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Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [6x]
nettime's_digestive_system on Wed, 11 Oct 2006 10:44:22 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [6x]

Table of Contents:

   Re: <nettime> Gender and Us [10x]                                               
     Katherine Dodds <kdodds {AT} hellocoolworld.com>                                     

   RE: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x]                               
     "Dean, Jodi" <JDEAN {AT} hws.edu>                                                    

   Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x]                               
     martha rosler <navva {AT} earthlink.net>                                             

   Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x]                               
     Danny Butt <db {AT} dannybutt.net>                                                   

   studies of masculinities                                                        
     Gita Hashemi <gita {AT} ping.ca>                                                     

   Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x]                               
     "Benjamin Geer" <benjamin.geer {AT} gmail.com>                                       


Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 13:29:40 -0700
From: Katherine Dodds <kdodds {AT} hellocoolworld.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Gender and Us [10x]

On 10-Oct-06, at 4:28 AM, Benjamin Geer wrote:

> Kali Tal <kali {AT} kalital.com> wrote:
>> If white, heterosexual men want to know what it's like to be a  
>> women, ASK US.
> Katherine Dodds <kdodds {AT} hellocoolworld.com> wrote:
>> One possible source of the "man problem" is that the male gender
>> continues to spend almost time problematizing masculinity, certainly
>> less time than both men and women spend gazing with fascination and
>> horror on femininity,
> I agree that asking people what it's like to be them is a good idea,
> and I'd like to know whether there's any feminist theory that's based
> on asking men what it's like to be men, rather than on women's
> impressions of what men want or feel.  I don't mean this sarcastically
> or rhetorically: I was exposed to a fair amount of feminist theory at
> university, some of it excellent in my opinion, but unfortunately I
> never came across anything like this.  If it exists, I'd like to know.
> Ben

I too would like to be pointed in the direction of such theory, I wish
it was easy to find -- but it's absence reinforces my point-- in my
experience where these discussions take place is more in the queer
theory arena. Or, in the context of more sociological based research
(less theory on theory or art theory). Quite frankly there is very
little straight men-on-men analysis of masculinity out there. The
over-determined point being that as long as the straight white male
is still the baseline for "normal", then this position (or essence)
of "privilege" goes un-spoken, unthought, and unchallenged. And while
it is true that singular beings exist in differing states of actual
material privilege, it's the undercurrent of generalized entitlement
that causes those who assume a degree of personal power to take any
infringement on their own privilege (theoretical or actual) personally
instead of structurally.

For this reason, while I welcome experiments in asking the "other"
what it's like for "them", it is not enough in and of itself unless
the observer (ie. the one who asks) is willing to read beyond as well
as along side their own biases of perception. For this reason I fear
any female-feminist attempts to ask this question of men might fail.
Unless we can generate a dialogue with "each"-"other" about what "we"
want and what "we" feel then we are probably not listening. Questions
can be points of departure as often as they are doors to inquiry. I'm
a little more interested in where we can take the information!

Having said all these, i had the privilege of being part of a
practical project just after i finished my extremely esoteric MA in
feminist theory from a Fine Art and Cultural Studies department. Our
experience might be relevant to this discussion. This was a community
based project to prevent acquaintance sexual assault among teenagers.
The woman who headed the project had a background in sociology and
statistical analysis from a feminist perspective. But what we set out
to do pushed the bounds of that discipline, was forward thinking in
terms of the new "qualitative" move in sociology (more akin to cult
stud) and we were interested in using and measuring the impact of
mainstream media within the project, and as she put it "building in
prevention education at every layer". The three of us feminist women
agreed upon one thing from the outset -- after all our years of girls
empowerment as the buzz -- we realized that this project could not
possibly succeed if we persisted in holding to the victim/perpetrator
dichotomy and anti-sex vibe that dominated this kind of discussion. We
were dealing in an area that was distinct from violent stranger rape,
and much more preventable from the point of view of combatting the
root causes of this problem. There are of course multiple root causes.
We chose two: gender stereotypes and miscommunication.

