Men's studies, often called men and masculinities in academic settings, is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning men, masculinity, feminism, gender, culture, politics and patriarchal power.

It draws upon feminist theory in order to analyze different ideologies having to do with masculinity,[1] examines the multiple masculinities contained in the idea of masculinity itself and analyzes how power is received and unevenly distributed through the patriarchy. Men's studies also academically examines what it means to be a man in contemporary society.[2] The concept of plural masculinities was proposed by R.W. Connell in her influential book Masculinities (1995);[3] thus the academic field is today often known as men and masculinities,[4] because there is more than one way to understand being a man.

Connell's work on masculinity came from a need to redefine masculinity from a monolithic, pre-determined by biology characteristic, to a particular process of gender configuration imbued with power within a larger gender framework.[3]


Sociologists and psychologists in the Nordic countries such as Norwegians Erik Grønseth and Per Olav Tiller were early pioneers of men's studies as a research field; Grønseth and Tiller's classic study of father absence in sailor families and its impact on children's personality development in the 1950s is often regarded as the starting point of men's studies in the Nordic countries.[5]

In Anglophone countries, men's studies was formed largely in response to, and as a critique of, an emerging men's rights movement, and as such, has been taught in academic settings only since the 1970s.[6] Men's studies grew out of feminist theory and research on gender relations and unequal distributions of power, but now in many universities, men's studies is a correlation to women's studies or part of a larger gender studies program, and as such its faculty tends to be sympathetic to, or engaged in, advocacy of feminist politics. Men's studies works with feminist studies to question the relationship that men have with patriarchal power throughout different temporal and historical times.[7] There was a need within the broader field of feminism to understand how the power of masculinity is derived from the patriarchy, which seeks to define and govern all genders, not just women as previously believed by some feminists.[7]

In contrast to the discipline of masculine psychology, men's studies programs and courses often include contemporary discussions of men's rights, feminist theory, queer theory, matriarchy, patriarchy, and more generally, what proponents describe as the social, historical, and cultural influences on the constructions of men. They often discuss the issues surrounding male privilege, seen as evolving into more subtle and covert forms rather than disappearing in the modern era.

Construction of masculinityEdit

Early men's studies scholars wanted to bring to public attention how societies' current definition of masculinity is not fixed or tied to biology, but rather molded by cultural values, ideologies, the media and other norms.[8]

Hegemonic masculinity is the "practice that allowed men's dominance over women to continue",[9] or the stereotypical definition of masculinity that many think of initially. It does not have to be enacted by the majority of men and is the norm held by society to which each man is compared. R. W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt have stated that hegemonic masculinity is so successful at being pervasive across societies because it is so difficult to achieve and maintain and shifts with geography and time.[10] Helena Gurfinkle has stated that the construction of masculinity is understood intersectionally, by looking at the historical, cultural, temporal, political, and psychological ways in which the definition of masculinity is created.[7] This in turn results in multiple masculinities because of the various experiences that different histories, cultures, identities, and times produce. As hegemonic masculinity only leaves room for one narrow definition, the result is a hierarchy of masculinities, in which some men do not experience the same privilege other men do, because of their other marginalized identities.[10]

When pursuing masculinity studies, many scholars began explaining how masculinity is a social construction. Michael Kimmel, a prominent scholar in the field of masculinity studies, writes extensively on manhood and its definition. He does this starting in 19th century America, careful to remind that any conclusions drawn about masculinity are specific to geographical, cultural and temporal locations. Kimmel found that around this time is when masculinity began to be defined and reaffirmed through proving oneself as a man, like physical strength and providing for one's family.[11] As a result, the political arena, workplace, family, and whole world was changed.[12]

Dominant society was now paying more attention to the way that gender roles were influencing the way both men and women behaved. The term ‘toxic masculinity’ was coined during the mythopoetic men’s movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s[12], but did not gain popularity in the media until the last few years. Toxic masculinity is used to describe the cultural norms enacted by men that are both harmful to overall society and to individual men. They are seen as ‘toxic’ because they encourage negative behaviors such as hyperaggression, dominance, violence and sexual risk-taking. Kimmel and other theorists posit that the tenants of masculinity are taught to young boys through the family unit, at school and watching adults interact, both in real life and in the media.[11] The cultural expectations of boys and men to be tough, stoic, aggressive and unemotional are harmful to men’s development because it does not let them experience the true range of human emotions, increased levels of anger and depression and can even result in a shortened life expectancy.[13]


The American Men's Studies Association (AMSA) traces the roots of an organized field of men's studies to the early 1980s and the work of scholars involved in an anti-sexist organization called the Men's Studies Task Group (MSTG) of the National Organization for Changing Men (NOCM) which included Martin Acker, Shepherd Bliss, Harry Brod, Sam Femiano, Martin Fiebert, and Michael Messner. However, men's studies classes also pre-date NOCM, and a small number were taught in various colleges across the United States throughout the 1970s.[6] Conferences such as the Men and Masculinity conferences sparked the creation of newsletters and journals, such as the Men's Studies Newsletter (and its successor, Men’s Studies Review),[14] pertaining to the growing field of men's studies. These became prime resources for those interested in the field, providing news, bibliographies, and firsthand experiences. Following the newsletters and journals came the Men's Studies Press, thus moving the academic field of masculinity studies to books.[6]

