Masculinity in the Academy; masculinity studies.

A few days ago Leah McLaren wrote an article in the Globe and Mail on ‘masculinity studies’ in the Academy. Now because I’m a lazy blogger at the moment, it took me a few days to notice related links popping up in my feed. Specifically I noticed an excellent Gender Across Borders post, and one from fellow masculinities blogger Ultimo167.

What I’m doing here is adding my two cents of opinion on McLaren’s article – I highly recommend you read the GAB post & Ultimo’s as they come from quite different perspectives. McLaren’s article, wittily entitled “Man, don’t feel like a womyn” (you can already see where this is going) is a somewhat polemic op ed piece that does I think reflect some pretty common attitudes towards the growing academic fields of studies that critically evaluate masculinity.

As someone who did gender studies at university (not women’s studies),  and because I am influenced by my own maleness to look in that direction I’m pretty comfortable saying that I come from a pro ‘masculinity studies’ perspective. I’d also like to think that I recognise the complexities of being a man interested in gender equality and how gender/sex/etc based oppression works, I’ve written about it a bit before (here and here for example, but it’s an unsurprisingly common refrain here). I reckon that involving men and male voices (in appropriate ways) is vital to working meaningfully towards a better gender balance/world/queer utopia/etc, and excluding male voices and perspectives is rarely good.

Leah McLaren has a decidedly us/them seeming conception of gender, rather than my own warm fuzzy third wave/pomo/queer/wanker perspective. Also , I gotta say, if the following statement is anything to go by, McLaren’s understanding of this particular part of the academy seems dated and surprisingly narrow;

The whole point of women’s studies, so we were taught in Feminist and Critical Thinking 101, is to bring academic focus to women’s perspective in history and literature… Now that the bulk of that ideological work is largely done, however, academia remains bogged down in identity politics. (In the real world, by contrast, feminism still has far to go – just look at the recent finding that Canadian women make 63 per cent of what men do.)

As an extension of women’s studies, the study of masculinity is illogical. After all, couldn’t most academic inquiry throughout history be classified as men’s studies?

Yep. I think that McLaren has really missed the point of masculinity studies, it’s not a companion piece to feminist analysis, it’s not about continuing a discussion based around us/them but rather a recognition that menfolk have important roles to play in advancing gender equity and the goals of feminism too.

Explore posts in the same categories: feminism, gender, Masculinity, pro-feminist, Sexual education, Uncategorized

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7 Comments on “Masculinity in the Academy; masculinity studies.”

  1. Hello — been following the blog for a while, but never commented.

    I agree w/ everything you say here, and also —

    I think masculinity studies is also about examining and complicating and marking the “unmarked” category. Masculinity is invisible until you name it and any transformation of patriarchy and heteronormativity that doesn’t take masculinity into account is missing something major.

  2. Wes Says:

    From Leah McLaren: “So take my advice, undecided students: Steer clear of trendy men’s studies courses and stick with the classics. You’ll learn more about men and women in one Shakespearean sonnet than you will in a whole feminist-theory program put together.”


    Personally I think if you want to pull lessons out of great literature, some social sciences (sociology, gender studies, psychology, etc) can provide useful tools to help you deconstruct it and form opinions. This is why when you do a Bachelor of Arts you need to generally do 4 disciplines – you can’t just do 3 years worth of English subjects.

    I think the idea that “most academic inquiry throughout history” can be considered Men’s Studies is missing the rather important point that Men’s Studies usually critiques the male privilege inherent in academic history. I also think that understanding power and inequality doesn’t work if you only examine one side of the power relationship.

  3. Nio Says:

    “Leah McLaren has a decidedly us/them seeming conception of gender, rather than my own warm fuzzy third wave/pomo/queer/wanker perspective.”

    Yep and I agree with the words that you made with your brain and put here. Apart for the wanker part, unless you mean it in the literal sense.

  4. Cormac Says:

    What Leah McLaren fails to realise – or chooses to ignore – is that a proper critical and theoretical analysis of masculinities in contemporary culture and society is, of itself, a (pro)feminist act.

  5. Paul Says:

    She’s obviously traditional enough – about both feminism and men – that she doesn’t want masculinity examined. Like a lot of women with more intelligence than smarts, she wants a creampuff in the office and a hardass at home.

  6. Erica Says:

    Sadly, I’m not surprised by McLaren’s sentiment. One of my pro-feminist professors laughed when I told him I would be interested in a class on masculinity studies in the Women’s and Gender Studies program. In fact, not only did he laugh, but many of my classmates laughed at me, as well.

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