So we waged war on the stereotypes themselves, and we used
communication technology to do it. We made a video with a group
of about 40 youth. Our core group of both boys and girls took the
"Respect Revolution" to the streets asking passers by "Are you a
script victim?" Their placards and the bus ad we created said: Are
you Asking For it? Quizzing the local newscaster in his own broadcast
studio by asking "How do you consent to sex?" The cornerstone of
this was getting the youth themselves to discuss the key messages:
Consensuality, Yes means Yes, etc. with each other, with strangers
on the street, and in interviews they did with other media. This was
a long complex project, (and included really fun elements like the
slut cheerleaders in a high school hallway ) but the key moment for
me that reinforced our approach came when one of the girls was being
interviewed by the local cable channel and was asked about the yes
means yes slogan -- she answered: (and I paraphrase here) Yes means
yes doesn't contradict no means no-- but it goes deeper. It talks
about how there should be a whole lot of communication at every stage.
A girl needs to be able to talk about her desires at every step, she
should not just be waiting to react to what the boy does. Because if
a girl can't say yes, she can't really say no." So there you have it
-- Foucault for 14 year olds! Eight years later the project is still
going, those of us who originally created it are long gone, and of
course the adults in charge softened up the message by making it "only
yes means yes". Nevertheless, within that project the kids themselves
were getting it.



Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 16:54:36 -0400
From: "Dean, Jodi" <JDEAN {AT} hws.edu>
Subject: RE: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x]

Men's studies:

I teach at a college (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) that has a
Men's studies program. I think they offer a minor in Men's studies
(although I'm not sure about this). Assigned authors who come to
mind are Robert Connell and Michael Kimmel. One of the basic courses
is on Men and Masculinity. It involves thinking about the way that
masculinity is structured in different, particularly in differently
raced and classed settings in the United States.

Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 21:37:00 -0400
From: martha rosler <navva {AT} earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x]

  ...........   that said, it is hard to imagine how you, Ben, 
studied "feminist theory' without exposure to studies of masculinity.

But 'gender studies" or "masculinity studies" might be a better
category. Have you tried Google? Based on what you are looking
for (interview methodology rather than , ahem, theory), look most
directly under, masculinity + sociology, Aside from the classic Klaus
Thelweleit study, ,here's

Constructing Masculinity (Discussion in Contemporary Culture, No. 11) 
by Maurice Berger

  Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity  by David D Gilmore

Men overcompensate when their masculinity is
threatened, Cornell study shows By Daniel Aloi

Histories of Masculinity (Excerpted from The Men's Bibliography: A 
comprehensive bibliography of writing on men, masculinities, gender, 
and sexualities, compiled by Michael Flood. 15th edition, 2006. Home 
URL: http://mensbiblio.xyonline.net/)

Methodology and Epistemology (The Men's Bibliography, 2003) 36.
Methodology and Epistemology (Excerpted from The Men's Bibliography: A
comprehensive bibliography of writing on men, masculinities, gender,
and... ...Lee, Deborah. (1997). Interviewing Men: Vulnerabilities
and Dilemmas. Women's Studies International Forum, 20(4). Levin,
Peter. (1996). Standpoint and... ...Michelle Wolkomir. (2001).
The Masculine Self as Problem and Resource in Interview Studies
of Men. Men and Masculinities, 4(1), July Sparke, Matthew....
...Talking and Listening from Women's Standpoint: Feminist Strategies
for Interviewing and Analysis. Social Problems, 37(1), February.
Dowsett, Gary.... Saturday, 17 January 2004 02:50:24 AM GMT http://

Working With Men (The Men's Bibliography, 2003) 15. Working With Men
(Excerpted from The Men's Bibliography: A comprehensive bibliography
of writing on men, masculinities, gender, and sexualities,...
...White, Michael. (1995). Re-Authoring Lives: Interviews & Essays.
Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications. White, Michael. (1997).
Narratives of... ...Cavanagh, Kate and Lewis, Ruth. (1996).
Interviewing violent men: Challenge or compromise?. In Cavanagh,
Kate and Cree, Viviene E. (eds). Working With... ...(1994).
The Psychological Impact of Sexual Abuse: Content Analysis of
Interviews With Male Survivors. Journal ofTraumatic Stress, 7,
pp. 525-548.... Saturday, 17 January 2004 02:47:43 AM GMT http://

