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John Wayne’s masculine identity crisis?

A dance-off between feminist studies and the newly emerging male studies

Imagine this: John Wayne lying on a psychologist’s couch, lamenting the

(ANASTASIA YEE/The Stanford Daily)

loss of his manhood. Clint Eastwood fervently writing to Dear Abby, asking for a cure to his manly insecurities. Sylvester Stallone perusing a bookstore, searching for “How To Retain Masculinity for Dummies.” Silly, huh?

Not so fast, say some scholars. A new branch of academia, male studies, has reached professors at Wagner College, Rutgers University and McGill University in recent months, a movement that argues that feminist studies has threatened the stability of the contemporary male identity, one which might not be as secure as those of Dirty Harry or Rambo.

On the Facebook page for the Foundation for Male Studies, the up-and-coming academic group spearheading this movement, articles abound justifying the need to address this supposed crisis. One such article involves the decreasing ratio of men to women attending four-year colleges and universities, and another addresses the statistic that women “for the first time ever” make up the majority of the workforce due to layoffs associated with the economic recession.

In a recent New York Times article, male-studies proponent and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute Christina Hoff Sommers says that “male-averse attitudes are widespread in the United States” due in part to feminist studies and the fact that masculinity has become a social taboo.

While the foundation cites its underlying goal as studying “the male as male,” one cannot ignore its rather apparent anti-feminism. Even its brothers within academia are refusing to take part in this program. For instance, The Men’s Studies Association, established in 1991 to promote the scholarship of masculinity, denied an invitation to speak at an April conference for the Foundation at Wagner College.

So, what does Stanford have to think about this new branch of study?

According to intended feminist-studies major Miranda Mammen ‘14, “feminist studies, women’s studies and gender studies across the country are doing a really good job of tackling what it means to be a man and conventional constructions of masculinity. I think it’s a misconception that they only study women, because the study of women’s roles necessarily includes men.”

“My biggest problem with the male studies phenomenon…is that it’s an explicitly anti-feminist platform,” she continued. “The creators of male studies have argued that the presence of feminist and gender studies is harmful to them, which is really ridiculous.”

Mark Diaz ’14, an intended psychology and linguistics double major, “understands the idea” of male studies, “but if you were to look at the big scope of things, you could say that everything you learn has been taught with a bias towards men, so I think it’s fair for feminism to try and balance the scale.”

History Prof. Matthew Sommer considers the male studies movement “very much part of a kind of anxious backlash against feminism.

“It seems to me that some scholars, mostly men, seem very insecure and defensive about feminism,” Sommer said. “They seem to think that men are victims.”

That Sommer, as well as many other feminist studies and history professors at Stanford, was only nominally familiar with the male studies movement may be indicative of the movement’s limited media exposure and its irrelevance to the broader academic community. In fact, Sommer’s familiarity extended to only a few articles he had read to prepare for his interview with The Daily.

Despite his minimal exposure to the movement, Sommer argues that these academics “don’t confess to being anti-feminist.”

“But what are they trying to defend?” he questioned. “What are they trying to rehabilitate?”

Sommer anticipates that gender departments across the country will be bemused by this idea of male studies because “it’s odd to hear that men are the victims” and that very few academic institutions, if any, will welcome it as a legitimate field of study.

On the question of whether Stanford will create a home for male studies, Sommer laughed. “No, [it’s] certainly not welcome. The idea that men are oppressed in society is absurd.”

While most male studies critics on the Stanford campus believe that the movement is largely irrelevant, some students feel otherwise.

“If there were to be a male-studies class, then it needs to approach its studies in the same way that feminists approach theirs,” Alisa Parrett ’13 suggested. Male studies “shouldn’t try to side-step feminism in the name of being politically correct. It shouldn’t be cowering in a corner trying to be nice to feminists.”

So, back to the beginning: is it really so preposterous to find John Wayne on the psychologist’s couch?

“There are good parts and there are bad parts to feminism,” said Angela Torres ‘13. “And if you present it unbiased, then, you know, guys can make their decision.”

Maybe man’s favorite gunslinger shouldn’t cancel that appointment just yet.

  • anonymous

    This article is awesome! Molly’s awesome!

  • Sebastain Gould

    “very few academic institutions, if any, will welcome it as a legitimate field of study.”

    They won’t? Why not? What makes it any different than “feminist studies or women’s studies?” I would think that if there is value in studying the complexities of being a woman in society, there would be just as much value in studying men in society.

    The irrelevance of the movement I would imagine is due to the fact that it is new. I’m sure no one cared about computers before they were invented either.

  • reply

    The claim that male studies are irrelevant probably comes from the assumption that feminism only studies how women are repressed and not “the complexities of being a woman in society.” Since “the idea that men are repressed in society is absurd,” there is would be no reason for male studies under this mindset.

