Few college press releases have web notoriety like the one released in May on Stony Brook University’s new Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. Already, the internet is stacked with articles, comments and online petitions decrying the new center.

Some authors were women. Most of them were men.

Kimmel says the new center will differ from the Women's and Gender Studies program. PHOTO CREDIT: SBU
Kimmel says the new center will differ from the Women’s and Gender Studies program. PHOTO CREDIT: SBU

Financed by a $300,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the fledgling center is meant to promote the study of men and the male gender through academic research and publications. Led by Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook and bestselling author of “Guyland, The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men,” it is to be established by a 2015 international conference—followed by the world’s first Master of Arts program in the study of men and masculinities by 2017.

The center and the program will be under the aegis of SBU’s sociology department.

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There are no plans, however, to consolidate Men and Masculinities studies into the graduate level Gender Studies program like the Women’s Studies department. Even if he uses “feminist theory and queer theory to understand the experience of men and masculinity” in his work, Kimmel maintains that the center, and the program, will stand apart from the current Women’s and Gender studies program at Stony Brook.

“All over the world there are people who are engaging men in gender equality,” said Kimmel in a phone interview. “The vision of the center is to bring together activists who are engaged in projects all over the world to engaging men with academic research with this issue.”

It would certainly explain the center’s current advisory board. Rife with political activists, big names like Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Carol Gilligan and Eve Ensler—four very prominent American feminists—it seems to jump out of the press release like a big, angry question mark.

With the critics, at least.

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“Keep in mind, please, that this is a Center supposedly devoted to the study of men, not women,” said Bruce Bawer in his article “A Joke of a Men’s Studies Center,” published in Front Page Magazine. “Can you imagine a university press release in this day and age announcing the establishment of a new Women’s Studies Center and including more men’s names than women’s? Me neither.”

It is not the emergence of men’s studies that Bawer, a Stony Brook alumnus and author of “The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind”, argues against, despite what his book title may say. Rather, it is the “unbalanced” advisory board that he and Newsday columnist Cathy Young see as a problem for men’s studies, rather than an asset.

“The study of men and masculinities’ as conceptualized by Kimmel and his like-minded colleagues is, at bottom, an academic vehicle for a political attack on ‘white male privilege’,” said Young. “This is undoubtedly the brand of ‘men’s studies’ that Stony Brook’s new Center will promote.”

Though the center has yet to hold any of its promised seminars and conferences, nor has it had the chance to present research funded by the MacArthur Foundation, Bawer, Young and many other netizens base their opinions off of Kimmel’s own work and reputation. As an academic looking at men’s studies through feminist theory, he has experience butting heads with so-called men’s rights activists.

“[Men’s studies] is about fostering and nurturing serious research within the context of gender studies,” Kimmel said in response to criticisms aimed at the center.  “To my mind, these critiques by the MRAs are inevitable. They spend a lot of time trolling the internet and yelling at people. That’s not serious research.”

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Using highly recognizable feminists as advisors was key to banishing misconceptions of what the new center is meant for. Others, however, contend that such actions belie the true academic nature of male gender studies.

A petition started by an anonymous dissenter circulated forums and messageboards, with posters urging members to sign. “No womens’ [sic] programs of any kind permit male dominance of any type on their advisory boards, nor do they select men with a track record of antagonism toward and mockery of women and womens’ issues,” it said.

“We, the undersigned, urge the administration at Stony Brook University to create a more balanced advisory board for its new mens program, one that consists of five men and five women.”

Outside of the message boards though, students see this as a non-issue.

“I see the issue some people can have with it, but in all honestly, it doesn’t really create an issue for me,” said Ariel Kodis. “Isn’t the program advisor for the women’s studies program a man?”

Kodis, a senior sociology major at Stony Brook University, says the idea of having feminists on the advisory board of a men’s studies center is a positive gesture rather than the frightening one so many seems to find it.

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“Just because some of the members are feminists does not mean that they don’t have valuable ideas to contribute to the program,” Kodis said. “If anything, I feel like it would have a mostly positive effect looking at the study of men and masculinities through different perspectives.”

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12 comments

  1. The issue isn’t the number of women running the men’s issues program. The issue is that whether male like Kimmel or Female like Ensler, they are all man-haters who use phrases like “toxic masculinity.” It’s like having a day care staffed by pedophiles.

  2. Each of my encounters with men like Kimmell causes me to flash on the BF of Robin Wright Penn’s character in “Forrest Gump”. They’re always arrogant little POS who badly need a beating or twelve.