Growing Up Male, Boys and Masculinities (The Men's Bibliography,
2003) Growing up male (Excerpted from The Men's Bibliography: A
comprehensive bibliography of writing on men, masculinities, gender,
and sexualities,... ...(1995). Young Men Speaking Out. London: Health
Education Authority (160 Interviews). Epstein, Debbie et.al. (eds).
(1999). Failing Boys. Open... Saturday, 17 January 2004 02:48:19 AM
GMT http:// www.mensbiblio.xyonline.net/growingup.html

Men's Health (The Men's Bibliography, 2003) Men's Health (Excerpted
from The Men's Bibliography: A comprehensive bibliography of writing
on men, masculinities, gender, and sexualities, compiled... ...Roos,
G., R. Prattala and K. Koski. (2001). Men, Masculinity and Food:
Interviews with Finnish Carpenters and Engineers. Appetite. August;

Tim Carrigan, Bob Connell, and John Lee, Toward a new sociology of

  Men's Lives, Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner:  (5th edition, 2000)

Ronald F. Levant, Masculinity reconstructed, 1995.

Kevin White, First sexual revolution: the emergence of male
heterosexuality in modern America, 1993

Ray Gonzalez (editor), Muy macho: Latino men confront their manhood,

Michael A. Messner & Donald F. Sabo, Sex, violence & power in sports:
rethinking masculinity,1994.

James W. Messerschmidt, Nine Lives: Adolescent masculinities, the 
body, and violence. 2000.

Franklin Abbott, Boyhood, Growing up male: A multi-cultural anthology.

Ann A. Ferguson, Bad boys: Public schools in the making of black 
masculinity. 2000

William Pollack, Real boys, 1998.

Critical Approaches to Masculinities (WMST 2240)
Scott Kiesling (Univ. of Pittsburgh)

History of Manhood in America, 1750-1920 (History 52)
Bruce Dorsey (Swarthmore College)

Masculinities: The Cultural Construction of Male Gender and Sexuality
(ANTH 197L) Peter B. Hammond (UCLA)

Men, Masculinity, and Society (Sociology 127)
Todd Migliaccio (California State Univ., Sacramento)

Sociology of Men and Masculinity (Sociology 363)
Stephen Kulis (Arizona State Univ.)

and many more

  martha rosler


Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 19:10:13 +1300
From: Danny Butt <db {AT} dannybutt.net>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x]

> From: "Benjamin Geer" <benjamin.geer {AT} gmail.com>
> I agree that asking people what it's like to be them is a good idea,
> and I'd like to know whether there's any feminist theory that's
> based on asking men what it's like to be men, rather than on women's
> impressions of what men want or feel. I don't mean this sarcastically

Hi Ben, there's plenty - try some of the literature at:
<http://www.wid.msu.edu/resources/biblios/Masculinity.htm>. R.W.
Connell's work is a good place to start.

As an aside, feminist work would see the comparative lack of critical
literature on masculinity in the gender system as a function of its
hegemony. Neutral is routinely treated as male until someone points
out otherwise, and that's pretty much what feminist work has had
to do, so it's developed the most sophisticated readings of gender

There is a fair bit of feminist work out there on how this isn't so
good for men either, but asking men about the sex/gender system is a
bit like asking whites about race, or US policy makers about the WTO.
The environment is oriented around the interests of those in power,
so you don't get very interesting or reflective answers from them
unless you ask the questions with the right analytical framework. In
economics that's usually analytical tools whose roots are found in
Marx, and in the sex/gender system that's usually feminist work.

So while I can appreciate that for some on the list, Alan's
philosophical musings on gender might be offensive because of their
reinforcing of well-known power dynamics; for me they're also naive
and poorly-informed, and one of the great things about the Internet is
surely that we can access the knowledge of others more easily.


