Untimely Observations

Male Studies?

Wagner College on Staten Island will be hosting a conference on the subject of "Male Studies" this Wednesday, April 7. To learn more and find out how to participate, visit:


Some of the reactions to the conference I've seen so far have been bitchy and dismissive. Others have expressed anger, disgust and even confusion that anyone would even take an interest in the success or failure of males. Some find the idea that males -- who they've been taught to regard only as cruel oppressors -- may be suffering or struggling to be laughable no matter what evidence is presented.

Many strains of feminist thought regard men as if they were physically malformed women who are afflicted with a pathological superiority complex, and who are in need of immediate treatment and re-education so that they can function more or less in the same fashion and capacity as proper "healthy" women. (Though women may mercifully allow their "cured" males to open jars and take out the garbage once in a while).

I have entirely different reservations about the academic study of males, most of them having to do with what I perceive to be the overwhelmingly leftist, feminist political climate of Western university systems. If those engaged in male studies have to open every lecture, paper or book with apologies and assurances to women that their endeavor is not a threat to the "gender neutral" society -- as has been the case with even the ballsiest male authors in the field -- I doubt much honest discourse or legitimate study will be occur.

John J. Miller at NRO also had some humorous concerns that echo some of my own. I wonder if any typical males with traditionally male interests will take these courses. Will this end up being another gender studies therapy collective catering to the usual bitter, broken and disaffected deconstructors of masculinity who want to figure out how we can get more males to aspire to careers in cosmetology and nursing?

I could be wrong. I'm at least interested to see what they come up with.

Lionel Tiger is involved, and he's worth listening to. I'd take a course on "male studies" taught by the guy who coined the term "male bonding" in 1969.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Joseph Notovitz -- who is involved with the promotion and organization of the conference -- to elaborate on where the idea for it came from, and what its organizers hope to achieve. He wrote:

The conference and concept was started by Dr. Edward Stephens, a psychiatrist, who has seen firsthand, through his male patients, the damage that a lack of gender understanding can create. He noticed that at universities there are thousands of courses on female studies - their psychology, biology, physiology, and behavior, but virtually none concerning the male. This he sees, is a great problem and its offspring includes a host of problems for the male - disproportionate job losses, suicides, incarceration, emotional problems and mental illness. It is exacerbated by the media, advertising and education, starting as early as kindergarten.

Despite the mountains of evidence supporting this, the understanding of how the male "ticks" is at an all-time low. Today, we can only see society's re-active approach - incarceration, a biased legal system against men and a palpable decline of the male as an individual.

Dr. Stephens' vision is to make more people understand why men act a certain way, and how their potential can be tapped to the fullest.

He envisions this April 7 symposium as the first step toward 1) introducing the need, 2) setting the stage for the Conference on Male Studies in October (where specific papers and courses will be presented) and 3) assembling a list of interested academics from colleges and universities worldwide further this cause - more male studies in higher education.

In addition, the new organization, The Foundation for Male Studies, will offer grants to colleges and universities for specific actions including adding courses, departments and department heads.