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NWSA Journal 15.1 (2003) 147-157



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Gender and Masculinity Texts:
Consensus and Concerns for Feminist Classrooms

Judith Kegan Gardiner


The Gendered Society by Michael S. Kimmel. New York: Oxford University Press, (1999) 2000, 336 pp., $30.00 hardcover, $25.95 paper.
Revisioning Gender edited by Myra Marx Ferree, Judith Lorber, and Beth B. Hess. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 1998, 536 pp., $85.00 hardcover, $34.95 paper.
Men and Masculinity: A Text Reader edited by Theodore F. Cohen. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2001, 512 pp., $42.95 paper.
The Gendered Society Reader edited by Michael S. Kimmel with Amy Aronson. New York: Oxford University Press, (1999) 2000, 416 pp., $50.00 hardcover, $24.95 paper.
Men's Lives edited by Michael S. Kimmel and Michael A. Messner. 5th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001, 557 pp., $42.00 paper.
Feminist Frontiers edited by Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier. 5th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2001, 592 pp., $43.44 paper.

As a feminist increasingly interested in masculinity studies, I've been thinking about how the turn to gender is shaping feminist scholarship and Women's Studies, looking at new gender textbooks that include more attention to masculinity, and considering how these texts advance or modify feminist interdisciplinary scholarship and agendas for social change. Several new books proclaim that they supersede earlier works of feminist scholarship by applying more complete and theoretically sophisticated understandings of the operations of gender in contemporary U.S. society. Here I discuss four new texts: Michael S. Kimmel's book The Gendered Society; the essay collection he edited with Amy Aronson, The Gendered Society Reader; a collection of essays entitled Revisioning Gender, edited by Myra Marx Ferree, Judith Lorber, and Beth B. Hess; and Theodore F. Cohen's edited Men and Masculinity: A Text Reader. I compare these new books with two textbook readers that have recently appeared in fifth editions, Kimmel and Michael A. Messner's Men's Lives, and Feminist Frontiers, edited by Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier. 1 Altogether, the five anthologies include 214 essays, some repeated from volume to volume, most published in the past fifteen years, and many newly written. [End Page 147]

I came to these texts with a number of questions. I wondered, for example, how congruent are the masculinity-based texts with Women's Studies approaches? How do they expand feminist approaches to gender inequality so that they include more discussion of men and masculinity, and how do they alter our understandings of gender difference, diversity, and hierarchy? How different are the agendas of even the most sympathetic men's studies texts from the approaches of Women's Studies? What happens to the feminist insistence on interdependencies among the categories of race, class, gender, and sexuality in these gender texts? What theoretical commitments and disciplinary allegiances underlie these approaches? What is lost or gained in the transition from Women's Studies to (masculinity-attentive) gender studies?

I discovered considerable consistency in all of these texts, which demonstrate a new consensus in gender studies based on feminist thought. They agree that gender is a hierarchical relationship that involves male dominance and female subordination in individuals, institutions, and ideological representations, rather than a set of complementary differences in individual personalities. Kimmel makes this case most forcefully: "I argue that gender difference—the assertion of two qualitatively different natures—is the result of gender inequality, not its cause. Gender inequality produces difference, and the differences produced are then used to justify gender inequality" (xi). These books do not treat gender as symmetrical but point out that masculinity involves men's domination of both women and other men, and therefore masculinity and femininity are organized according to differing cultural logics. So Patricia Yancey Martin and David L. Collinson, in Revisioning Gender, note that in the contemporary U.S. workplace, "doing femininity" involves "doing heterosexuality," but "doing masculinity" means "doing dominance" (Ferree, Lorber, and Hess 300). All the texts define gender as relational, with masculinity governing relationships among men as well as between men and women...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2151-7371
Print ISSN
2151-7363
Pages
pp. 147-157
Launched on MUSE
2003-04-22
Open Access
No
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