- Masculinities in Higher Education: Theoretical and Practical Considerations ed. by Jason A. Laker and Tracy Davis
Masculinities in Higher Education: Theoretical and Practical Considerations is part of an emerging literature in college student affairs that focuses on male college students as men. The editors note two ways in which the book is largely inspired by growing concern about the gender gap in college: first, women are outpacing men in both college enrollment and completion and second, many published [End Page 119] treatments of gender as a context for college student development have largely focused on women. In turn, institutional reluctance to "see" men as gendered beings is connected to a number of postsecondary outcomes, including the oppressive work of patriarchy. The publication of this book is overdue, given a well-established body of manhood literature in the 1980s (Brod, 1987; Pleck, 1981; Pleck & Pleck, 1980; Staples, 1982) as well as additional treatments of colleges as sites to study male identity constructions (Dancy, 2010, 2011b, 2011c; Komarovsky, 1976; Syrett, 2009; Townsend, 1996). The Laker and Davis book frames itself more uniquely as a practical guide for college personnel who work specifically with college men. Furthermore, its aim is to proffer research, theoretical support, and effective developmental interventions.
Unfortunately, gender and multiple identities are often the subjects of incomplete analyses in research and scholarship. Bravely, some essays in Masculinities in Higher Education seek specifically to articulate the ways social dynamics of gender, both singularly and in relation to other identities, are changing and shape male experiences on college and university campuses. This is not an easy task. Additionally, other contributions evince a focusing lens on male college students or, to borrow the words of Marcus Weaver-Hightower (2003), "a boy turn" in research on gender and higher education. Each contribution necessarily begins with the observation that there is something about masculinity that challenges, and even troubles, colleges and universities. Importantly, essays also acknowledge the ways men's heterogeneity—or within-group differences—inform practice in higher education.
Masculinities in Higher Education is organized in three parts, which easily take readers through theoretical and historical perspectives, identity intersections with masculinities, and effective interventions with college men. The editors wisely note that the book is not a remedy for college men's ails. To be sure, how much and in what ways colleges need to invest in certain groups of men remains unclear at its end. However, the book's parts represent important beginning conversations for their espoused titles. Simultaneously, the contributions identify both organizational and identity complexities that require additional research, scholarship, and professional discourse.
The section on theoretical and historical perspectives focuses on frameworks for understanding men as gendered beings. Its challenge is ultimately to carve a place for itself within the space that has been largely occupied by the Kimmel and Messner (2007) anthology, Men's Lives, which devotes considerable time to frameworks for understanding men in college and beyond. Noted men's scholar and sociologist Michael Kimmel and Tracy Davis open this section with conceptual frames of men and how masculinity intersects with systems of oppression. [End Page 120] Their chapter, though brief, catalogues male behaviors as largely adapted from Kimmel's (2008) Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. The next essay by James O'Neil and Bryce Casper is offered as a call to action for readers— namely, to address the scarcity of college programming focused on men—that is informed by a historical assessment of campus programs as well as a review of assumptions about men that trouble contemporary programmatic efforts. At the outset, the contribution by Frank Harris, III, and Ryan P. Barone brings to mind the conceptual parameters of masculinity explored in the first chapter. The authors then shift their focus to disrupting myths about college men by advocating study of this group that utilizes frameworks that center social justice and challenge assumptions that all men are disengaged and act oppressively. The section closes with Jason Laker's chapter, which offers content...