  3. The foundation for male studies has been trying to get a science based male studies program off the ground for years. The fact it wasn’t until feminist Kimmel offered to ensure the feminist ideological lens would be how the male gender would be viewed through, that feminists jumped on board. That should say something. http://www.malestudies.org/

    “Using highly recognizable feminists as advisors was key to banishing misconceptions of what the new center is meant for. ”

    Why was this required? Why was feminist legitimacy required in order to banish “misconceptions”? Why is a men’s center only allowed if it’s feminist approved? (and to head off any arguments, I direct you to Simon Fraser University as an example of a non-“approved” center getting opposition) How will this ideological monopoly affect any research that shows feminism itself has caused problems for men? Will it be buried, will it even be acknowledged as a possibility? Will such a program be open to examining men’s issues that affect men, or will it continue on the path Kimmel has already started on, in deeming the only “issues” of men that need consideration is the negative ways in which men hurt women?

    ““Isn’t the program advisor for the women’s studies program a man?””

    I notice you didn’t provide any answers to this question. Is the program adviser for women’s studies a man? Is there only one program adviser? Are any of the women’s studies program advizer(s) NOT feminists?

    ““Just because some of the members are feminists”

    Are there any that are NOT feminists?

    ” I feel like it would have a mostly positive effect looking at the study of men and masculinities through different perspectives.”

    And precisely what other perspectives are allowed, other than feminist? The feminist perspective is the only one that is allowed… there are no different perspectives, only feminist.

    Men’s rights have gotten a lot of traction on the internet. This men’s center is simply a ploy to co-opt the movement back into feminist control. The feminist opposition to male studies demonstrates that clear enough.

  4. Well, let’s see. Several of the most famously man-hating (or, ‘masculinity redefining’ if you prefer) Feminists, and one of the most avowed misandric male feminist authors, setting up a ‘male studies’ program. And note, men themselves are OUTRAGED that this would even be considered. Yet somehow I get the feeling this journalist agrees…that men don’t know any better, and the reason men object is because we’re not ‘enlightened’.

    Consider, for a moment, the fact that Kimmel is here quoted as admitting to a chronically vitriolic relationship with those people who have taken the issues men face so seriously, they have independently decided to try and do something about it. Literally, Kimmel is in opposition to those who MOST care about men. Sure, he paints it as an ‘abusers lobby’ or somesuch often enough, but it cannot be denied, the MRM is the voice of men so many journalists contend does not exist.

    And these people hate us. They want to ‘redefine masculinity’, they have no interest in helping men. They want to make men more comfortable in their new, second-class citizen role, they are not interested in men having equal legal rights to women. Asking men to attend this course is identical in nearly every way to asking a Jew to attend classes extolling National Socialism.

    These ideologues are man haters. Many of them extoll the virtues of the most Radical of Feminists, and none of them, not a single one of them, has ANY interest in helping men do anything but learn to accept their new role as serf.

  5. I had a chance encounter with Michael Kimmel a few years ago and he was by far the most arrogant and self-righteous individual I’ve ever met.

  6. isn’t the point of women’s studies to highlight the accomplishments and success of women but also more than that. You can’t really go about saying it is hypocrisy when society is highlighted in the “men’s sense” and pov. There isn’t really any point in having this established because men hold such a heavy emphasis on most things in society.

  7. Actually it will be excellent :DD it will beautifully expose feminism for the intellectual garbage and hypocrisy it is when you compare the syllabi of “men’s” and women’s studies.

  8. I object to the idea of allowing avowed feminists onto the board of a social studies program for a single reason. I do not agree that the feminists have or can supply evidence enough to validate their key philosophical argument in “Patriarchy theory”. The assertion they make has a veneer of plausibility only by ignoring the very problems and strife this program should be seeking to unearth for the public and social sciences.
    To place people who have foundationally negative views towards the role of men is social history smacks of allowing atheists onto religious quorums, jews into neo-nazi camps, or blacks into klan leadership. Which is to say counterproductive at best and actively destructive at worst.
    I hope to be pleasantly surprised in the coming years by this board and have to eat my words. Humble pie tastes best with surprise victory.

  9. “he has experience butting heads with so-called men’s rights activists.”

    Why are they “so called” men’s rights activist? Considering these are the words of a journalist I don’t think they were objective.

    It’s appalling that we create a masculine studies backed by the ideas of women whose careers revolved around advancing bigoted negative stereotypes about men. The man hating feminism is a real thing and it’s time we acknowledge it. I would not have Klan members on the board of a black studies department and I wouldn’t have rabid feminist on the board of a men’s studies department. To the extent feminist ideas are integrated it should not be under the kind of abusive bullying we’ve seen feminist use in the past to get their way.

    The society is struggling to be respectful of men in a post feminist world. We’ve over generations conditioned men and women to tolerate hatred towards men and turning the page on that requires we think outside the box which means outside of feminism.

  10. One of the things a male studies course can do is challenge the current gender-feminist definitions of “patriarchy and matriarchy”. For example, if 85% of repeat violent offenders currently in American prisons come from the segment of society who grew up with no fathers in the household, how is it that “Violence is patriarchy”??
    It seems to me from the statistics that “Violence is the absence of patriarchy”.

  11. Sounds like a center for feminist political activism and to teach men that they are privileged patriarchs and just like Kimmel’s past writings, men are bad.

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