House-husbands and techno-sperm

Men and Masculinities
October 8, 1999

In the expanding field of gender studies, this is the first major journal with a clear focus on men. In one sense, though, it is not new. Its editor,Michael Kimmel, one of the leading researchers in men's studies, launched an earlier journal, Masculinities , in 1992-93, but it was primarily linked to the US based Men's Studies Association; and this in turn arose from an even earlier journal, Men's Studies Review.

These two had a rather limited reach. Sage took up the challenge of this new journal in July 1998. The editorial board is wide ranging and international. Its prime aim is to present articles that cut across disciplines, methods, and theories, and focus on the construction of masculinities, male/female relationships, sexual behaviour and identities, representations of gender and issues of diversity. Broadly speaking, it is meeting these aims so far.

The articles range from the bold and wide to the cautious and narrow, and I can sample only a few here. The opening article in the first issue by Bob Connell, probably the world leader in his field, analyses the links between "globalisation" and "masculinities", and argues for the need to look at very large-scale social structures and the differing layers of masculinity appearing throughout history in what he calls "the world gender order". In contrast, there are some very small-scale qualitative studies: one that looks at "house-husbands", another interviewing men about their infertility and a third that compares identical twin brothers, gay and straight.

Intriguing are some articles that look at new technologies. One studies the shifting meanings given to male sperm ("techno-sperm") in sperm banks. A second looks at the way the erotic male body is re-presented by the new visual technologies, in this case CU-SeeMe, a software that turns a PC into a home phone through which adult erotica can be transmitted. Here women get to see men display themselves in ways that appeal to them, shifting the traditional conventions of the male and female gaze.

The format of the journal is the familiar mix: four or five new articles followed by comments, and a cluster of book reviews. A special issue features "Men and sport". Overall the articles are largely US-based, and relatively orthodox in their presentation ("queer" has hardly raised its head here). Men and Masculinities has got off to a very good start and is a most welcome addition to the growing world of journals in gender studies, where it should carve out a significant niche.

Ken Plummer is professor of sociology, University of Essex.

Men and Masculinities: (four times a year)

Editor - Michael S. Kimmel
ISBN - ISSN 1097 184X
Publisher - Sage
Price - £123.00 (institutions), £44.00 (individuals)
Pages - -

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