Imagine how productive an academic discipline purporting to study and advocate the well-being of Blacks would be if it were staffed almost entirely by White nationalists.
Now replace “White nationalist” with “feminist” and “Blacks” with “men” and you’ll have the core reason why Men’s Studies programs, which emerged in the 1970s and are staffed primarily by feminists, are failing.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article  about the declining influence of Men’s Studies. Tom Bartlett, the author, doesn’t interview any men’s and boys’ advocates who are actually trying to go out into the world and create change, but he interviews numerous Men’s Studies professors and supporters. Here’s how it starts off:
A dozen or so men – and one woman – bemoaned the state of men’s studies on an appropriately gray, damp day here. One complained about the “lack of space to interrogate masculinity” on the American college campus.
Yeah, right: there is an incredible lack of criticism of men and masculinity on college campuses.
I suppose that when the 88 Duke professors who, speaking for five academic departments and 10 academic programs, publicly signed a letter taking the side of a false rape accuser based on nothing but her word, when they took their prejudices into the classroom and exploited the occasion to impose narratives of the evils of men on their own students , that this was evidence of a “lack of space to interrogate masculinity”?
I suppose, when the entire campus was converted into an anti-male hatefest and students paraded around a banner reading “castrate” that this was also evidence of a “lack of space to interrogate masculinity”?
I suppose thousands of Women’s Studies departments, “date rape” campaigns, and feminist sociology, psychology, English, and other humanities professors who all point to the original sin of men and masculinity (“patriarchy”) as the chief cause of all the problems in the world isn’t good enough “interrogation”?
A “lack of space to interrogate masculinity”? How much more space do you need? If you’d like to learn more about anti-male bias in higher education, read these posts for a start, and then these for more. These contain things you will never see recognized or discussed by the “Men’s Studies” crowd.
The word interrogate is not one that particularly strikes me as embodying empathy. Let’s ask some questions that Men’s Studies professors are not likely to ask one another any time soon: do you think that “interrogating Blacks and Blackness” is what goes on in African-American Studies? Do you think that “interrogating women and femininity” is what goes on in Women’s / Gender Studies?
No, of course not. But let us continue with the Chronicle article:
Even though the association [the American Men’s Studies Association] has been around for 22 years, and even though men’s studies dates back to at least the 1970s, outsiders still tend to greet it with derision or disbelief. Why study men? As the joke goes, we already have men’s studies: it’s called history.
Yes, history studies men—men who do the same narrow things and live out the same narrow roles over and over. Men who work 60+ hours a week as the primary breadwinner, but not men who are stay-at-home dads. Men who are taught to sacrifice their lives in the workplace and in war for their families, tribes, and countries, but not men who reject those social expectations and say—in their own way—“my body, my choice.”
Pointing to stories of war and business written by men to argue that men have always had a voice is like pointing to books on cooking and relationships written by women to argue that women have always had a voice. Why have Women’s Studies? Aren’t all those Betty Crocker cookbooks and “Dear Abby” advice columns enough?
But why doesn’t Men’s Studies have room for the concept of men’s rights? After all, Women’s Studies certainly has room for women’s rights. Why are phrases like “I support the equal human rights of men and boys” hard phrases for many of these professors to swallow?
I wonder …
If by “insufficiently pro-men” you mean that feminism far too often trivializes and denies the humanity of men and boys, promotes sexist double standards that pedestalize and privilege women, and is rife with anti-male hatred, then yes. The inability of Men’s Studies to come to terms with that and discuss it is a significant factor in its irrelevance.
You see, folks, there is an unspoken rule that most feminists (and unfortunately many academics) live by, and that is this: so long as you are a feminist you can say and do whatever sexist and hateful things you want. Not only will you not be punished for it, you will often be rewarded. The label of “feminist” grants you political immunity from criticism for holding any kind of double standard that would immediately railroad you out of academia if you dared apply a similar double standard against women.
“Men’s Studies” atrophies and withers because it just isn’t rigorous as a discipline. And it’s not rigorous because the people running it don’t have the moral or intellectual courage to ask the hard, dynamic, and at times explosive questions that create real discussion.
Questions that explore alternative worldviews outside of the myopic feminist dogma of “patriarchy.” Questions that take the concept of misandry and male powerlessness seriously. Questions that hold women as well as men (rather than just men) responsible for sexist attitudes.
Questions about the lack of parental rights for fathers in family courts. Questions about the experiences of those falsely accused of rape. Questions about the educational decline of men and boys. Questions about men as victims of unilateral domestic violence, the prevalent “I can hit you with impunity because I’m a girl” attitude many women seem to have today, and society’s general acceptance of those violent attitudes.
