Meet the New Kid on the Block: Male Studies

Men’s studies, one of the newest academic disciplines, now has some competition. Get ready for …. male studies?

According to Rutgers University professor Lionel Tiger, who cochaired with anti-feminist author Christian Hoff Sommers a symposium at Wagner College in New York to announce the creation of the Foundation for Male Studies, male studies bases its ideas on “the notion that male and female organisms really are different.” Unlike men’s studies, male studies focuses on the experience of being male without concern for feminist theory. In fact, feminism appears to be on the male studies hit list. Tiger calls feminism “a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon.”

One of the supporters of the symposium, Men’s News Daily, is ready for the leap to male studies. Editor-in-Chief Paul Elam notes that the April 7 conference was “underscored by the sound of academicians citing the horrific results of feminist ideologues being in charge of university programs and the research they produce; and of those same ideologues having sway over university policies that affect young men.”

On that same website, Stephen Jarosek writes that that new discipline “provides the opportunity to establish a rigorous, innovative and interdisciplinary approach that is no longer hobbled by the agenda of the left.”

Elam and Jarosek might be more credible if they didn’t insist that the hard-won results of feminism are based on modern-day chivalry. Jarosek writes that women didn’t fight to earn their right to equal treatment under the law but that the Violence Against Women Act is equivalent to “the traditional obligation requiring men to protect their women-folk” and that affirmative action is “men offering up their workplace seats to ladies in the work environment.” He laments that “where old-fashioned chivalry conditioned men to treat women with respect, today’s anti-harassment laws and VAWA legislate for men to continue treating women with respect.”

What Jarosek and men like him don’t want to admit is that if men actually did behave in the way he describes, there would be no need for legislation. Of course this is a guy who believes a woman took his job, that it was his “workplace seat” to offer up in the first place.

Male studies is just one more attempt to mourn the fate of the American Male, Endangered Species. With each economic downturn or advance women make, the outcry gets louder. And while some academics may play to the current right wing zeitgeist and win a few supporters, they shouldn’t start tolling the bell for feminism quite yet. Its death has been pronounced one too many times for anyone to take such a proclamation seriously any time soon.

Photograph by Diana Blackwell // CC 2.0.


Carmen Siering, Ph.D., a visiting professor in the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University, is a researcher and writer interested in the ways pop culture influences our understanding of gender, race, age, place, and class.