Men's studies

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Men's studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning men, masculinity, gender, culture, politics and sexuality. It academically examines what it means to be a man in contemporary society.[1]


Sociologists and psychologists in the Nordic countries such as Norwegians Erik Grønseth and Per Olav Tiller were early pioneers of men's studies as a research field; Grønseth and Tiller's classic study of father absence in sailor families and its impact on children's personality development in the 1950s is often regarded as the starting point of men's studies in the Nordic countries.[2]

In Anglophone countries, men's studies was formed largely in response to, and as a critique[citation needed] of, an emerging men's rights movement, and as such, has been taught in academic settings only since the 1970s.[3]

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 influences on the constructions of men. They often discuss the issues surrounding male privilege, seen as evolving into more subtle and covert forms rather than disappearing in the modern era.[citation needed]



Early men's studies scholars studied socially construction of masculinity,[4] which the Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell is best known for.

Connel introduced the concept of hegemonic masculinity, describing it as a practice that legitimizes men's dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of the common male population and women, and other marginalized ways of being a man. Being pervasive across societies,[5] it results in multiple masculinities[6], specifically a hierarchy of masculinities, in which some men do not experience the same privilege other men do, because of their other marginalized identities.[5] The concept has attracted several criticisms (see Hegemonic masculinity § Criticisms).

Michael Kimmel, an American sociologist and feminist specializing in gender studies, has written about manhood in America. According to Kimmel, masculinity began to be defined and reaffirmed around 19th century America. It involved proving one's masculine worth as well as providing for one's family, [7] and thereby also affected the political arena, workplace, family, and society at large.[8] Kimmel posits that the imbibing of masculinity happens to young boys at home, at school and when watching adults interact.[7] Kimmel described the term ‘toxic masculinity’ as the male-enacted cultural norms that are harmful to men and society, because it encourages negative behaviors related to dominance, aggression and sexuality.[8]

Cultural expectations[edit]

The cultural expectations of boys and men to be tough, stoic, aggressive and unemotional are harmful to men's development because it does not let them experience the true range of human emotions, increased levels of anger and depression and can even result in a shortened life expectancy.[9]


Studying the relation between masculinity and male sexual shame revealed that greater endorsement of traditionally masculine values was associated with increased sexual shame, and which in turn is predictive of depression.[10]


Men's studies scholars have studied aspects of men's health and illness[11] such as premature death[12], coronary heart disease.[13]

Work and care[edit]

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.[14]


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.[3] Conferences such as the Men and Masculinity conferences sparked the creation of newsletters and journals, such as the Men's Studies Newsletter (and its successor, Men’s Studies Review),[15] 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.[3]

When NOCM changed its name to the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS),[16] 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), although the NOMAS would not let AMSA become its own self-governing entity, which led to clashes in ideologies between the two groups.[3]


The international journal New Male Studies[17] was created by a group of Australian, Canadian, European and American scholars, who work together to publish research essays, opinion pieces, and book reviews on all aspects of the male experience.[18]

Men and Masculinities, a quarterly academic journal, is co-edited by Kristen Barber, Tristan Bridges, and Joseph D. Nelson.

Feminist criticism[edit]

The field of men's studies has received criticism due to its separative nature from the rest of gender studies.

Some feminists view men's studies only as taking away potential limited funding dedicated for women's studies.[3] 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".[19] In 1989 Joyce E. Canaan and Christine Griffin described their suspicions of The New Men's Studies (TNMS), saying "Is it a coincidence that TNMS is being constructed in the present context as a source of potential research, publishing deals, and (even more) jobs for the already-well-paid boys holding prestigious positions?"[20] Researchers in transgender studies, including Jack Halberstam, have also questioned the relationship between male biology and gender identity within masculinity studies.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Brod, Harry. (1987). The Making of Masculinities: the new mens studies. Boston, MA: Allen & Unwin, Inc. ISBN 9781315738505.
  • Connell, R.W. (2005). Masculinities (2nd ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-74-563426-5.
  • Connell, R. W.; Messerschmidt, James W. (2005). "Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the concept". Gender & Society. 19 (6): 829–859. doi:10.1177/0891243205278639.
  • Kimmel, Michael. (1995). The Politics of Manhood: profeminist men respond to the mythopoetic men's movement (and the mythopoetic leaders answer) . Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1995. ISBN 1566393655.
  • Messner, Michael A. (1997). Politics of masculinities : men in movements. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. ISBN 0803955766.