  • Buffalo Jack

    “the idea that men are repressed in society is absurd”

    LOL really, that’s why the number one indicator of the sentence you will receive for the same crime, controlled on all reasonable variables, is your sex (trust me, you don’t want to be male).

    Do a Google search for men’s rights, fool.

  • Males, The Oppressed

    Boys and men live in a society where their lives can be destroyed at any moment by the mere accusation of any girl or woman. Males live in a society where any female can attack them with impunity and they cannot defend themselves. If a woman attacks a male, even as the victim he is quite likely to be the one to go to jail. Even if a woman kills a man, she is far more likely than a man who kills a woman to get off scot-free or serve very little time. And I know that if I were not an attentive driver, the woman a few weeks ago who ran a red light and nearly sideswiped me at 50 mph, which would have killed or severely injured me, likely would have received little to no jail time for her crime. However, if the roles were reversed I would be seeing many years of guaranteed jail time and public shame. We live in a society where males are encouraged NOT to interact with other human beings (adults or children) for fear of being branded a sex offender or violent criminal, where the government does not give us the same rights and protections afforded females, and where becoming a part of society through being married, having children, making money, becoming renowned, or even just taking a walk all carry risks that for many outweigh the potential benefits. Males are encouraged to withdraw from society, even though they are and always have been the driving force behind it. Without the male incentive to create and build, our society crumbles from within. It is already happening.

  • Alexander

    Indeed, ‘Males, The Oppressed.’ It’s not surprising that Sommer would be unable to think of men as victims since that’s how society has conditioned people to think. The idea also, “that everything you learn has been taught with a bias towards men” is a disgusting piece of propaganda that reflects ignorance of what men’s studies is about. To have given feminists and only feminists authority over gender issues has led to a radical underrepresentation and outright hateful views of men. I for one and sick of hearing that women understand what it is to be a man more than I do and they know what’s best for us. I look forward to the work and information that this program may provide and I hope that it will put these notions to rest.

    Part of the big hysteria is that people are afraid of “anti-feminism” because they believe it means “anti-woman” due to how feminism is so anti-male. Men’s studies doesn’t mean that we’re throwing women back in the kitchen and blaming them for the problems men face. It means that we’re moving forward and giving a voice to the other half of the population that in underrepresented in our society.

  • LanceSmith

    Men aren’t oppressed? Geez – who is he kidding. Men are far more likely to die from just about every disease yet far more is spent on female diseases. Men are the only ones expected to be drafted and called up for their country (let’s keep in mind that even during the “Miracle on the Hudson” men were called upon to step aside so that women could go first). Men are far more likely to commit suicide, yet far more is spent on female depression. Then add the female sentencing discount in crime, the disparity in education, and the lack of fathers rights, and one can see how privileged males are. Oh, and then there is the Domestic Violence Industry which dictates incorrectly that men are perpetrators and women are victims when in fact, both men and women commit DV in about the same proportions.

    As I’ve said before, if this is privilege, then you can have it sister…please…take it.

    What feminists and their ilk forget is when feminism was founded it was supposed to address the oppression that BOTH genders experience. Unfortunately, modern feminism has become a political movement and not a scientifically grounded endeavor. If this group will bring science to the problem, then I’m certainly a supporter!

  • PPPP2010

    “According to intended feminist-studies major Miranda Mammen ‘14, “feminist studies, women’s studies and gender studies across the country are doing a really good job of tackling what it means to be a man and conventional constructions of masculinity.” Oh, really, now…that’s why we have such great pieces of “research” as the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) 1992 report “How Schools Shortchange Girls.” The report of girls’ educational problems was totally wrong when issued, and the AAUW now denies there is a boy crisis in education. Then there is the very poorly done researchof Jessie S. Bernard, “The Future of Marriage” in which she incorrectly showed that men benefited tremendously from marriage while women experienced little benefit, or even suffered negative consequences from marriage. The latest 2009 federal government study of the wage gap shows the gap may be at most 5% to 7%, but even then it’s not clear that this gap is due to discrimination or other factors. Virtually everything produced in womens studies has been worthless and designed to drive a wedge between the sexes, and women should be ashamed that the male-hating faction has been in control of the feminist movement for a very long time.

  • h0tr0d

    This is the expected backlash of the entrenched power that is feminism. Men are discriminated against in legal arrangements, are more likely to have crimes committed against them, more likely to be incarcerated, have a significantly higher percentage of suicides, are less educated, die younger, have significantly fewer parental rights……and yet….dont challenge feminism ! The sarcastic attitude inherent in this article should give you a clue….the feminists are nervous.

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