When NOCM changed its name to the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS),[15] the MSTG became the Men's Studies Association (MSA). The MSA was an explicitly pro-feminist group, and those who felt this was too constraining split away several years later to form the American Men's Studies Association (AMSA), although the NOMAS would not let AMSA become its own self-governing entity, which led to clashes in ideologies between the two groups.[6]


A range of criticisms have been made of the separation between "men's studies" and "gender studies". Some feminists view men’s studies only as taking away potential resources and funding dedicated for women’s studies, because funding for these fields is already limited.[6] Another example, Timothy Laurie and Anna Hickey-Moody insist that "[any] atomisation of masculinity studies as distinct from gender studies, feminist inquiry or queer studies must be understood as provisional and hazardous rather than as the result of absolute differences in the phenomena being investigated or expertise required".[16] In 1989 Joyce E. Canaan and Christine Griffin described their suspicions of The New Men's Studies (TNMS): the emergence of conferences and books on men and masculinity during a time of political and financial cuts to further education and higher education in the UK, "Is it a coincidence that TNMS is being constructed in the present context as a source of potential research, publishing deals, and (even more) jobs for the already-well-paid boys holding prestigious positions?"[17] Researchers in transgender studies, including Jack Halberstam, have also questioned the relationship between male biology and gender identity within masculinity studies.[citation needed]

Work and careEdit

Men's studies are notably concerned with challenging gendered arrangements of work and care, and the male breadwinner role, and policies are increasingly targeting men as fathers, as a tool of changing gender relations.[18]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Brod, Harry. (1987). The Making of Masculinities: the new mens studies. Boston, MA: Allen & Unwin, Inc. ISBN 9781315738505.
  • Connell, R.W. (2005). Masculinities (2nd ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-74-563426-5.
  • Connell, R. W.; Messerschmidt, James W. (2005). "Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the concept". Gender & Society. 19 (6): 829–859. doi:10.1177/0891243205278639.
  • Kimmel, Michael. (1995). The Politics of Manhood: profeminist men respond to the mythopoetic men's movement (and the mythopoetic leaders answer) . Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1995. ISBN 1566393655.
  • Messner, Michael A. (1997). Politics of masculinities : men in movements. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. ISBN 0803955766.


  1. ^ Allan, Jonathan (April 2016). "Phallic affect, or why men's rights activists have feelings". Men and Masculinities. 19 (1): 22–41. doi:10.1177/1097184X15574338.
  2. ^ Bennett, Jessica (August 8, 2015). "A master's degree in...masculinity?". New York Times.
  3. ^ a b Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. ISBN 9780745614694.
  4. ^ Aboim, Sofia (2016). Plural masculinities: the remaking of the self in private life. London New York: Routledge. p. 5. ISBN 9781315600901.
  5. ^ "Mannsforskning". Store norske leksikon. 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e Doyle, James. A; Femiano, Sam (January 2013). "A history of the Men's Studies Press and its Association with the American Men's Studies Association". The Journal of Men's Studies. 21 (1): 24–33. doi:10.3149/jms.2101.24.
    • See also:
  7. ^ a b c Gurfinkel, Helena (December 6, 2012). "Masculinity studies: what is it, and why would a feminist care?". SIUE Women's Studies Program via WordPress.
  8. ^ Brod, Harry (1987). The making of masculinities : the new men's studies. Allen & Unwin, Inc. ISBN 9781138828339. OCLC 951132208.
  9. ^ Laurie, Timothy (2015). "Masculinity studies and the jargon of strategy: hegemony, tautology, sense". Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities. 20 (1): 13–30. doi:10.1080/0969725X.2015.1017373. Pdf.
  10. ^ a b Connell, R. W.; Messerschmidt, James W. (2005). "Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the concept". Gender & Society. 19 (6): 829–859. doi:10.1177/0891243205278639. ISSN 0891-2432.
  11. ^ a b Kimmel, Michael (2006). Manhood in America: A Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press.
  12. ^ a b Kimmel, Michael, ed. (1995). The politics of manhood. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 9781566393652.
  13. ^ Kupers, Terry A. (2005). "Toxic masculinity as a barrier to mental health treatment in prison". Journal of Clinical Psychology. 61 (6): 713–724. doi:10.1002/jclp.20105. ISSN 0021-9762.
  14. ^ Men's Studies Review (journal). Harriman, Tennessee: American Men's Studies Association (AMSA). ISSN 0890-9741. LCCN 93648850.
  15. ^ "Home page". National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS).
  16. ^ Laurie, Timothy; Hickey-Moody, Anna (2015). "Geophilosophies of masculinity: remapping gender, aesthetics and knowledge". Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities. 20 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1080/0969725X.2015.1017359. Pdf.
  17. ^ Canaan, Joyce E.; Griffin, Christine (1990). "The new men's studies: part of the problem or part of the solution". In Morgan, D. H. J.; Hearn, Jeff (eds.). Men, masculinities & social theory. London Boston: Unwin Hyman. p. 208. ISBN 9780044456582.
    Originally published as: Canaan, Joyce E.; Griffin, Christine (1985). "The new men's studies: part of the problem or part of the solution". Network (newsletter). 43: 7–8.
  18. ^ Bjørnholt, Margunn (May 2014). "Changing men, changing times; fathers and sons from an experimental gender equality study" (PDF). The Sociological Review. 62 (2): 295–315. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.12156.