The Politics of Contemporary Masculinities
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
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A collection of essays, both new and old, often causes nostalgic moments, putting an author in a reflective frame of mind—recalling the occasions for which some essays were written, or the historical events that spurred them, or the seeming urgency of the political moment to which they responded. Even the new ones are freeze-frames, individual snapshots of a moving political target....
Introduction: Misframing Men
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This past decade has witnessed an extraordinary transformation in men’s lives. For decades, wave after wave of the women’s movement, a movement that reshaped every aspect of American life, produced nary a ripple among men. But suddenly men are in the spotlight. Yet the public discussions often seem strained, silly, and sometimes flat out wrong. The spotlight itself seems to obscure as much as it illuminates...
PART ONE: Reframings
1. Has “A Man’s World” Become “A Woman’s Nation”?: Men's Responses to Women's Increased Equality in the Twenty-first Century
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"This is a man’s world,” sang James Brown in 1964, with a voice both defiantly assertive and painfully anguished. He starts off proudly, with a litany of men’s accomplishments: men made the cars, the trains, the electric lights, and the boats that carried the loads and took us out of the dark. Men even made the toys that children play with. But lest he encourage a bit of smug self-satisfaction,...
2. The Children’s Hour: Masculine Redemption in Contemporary Film
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During her reign as resident feminist on the op-ed page of the New York Times, Anna Quindlen once asked her women readers which man they’d prefer for a mate: a short, thin, reedy man, careful, committed, and chivalrous, always sexually faithful; or a dark, roguishly handsome self-interested scoundrel, who would never be faithful. Readers, of course, chose the former (though when the ques-...
3. Reconciliation, Appropriation, Inspiration, and Conversation: Four Strategies of Racial Healing among White Men
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Racial inequality is one of America’s most persistent and pervasive social problems. Its effects have generally been examined by social scientists in terms of its institutional structure—the institutional and ideological apparatuses that create, legitimate, and reproduce inequality—and by social and behavioral scientists in terms of its corrosive effects on the identities of and relations among...
PART TWO: Reversals
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That’s pretty much how the sustained assault on women’s equality has gone over the past few decades. It’s interesting that every time women claim something for themselves, the backlash always insists that it’s actually about men. Thus anger at inequality becomes hating men. Being “for women” is equated with being anti-male. Such a sleight of hand is how gender inequality works: it’s always about us. Even when it’s not, even when it’s about something else...
4. Who Are the Real Male Bashers?
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Ask a group of college women these days if any among them is a feminist. No one will volunteer. The predictable litany then begins. “I like being a woman.” “I’m not a lesbian.” “I want to be attractive.” And, most telling, “I don’t hate men. Feminists are all male bashers...
5. A War against Boys?
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By now, you’ve probably heard there’s a “war against boys” in America. The latest heavily hyped right-wing fusillade against feminism, led by Christina Hoff Sommers’s book of that title, claims that men have become “the second sex”and that boys—not girls—are the ones who are in serious trouble, the “victims”of “misguided” feminist efforts to protect and promote girls’ development. At...
6. “Gender Symmetry” in Domestic Violence
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Domestic violence has emerged as one of the world’s most pressing problems. The United Nations estimates that between 20 percent and 50 percent of all women worldwide have experienced physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner or family member. In the United States, more than one million cases of “intimate partner violence” are reported to police each year, according...
PART THREE: Restorations
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In his book Columbine (2009), published on the tenth anniversary of that tragic day, journalist Dave Cullen jettisons a bird’s-eye view of that school shooting in favor of an extreme close-up psychological portrait of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. As in a pointillist painting, each dot of color is rendered in excruciating detail, as we read about Harris’s deep-seated psychopathologies and Klebold’s...
7. Profiling School Shooters and Shooters’ Schools: The Cultural Contexts of Aggrieved Entitlement and Restorative Masculinity
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In the aftermath of Seung-Hui Cho’s horrific massacre of thirty-two of his classmates and professors at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, pundits from all over the political spectrum weighed into the national grief and confusion over what could have led this young man to commit such a vicious, murderous act. When I watched the redacted portions of the enraged tirade that Cho left as...
8. Globalization and Its Mal(e)contents: Masculinity on the Extreme Right
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Globalization changes masculinities—reshaping the arena in which national and local masculinities are articulated, and transforming the shape of men’s lives. Globalization disrupts and reconfigures traditional, neocolonial, or other national, regional, or local economic, political, and cultural arrangements. In so doing, globalization transforms both domestic and public patriarchy (see...
9. Promise Keepers: Patriarchy's Second Coming as Masculine Renewal
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It is Shea Stadium in late September  after all, so a crowd of 35,000 men chanting, whooping, hollering, and high-fiving each other isn’t all that unusual. But the Mets attract barely half that number late in their woeful season. And there are no women in the stands. That is unusual. And besides, the Mets are on...
10. Saving the Males at VMI and Citadel
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It is still dark and the courtyard at the center of the barracks is as quiet as the surrounding foothills of the Shenandoah Valley, dark and frost-covered. The late October air is cold and crisp. Dressed in a suit and tie, I am huddling under a balcony for warmth. “What the hell am I doing here?” I ask myself. Suddenly, a siren goes off and a group of men start running along the top...
11. Janey Got Her Gun: A VMI Postscript
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Meet Erin Claunch. A high school honor student and cross-country runner from Round Hill, Virginia, Claunch enrolled at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1997 “to test my limits and see how far I can go.” A physics major, Claunch is preparing for a commission with the air force upon graduation, and she aspires to become an astronaut. She ranks fifteenth in her class of 298 and easily...
PART FOUR: Resistance
Everywhere there are signs of change. Young men today assume that they will be equally involved parents with their wives and partners, that they will share parenting responsibilities and even, perhaps, increase their share of housework. In U.S.workplaces, some men are getting used to—and even enjoying—the equal presenceof women. On campuses men are organizing around issues of gender equality,...
12. Who’s Afraid of Men Doing Feminism?
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Can men “do” feminism? Ought men to do it? What happens when they do?These are questions with which I am constantly confronted, in my pedagogy, and in both my public and private lives. Each year, I’m invited to give about twenty or more lectures at colleges and universities all over the country. Usually, the invitation comes from a coalition...
13. Profeminist Men: The "Other" Men's Movement
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Cory Sherb didn’t go to Duke to become a feminist. He was going to be a doctor, covering his bets with a double major in engineering and pre-med. But his experiences with both organic chemistry and feminist women conspired to lead this affable and earnest twenty-year-old Detroit native in a different direction. Now in his junior year, he still has a double major—Women’s Studies and French....
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About the Author
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MICHAEL KIMMEL is among the world’s leading researchers on men and masculinity, author of Manhood in America, Guyland, and The Gendered Society, among other books. He is the founding editor of the journal Men and Masculinities and various book series. He is a professor of sociology at SUNY Stony Brook, and lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.
Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010