optimism,’ in which Jonathan A. Allan, a lecturer in gender and women’s studies at Brandon University, in Manitoba, argued that cultural theorists underemphasize the importance of the male backside and that society needs to set aside its shame and accept the symbolic richness of our hindquarters;” and
  • “In the next room, the discussion was about what draws men to a group called the ManKind Project, in which they gather in the wilderness to find their manhood and give each other animal nicknames (like Gentle Wolf or Joyous Oppossum).”
  • As well, “the performative aspects of men’s restrooms were discussed.”

The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities opened at the State University of New York at Stony Brook last fall. The announced opening, according to Bartlett, “was met with some ridicule, mostly from critics who thought women like Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda shouldn’t be on the board of directors of a center dedicated to the study of men.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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