- --


Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 17:34:01 -0400
From: Gita Hashemi <gita {AT} ping.ca>
Subject: studies of masculinities

Tue, 10 Oct 2006 13:28:04 +0200, Benjamin Geer wrote:
>I agree that asking people what it's like to be them is a good idea,
>and I'd like to know whether there's any feminist theory that's
>based on asking men what it's like to be men, rather than on women's
>impressions of what men want or feel. I don't mean this sarcastically
>or rhetorically: I was exposed to a fair amount of feminist theory at
>university, some of it excellent in my opinion, but unfortunately I
>never came across anything like this. If it exists, I'd like to know.

good question. there is an emerging field of studies in masculinities
(although i'm not sure it's been articulated as such anywhere yet)
within cultural studies and other disciplines. it is not 'men's
studies', probably for the reasons that kali mentioned. we have
been studying men all along. the focus is on the construction of
masculinities rather than studies pertaining to men in general. there
is a growing pressure in feminist and queer critiques in particular
to shift the focus as a means of radicalizing the discourse and
dismantling the default, unproblematized hetero maleness against which
women and queers will necessarily be the oppressed other. some male
scholars are joining in. in fact, most of the books that i've seen
recently have been written by male authors. one of the first books
that comes to my mind, not a recent one, is larry may's 'masculinity
and morality'. my search in our library catalogue turned up a large
number of books published in 2004-06. here's a very small sample of

Responding to men in crisis : masculinities, distress, and the
postmodern political landscape / Brian Taylor

Transforming masculinities : men, cultures, bodies, power, sex and 
love / Victor J. Seidler

Reconstructing gender : a multicultural anthology / [edited by] Estelle Disch
Disch, Estelle

Cultures of masculinity / Tim Edwards

Exposing men : the science and politics of male reproduction / 
Cynthia R. Daniels

Gendered outcasts and sexual outlaws : sexual oppression and gender 
hierarchies in queer men's lives / Christopher Kendall, Wayne 
Martino, editors

Country boys : masculinity and rural life / edited by Hugh Campbell, 
Michael Mayerfeld Bell, Margaret Finney

i think it's high time men started studying and deconstructing their 
own masculinities, in all their hidden and apparent ways.

be well.



Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 03:23:17 +0200
From: "Benjamin Geer" <benjamin.geer {AT} gmail.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Why Isn't There Men's Studies? [2x]

Kali Tal <kali {AT} kalital.com> wrote:
> One thing women have been schooled in almost since birth is what men
> want and feel. We're inundated with masculine opinions, perspectives
> and beliefs. Culturally, women are raised to listen respectfully to
> men whenever they are talking (unless they are disqualified by class
> or race, but that's another whole discussion). We grow up listening to
> men, reading books by men, learning the history of men, and accepting
> the aesthetic principles of men.

I've often read and heard this line of argument in feminist discourse,
and it has always struck me that, while there is much truth to it (I
think anyone who has read Virginia Woolf's _To the Lighthouse_ can't
fail to see that it has a lot of explanatory power), it unfortunately
rests on an unfounded assumption: that what men say in ordinary social
interactions, books by men, and so on, accurately or fully express
"what men want and feel". In fact it has always seemed clear to me
that the picture men tend to give of their own feelings, whether in
ordinary social interaction, in intimate relationships with women, or
in books or films, is a partial and distorted picture. Crucially, I
think this picture hides most of men's experience of their own bodies
and most of their feelings about women. This is not surprising: there
are taboos in every society, things that are not normally talked
about, or that people find it difficult to talk about. In place of
those subjects, one finds euphemisms, lies or silence. Books and films
are, as every feminist knows, created more to promote a certain view
of things (e.g. of gender roles), to manipulate the viewer or reader
in certain ways, than to reflect what people really experience.

Moreover, although I fully agree that women are generally much
better socialised than men to be attentive listeners, when women
talk to me about what they think goes on in men's minds (as many of
my female friends have done), the extent of their ignorance about
men's experience is generally staggering. This goes both for women
who haven't reflected much about gender as well as for those who are
well-versed in feminist theory. It seems to me that a woman can be an
attentive listener, and behave the way men expect women to behave,
without actually understanding much about the way men perceive that
behaviour, never mind why men behave the way they do, because most
men will never tell them. I have often seen this lead to tragic
misunderstandings between men and women.