These are mere samples of a wide array of questions the Men’s Studies community could be asking. But they aren’t. So what are they talking about? What, in their worldview, is so much more important?
Hmm, male violence against women. That sounds like a Women’s Studies topic, doesn’t it? Again, we are back to the primary goal being to “interrogate” men and masculinity, and little to nothing else.
Why pay twice for the same thing? Would you pay twice for the house you are living in? Twice for college tuition? Why pay for Men’s Studies when at its core it is an ideological copy & paste of Women’s Studies?
And why wouldn’t you want to allow people to question feminism at some point? Does being against feminism mean you are somehow against equality? Many people in academia seem to think so, much in the same way people used to think that Protestants who were against the corruption of the medieval Catholic Church were “heretics.”
Nowadays we understand that no singular denomination (or religion) has a monopoly on the concept of god. Much of academia is still in the intellectual dark ages, however, when it comes to whether ideological denominations have a monopoly on the concept of equality.
You could of course attempt some historical revisionism and argue that the Men’s Human Rights Movement is an evil movement that has caused Men’s Studies to fail via guilt by association, but then you’d have to somehow sidestep the fact that Men’s Studies originated in the 1970s and the MHRM as it is currently known came about around 2000 with the publication of The Myth of Male Power (among other key books published in the last ~20 years) and the subsequent explosion of discussion of these ideas in online communities.
The Chronicle article continues to describe Men’s Studies:
If you’re eager to learn something about the inverse relationship between cortisol and testosterone, or about gender differences in episodic memory, you should look elsewhere. If you want a genuinely interesting analysis of male chastity in the Twilight series of books and how that compares with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, you’ve come to the right place.Jonathan A. Allan argued that cultural theorists underemphasize the importance of the male backside and that society needs to set aside its shame and accept the symbolic richness of our hindquarters. “I believe the ass is more important than we admit,” Mr. Allan said, in a witty presentation. “The anus is full of meaning.”
Veteran readers may remember that I wrote a post about Jonathan Allan 15 days after this website was launched. He is one of the many who argue that when a man and woman are both drunk and have sex that the man should be assumed to be a rapist. He also teaches classes on Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s a sample of some of his papers and presentations:
- Reading from Behind: Anal Eroticism in Delmira Agustini’s El Intruso
- Isn’t that enough? On Love in the Twilight Saga
- Purely Monstrous, Monstrously Virginal: Considering Purity, Abstinence, and Male Virginity in the Twilight Saga
- Anal Mythologies
- Reading from Behind: Fisting-as-écriture, anal eroticism, and Delmira Agustini’s El Intruso.
As I said before, if it is an increasingly common saying among education reporters that college is the new high school, why does it sometimes seem like graduate school is the new middle school?
To be fair, as Tom Bartlett says, Men’s Studies isn’t staffed entirely by feminists. There are a few leftovers from the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement of the late 1900s. But this was never really a “movement” per se to begin with; while it stressed the importance of men’s feelings, it never (to my knowledge) asked any of the questions I listed earlier in this post.
It is true that profeminist Dr. Michael Kimmel has recently opened up a “Center for the Study on Men and Masculinities” at SUNY Stony Brook, the board of which is staffed almost entirely (if not exclusively) by feminists such as Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. And it is also true that the new president of the profeminist American Men’s Studies Association has mentioned that she wants to “reach a wider audience.” So there are some “changes” in the world of Men’s Studies.
But the general trend for Men’s Studies appears to be downward. There is no evidence that the ideological core of the community will be any different next year than it was last year, and its veteran supporters are wondering what will become of its future.
My father once told me that if you put icing on a shit cake, it’s still a shit cake. If you want something better, you don’t try to “improve” the cake by putting new icing on it. You don’t try to re-bake the batter. You don’t ask other chefs whether they would bake their shit cake at 325 degrees instead of 350.
Instead, you start from scratch. You work from a new recipe. You question the credentials of the chefs who thought it would be a good idea to cook such a cake to begin with. And if your chefs aren’t willing or able to do that, you bring in new cooks.
Men’s Studies in its current incarnation is failing. In the long run, that is a good thing because it brings us one step closer to cooking from scratch.
A Voice for Male Students aims to create a community of writers on men’s and boys’ education issues. If you would like to submit a guest post to be published here, please read
 See a PDF of the article here.
 For a detailed account of this, read Until Proven Innocent by Dr. KC Johnson.