Men And Masculinities: Leveling Up With Michael Kimmel

Image - iStockphoto: Mateo_Pearson
Image – iStockphoto: Mateo_Pearson

‘To Engage Men In Gender Equality’

All over the world there are amazing projects to engage men around gender equality. These projects range from HIV-risk reduction, to reproductive health and rights, involved fatherhood, violence against women…these people are doing amazing work, it’s really inspiring. What I know about these projects is this: They don’t know about each other. And the other thing they don’t know is that there is a research base on which they could rely when they do their work.

“Activists” is Michael Kimmel’s term for the people he’s describing — serious, committed professionals, practitioners who need support as they labor in the deep field of day-to-day work with men. And he has help on the way to them, thanks to the formation of an unprecedented program, the new Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York.

I also know that there’s a new army of young scholars, academics, graduate students, who are desperate to make a difference. They don’t want their dissertations to sit on a shelf somewhere. And what I know about them is that they don’t know that these projects [in male engagement] are out there. So the idea of the Center is to bring together these activists on one hand and these scholars on the other, which happens very rarely.

It will happen in March. The 23-year-old American Men’s Studies Association(AMSA) this week is issuing its call for papers to be given in New York City at a special conference that will be staged by the organization in association with Stony Brook’s Center.

Stated themes of the conference are to include: boys’ development and education; involved fatherhood; balancing work and family life; men’s friendships; promoting men’s health and supporting women’s reproductive health and rights; the struggle to turn around men’s violence against women, sexual assault, and trafficking; engaging men in policies to promote gender equality in education, employment, social life, and the political arena.

Michael Kimmel
Michael Kimmel

And Kimmel — a prolific author, speaker, and leading authority as Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook — is very clear on what won’t be happening next spring in that conference.

“Typically, when activists and academics get together,” he says, “the academics tell the activists what they should be doing. I have been in too many of those kinds of conversations and they bore the hell out of me and I think they’re politically corrupt.”

Not this time.

Here’s what my Center is going to do: we’re going to say to the activists, “What do you need to know?” We are researchers, the most privileged people on Earth. We get to read and write about anything we want. And the work of the people on the ground is so important that we want to support them. We want to know, “What do you need that would make your work better, easier, more fund-able?” Our posture is one of service to those activists.

This approach is possible, in part, because the Center has been formed to do its work as a free-standing entity at Stony Brook. As opposed to? — a part of a women’s studies program. Yes, men’s studies frequently are taught in women’s studies departments, which is one very good reason you may never have known such programs were in place on many campuses.

University tradition, budgetary constraints, and curriculum logic frequently have positioned male studies in response or reaction to — at least in relation to — women’s studies. Don’t misunderstand, men’s studies are alive and well, in large part, thanks to supportive, welcoming women’s studies programs and other sociology department settings.The American Men’s Studies Association not only has many highly accomplished and influential female members but is also led by a woman president at the moment, the University of Michigan’s Daphne Watkins, who has followed the strong leadership of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Robert Heasley in the office.

Over time, though, the desire has grown among many in the field to see men’s studies programs gain more autonomy and visibility. Kimmel is just the man to deliver that.

And you get a sense for why his associates and colleagues enjoy him so much when you hear him describe how getting the seed funding to make the new Center a reality came about.

Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

Writing on the Ether: Men and Masculinities: Leveling Up With Michael Kimmel

Originally published by Thought Catalog at



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