Men's studies

Men's studies, often called men and masculinities in academic settings, is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning men, masculinity, feminism, gender, and politics. It is informed by feminist theory and its goal is to unpack ideologies that surround masculinity, [1] and through that unpacking examines how there are multiple masculinities. Men's studies also academically pursues what it means to be a man in the world that we live in today. [2]


As a relatively new field of study, men's studies was formed largely in response to, and as a critique of, an emerging men's rights movement, and as such, has been taught in academic settings only since the 1970s. In many universities, men's studies is a correlation to women's studies or part of a larger gender studies program, and as such its faculty tends to be sympathetic to, or engaged in, advocacy of feminist politics. Men's studies works with feminist studies to question the relationship that men have with patriarchal power throughout different temporal and historical times.[3] The concept of plural masculinities was proposed by R.W. Connell in her influential book Masculinities (1995); thus the academic field is today often known as men and masculinities.[4]

In contrast to the discipline of masculine psychology, men's studies programs and courses often include contemporary discussions of men's rights, feminist theory, queer theory, matriarchy, patriarchy, and more generally, what proponents describe as the social, historical, and cultural constructions of men. They often discuss the issues surrounding male privilege, seen as evolving into more subtle forms rather than disappearing in the modern era.

Construction of Masculinity

When pursuing masculinity studies, many scholars begin complicating masculinity and explaining how masculinity is a social construction. Michael Kimmel, a star in the field of masculinity studies, writes extensively on manhood and its definition. He does this starting with the 19th century in America, when masculinity began to be defined through proving oneself as a man. As a result, the political arena, workplace, family, and whole world was changed.[5] This change constructed "hegemonic masculinity", or the "practice that allowed men's dominance over women to continue",[6] or the stereotypical definition of masculinity that many think of initially. In unpacking masculinity, the construction is understood intersectionally, looking at the historical, cultural, temporal, political, and psychological ways in which the definition of masculinity is created.[7] Because of the intersectional lens used to study masculinity, it becomes clear that there are multiple masculinities because of the various experiences that different histories, cultures, and times produce.


The American Men's Studies Association (AMSA) traces the roots of an organized field of men's studies to the early 1980s and the work of scholars involved in an anti-sexist organization called the Men's Studies Task Group (MSTG) of the National Organization for Changing Men (NOCM) which included Martin Acker, Shepherd Bliss, Harry Brod, Sam Femiano, Martin Fiebert, and Michael Messner. However, men's studies classes also pre-date NOCM, and a small number were taught in various colleges across the United States throughout the 1970s. Conferences such as the Men and Masculinity conferences sparked the creation of newsletters and journals, such as the Men's Studies Newsletter, pertaining to the growing field of men's studies. These became prime resources for those interested in the field, providing news, bibliographies, and firsthand experiences. Following the newsletters and journals came the Men's Studies Press, thus moving the academic field of masculinity studies to books. [8]

When NOCM changed its name to the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS),[9] the MSTG became the Men's Studies Association (MSA). The MSA was an explicitly pro-feminist group, and those who felt this was too constraining split away several years later to form the American Men's Studies Association (AMSA).


A range of criticisms have been made of the separation between "men's studies" and "gender studies". For example, Timothy Laurie and Anna Hickey-Moody insist that "[any] atomisation of masculinity studies as distinct from gender studies, feminist inquiry or queer studies must be understood as provisional and hazardous rather than as the result of absolute differences in the phenomena being investigated or expertise required".[10] Researchers in transgender studies, including Jack Halberstam, have also questioned the relationship between male biology and gender identity within masculinity studies.

Work and care

Men's studies are notably concerned with challenging gendered arrangements of work and care, and the male breadwinner role, and policies are increasingly targeting men as fathers, as a tool of changing gender relations.[11]

See also


  1. Allan, Jonathan. "Phallic Affect, or Why Men's Rights Activists Have Feelings". Men and Masculinities.
  2. Bennett, Jessica (August 8, 2015). "A Master's Degree in...Masculinity?". New York Times.
  3. Gurfinkel, Helena (December 6, 2012). "Masculinity Studies: What Is It, and Why Would a Feminist Care?". Southern Illinois University.
  4. Sofia Aboim, Plural Masculinities: The Remaking of the Self in Private Life, p. 5, Ashgate Publishing, 2010, ISBN 0754674673
  5. Kimmel, Michael (1996). Manhood In America: A Cultural History. Oxford University Press.
  6. Laurie, Timothy. "Masculinity Studies and the Jargon of Strategy: Hegemony, Tautology, Sense". Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities.
  7. Gurfinkel, Helena (December 6, 2012). "Masculinity Studies: What Is It, and Why Would a Feminist Care?". Southern Illinois University.
  8. Doyle, James. A; Femiano, Sam. "A History of the Men's Press and its Association with The American Men's Studies Association". The Journal of Men's Studies.
  10. Laurie, Timothy; Hickey-Moody, Anna (2015). "Geophilosophies of Masculinity" (PDF). Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities. 20 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1080/0969725X.2015.1017359.
  11. Bjørnholt, M. (2014). "Changing men, changing times; fathers and sons from an experimental gender equality study" (PDF). The Sociological Review. 62 (2): 295–315. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.12156.

Further reading


Academic Journals


External links

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