Thursday, July 7, 2011

Masculinity studies – an overview

Recent decades have brought about an increased interest in masculinity studies. Bordering on the gender debate and the relations between men and women, masculinity studies examines such issues as the incompatibility of the "classic man" with the challenges of modern times, the discussion of the "new man" and its message to the world and issues of masculinity and other social categories such as class, race, ethnicity and nationality.

The academic field of masculinity studies originated from the field of gender and women's studies, but has taken on its own trajectories. Still, the influence of gender and feminist theories is vividly felt in writings in masculinity studies.  

The first wave of masculinity studies emerged during the 1970's and was influenced by the initial activity of the men's liberation movements. Male activists were exposed during this period to the notion of second wave feminism and the call for women's solidarity. These activists felt that masculinity was suffering a crisis and that a new consciousness should be promoted. They were joined by therapists and social workers that focused on dealing with the challenges of masculinity, especially middle-class masculinity. They formed personal growth groups in which men could express their hardships as men. In the academia researchers attempted to identify the pressures employed on young men to meet the standards of masculinity. Their main argument was that men, and not only women, pay a price for the gender conventions of society.

The second wave of masculinity studies began to form following third wave feminism during the late 1980's. This wave of masculinity studies focused on the experience of marginal and minority men and was interested in class, ethnicity, sexual identity and so forth. This type of masculinity studies tended to view masculinity as a social construction and to point to its cultural and ideological functions. For an example of second wave masculinity studies see R.W. Connell's Masculinities.  
for further reading see:
Masculinities in Theory: An Introduction

The Masculinity Studies Reader (KeyWorks in Cultural Studies)

Masculinity Studies and Feminist Theory