Beyond Vassar

Studying Masculinity

By Andrew Faught

Michael Kimmel ’72 is proud to be a feminist. He got a kick out of a recent Huffington Post article by actress and activist Marlo Thomas, in which she calls him a “male champion of the women’s movement” and says he is among the “guys who get it.”

But men have their own complicated issues, says Kimmel, a nationally recognized men’s studies researcher and sociologist.

A Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, Kimmel has written and edited more than 20 books on gender and masculinity, and he is the founder and editor of the academic journal Men and Masculinities. He also is the author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, which calls attention to the prolonged stage of development that has emerged in males transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.

Last year, Kimmel received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant to launch the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at SUNY Stony Brook. It will be the first center of its kind in the country.

Why create a center to study men and masculinity?

“I decided to do this because, well, men have gender, too,” says Kimmel. “There’s an old proverb that says the fish are the last to discover the ocean. White people don’t think about race very much, but people of color certainly do. Men don’t think about gender very much.”

Kimmel says one of his goals is to “make gender visible to men as well.”

His vision was to bring together people who are developing projects to engage men all over the world around issues as diverse as HIV risk reduction, involved fatherhood, work-family balance, and violence against women.

The center will be a gathering place where scholars, practitioners, activists, and direct-service providers will interact, share ideas, conduct research, and hold policy conversations. It will host seminar series, global webinars, and lectures. In March 2015, the center will hold a global conference in New York City.

Kimmel says the center will also develop collaborative research projects across countries and continents on everything from interventions around domestic violence to understanding boys’ academic underachievement.

Moreover, the center will play an important role in a planned MA program in masculinity studies at Stony Brook. It will be the first college or university to grant such a degree, and it welcomes its first class of MA students in September 2017.