Given that, as you rightly point out, women are so well trained
to be attentive to men, a woman could certainly be forgiven for
thinking that she understands men very well, that there is nothing
more she can learn about what it's like to be a man. But if that woman
is a feminist theorist, I think it behooves her to question this
assumption, and to ask whether much of what she thinks she knows about
men (from listening to them in ordinary social situations all her
life, and from consuming the cultural products that the male-dominated
culture industry produces) might not consist of the illusions that men
propagate in order to control women and other men, rather than truths
about what men experience.

> Most feminists have gone through very difficult years struggling
> first to accept that we had as much right to speak and feel and
> think as men do, and -- once we *could* talk -- struggling to have
> our voices heard above those of the multitude of men who tend to
> talk through or over us when they're not ignoring us.

I agree wholeheartedly that this is very important, and that, at least
in the societies I know well, most men need to learn to listen to
women a lot better. (This is an area in which I'm personally still
trying to improve.)

> This is sort of like the old (and oft-answered) complaint that it's
> not fair if there's "Women's History" (or Black History, etc.; add
> your favorite flavor of oppression) if there isn't "Men's History."
> But... history as it has been taught in the West has always been
> men's history. That's why Women's History appears: as a reaction
> to women being omitted. Yet men frequently feel that the mere
> introduction of Women's History somehow disadvantages them, even
> though they are still the main topic and generators of discussion in
> all other historical venues. My very declaration of existence is a
> threat.

I agree with your point here, but I'm suggesting something rather
different: that even though most history is written by men, about
men, it actually doesn't tell us about some of the most important
aspects of being male. Not only does it leave out women's experience,
it actually leaves out much of men's experience as well.

My own view is that some of this can be explained in terms of class
conflict. The men of the ruling class promote concepts of gender
that place all heterosexual men in competition with each other for
sexual relationships with women, but the rules of the game guarantee
that ruling-class men are, on average, in the best position to win.
One of the consequences of these rules is that men have to avoid
showing some of their most important feelings to women (and, except
in unusually close friendships, to other men as well). When such
an ideology becomes hegemonic, even men who hate it are likely to
conform, because their experience seems to teach them that (as a
result of this ideology) most women will accept nothing less.

For these reasons, in much of the feminist theory I've encountered, it
seemed to me that generalisations about, say, "the male gaze", which
tended to rely on evidence from products of the culture industry,
failed completely to capture my own experience of being male and that
of my male friends. I often had the feeling that, had the authors
asked some men about what they really experience (taking into account
the fact that these are matters that many men have a great deal of
difficulty talking about openly and honestly, particularly to women,
precisely because to do so is against the rules of masculinity), they
might have perceived these gaps in their own understanding, and their
theories would have been much better as a result.

> It's extremely tiring to have to both live with oppression on a
> continuous basis AND to be responsible for proving one is oppressed
> over and over again to an audience with a vested interest in not
> believing the truth.

You don't have to prove to me that you, and women generally, are
oppressed. I accept that.

> Individual men could make it easier on us by
> taking responsibility for educating themselves about gender
> oppression and not relying on us to give them private lessons on our
> own time, for no pay. We've done the studies, written the books, made
> the films, posted the posts, created the art: it's all there for you.
> That you often don't bother to pick them up before you speak -- that
> you don't, in fact, feel you have to be informed to speak -- simply
> illustrates the problem.

I have read a fair bit of feminist theory; it seemed to me that
much of it was very good at describing women's experience of gender
oppression, and it has helped me understand and relate to women
better. Yet the same authors' understanding of men's experience of
gender generally seemed superficial at best and seriously warped at
worst. It seemed to me that, while feminist theory was very good
at helping women learn to gain self-confidence and stand up for
themselves (which is of course to be applauded), it actually decreased
their ability to understand men, which is unfortunate, because many
women would like to do exactly that. I couldn't help thinking that
feminist theory would benefit greatly from applying some of the
methods of sociology and anthropology in order to get a better insight
into men's experience of gender.

> If you want a real answer you could start with Dale Spender's and
> Joanna Russ's work (it's over 25 years old). Take a look at writing
> by Mary Helen Washington, bell hooks (especially "Talking Back") and
> Audre Lorde.  Essential reading is the Sadkers' famous long-term
> study of educational practices, _Failing at Fairness_.  Try also
> Carol Gilligan's classic, _In a Different Voice_.

Thanks for these recommendations; I will indeed have a look.


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