“We have a mass shooter in the U.S. every few weeks. And every time it happens, we talk about guns. We talk about mental health. But we don’t talk about how all of these mass shooters are male.”
I know what you’re thinking – Isn’t all of History basically a study in masculinity? But this is an interesting little tidbit I stumbled across the other day. Stony Brook University professor Michael Kimmel is taking a long, hard look at masculinity. A reassessment is overdue and men could do with some introspection.
Kimmel’s work is a response to the discipline of Women’s Studies which has existed on college campuses since the 1970s. You might expect a man who has written several books on machismo to be motivated by some kind of grudge, but he was inspired by how women have taken control of our narrative.
A man in control of himself? Yes, please!
He doesn’t focus on the history of men’s achievements – we’re all well aware of those – Professor Kimmel digs into what it means to be a man. He has his students consider the conflicting information boys receive and how it shapes the adults they become. Professor Kimmel asks them to think critically about their ideas of manliness, which is exciting because of how absurdly revolutionary it is.
This guy is really working to get the word out, too. He is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. He is launching his first Masters-level program and hosting the first International Conference on Masculinities. As an indication of the inclination of this organization, Gloria Steinem was a speaker at the opening gala. At 67, Dr. Kimmel has studied his subject across the world but lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn.
Specifically, the Stony Brook classes introduce students to things like men’s penchant for risk and the influence of pop culture. Kimmel is building on a cross-disciplinary platform, hoping to open up discussion and broaden the definitions of manhood.
Speaking for myself, I think it’s downright cool. It’s encouraging to know that some men are interested in evaluating what they are doing. Women’s Studies has succeeded in raising the profile of women’s history and perspective. I hope ideas like this percolate right through the layers into the groundwater.