  1. ^ Bennett, Jessica (August 8, 2015). "A master's degree in...masculinity?". New York Times.
  2. ^ "Mannsforskning". Store norske leksikon. 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Doyle, James. A; Femiano, Sam (January 2013). "A history of the Men's Studies Press and its Association with the American Men's Studies Association". The Journal of Men's Studies. 21 (1): 24–33. doi:10.3149/jms.2101.24.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
    • See also:
  4. ^ Brod, Harry (1987). The making of masculinities : the new men's studies. Allen & Unwin, Inc. ISBN 9781138828339. OCLC 951132208.
  5. ^ a b Connell, R. W.; Messerschmidt, James W. (2005). "Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the concept". Gender & Society. 19 (6): 829–859. doi:10.1177/0891243205278639. ISSN 0891-2432.
  6. ^ Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. ISBN 9780745614694.
  7. ^ a b Kimmel, Michael (2006). Manhood in America: A Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ a b Kimmel, Michael, ed. (1995). The politics of manhood. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 9781566393652.
  9. ^ Kupers, Terry A. (2005). "Toxic masculinity as a barrier to mental health treatment in prison". Journal of Clinical Psychology. 61 (6): 713–724. doi:10.1002/jclp.20105. ISSN 0021-9762. PMID 15732090.
  10. ^ Gordon, Aqualus (2019-07-01). "Male sexual shame, masculinity, and mental health". New Male Studies. 8 (1): 1–24.
  11. ^ Sabo, Donald; Gordon, David Frederick (1995), "Rethinking Men's Health and Illness: The Relevance of Gender Studies", Men's Health and Illness: Gender, Power, and the Body, SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 2–21, doi:10.4135/9781452243757.n1, ISBN 9780803952751
  12. ^ Stillion, Judith M. (1995), "Premature Death among Males: Extending the Bottom Line of Men's Health", Men's Health and Illness: Gender, Power, and the Body, SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 46–67, doi:10.4135/9781452243757.n3, ISBN 9780803952751, retrieved 2020-02-02
  13. ^ Helgeson, Vicki S. (1995), "Masculinity, Men's Roles, and Coronary Heart Disease", Men's Health and Illness: Gender, Power, and the Body, SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 68–104, doi:10.4135/9781452243757.n4, ISBN 9780803952751, retrieved 2020-02-02
  14. ^ Bjørnholt, Margunn (May 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.
  15. ^ Men's Studies Review (journal). Harriman, Tennessee: American Men's Studies Association (AMSA). ISSN 0890-9741. LCCN 93648850.
  16. ^ "Home page". National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS).
  17. ^ "New Male Studies". Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  18. ^ "Editorial Policies | New Male Studies". Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  19. ^ Laurie, Timothy; Hickey-Moody, Anna (2015). "Geophilosophies of masculinity: remapping gender, aesthetics and knowledge". Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities. 20 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1080/0969725X.2015.1017359. hdl:10453/44702.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) Pdf.
  20. ^ Canaan, Joyce E.; Griffin, Christine (1990). "The new men's studies: part of the problem or part of the solution". In Morgan, D. H. J.; Hearn, Jeff (eds.). Men, masculinities & social theory. London Boston: Unwin Hyman. p. 208. ISBN 9780044456582.
    Originally published as: Canaan, Joyce E.; Griffin, Christine (1985). "The new men's studies: part of the problem or part of the solution". Network (newsletter). 43: 7–8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)