New discipline calls for an end to second-class male

Male studies will help fight 'pervasive misandry' in society, say scholars. Matthew Reisz reports

April 15, 2010

The "declining state of the male" was discussed by scholars at a conference in the US to launch what organisers claim is a new academic discipline.

Male studies, the conference heard, has to be distinguished from men's studies, which by definition focuses on adult males and "grew out of sociology".

The new discipline, by contrast, draws on anthropology, biology, history, politics, psychology and medicine.

A central issue, according to organisers of last week's event at Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, is "the growing problem of misandry - the hatred of males, an unacknowledged but underlying socio-cultural, economic, political and legal phenomenon endangering the well-being of both genders".

Speakers at the conference included Katherine Young, professor of Hinduism at McGill University in Montreal, and Paul Nathanson, a researcher in religious studies at McGill, who have already co-authored three books on misandry.

The blurb for their 2006 book Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination Against Men speaks of a "pervasive misandry" that they argue has "been processed through popular culture since the 1990s" to create "a worldview based on ideological feminism, which presents all issues from the point of view of women and, in the process, explicitly or implicitly attacks men as a class".

Dr Nathanson also acts as an expert on behalf of those who oppose same-sex marriages.

So to what extent is male studies just part of a conservative backlash against feminism?

"We deplore misogyny," said Miles Groth, professor of psychology at Wagner College, which hosted the conference.

"However, while misogyny has been identified, pointed out and addressed, misandry has not been given the attention it requires."

He said this was mainly because any talk of misandry had been construed as being somehow "anti-profeminist", adding his apologies for the "dreadful locution".

The discipline's "target population" is "boys and young men under the age of 35-40, who have not had a spokesperson for their concerns", Professor Groth said.

"And the concerns are plentiful: increased suicide rates among boys, failing literacy among boys and young males, unattended health problems of males of all ages, and depictions of being male in the media which, when decoded, show decided misandric subtexts," he said.

"Much recent literature on boys and young males coming out of sociology depicts males as the problem of modern culture, when in fact it is the problems of this population that need our attention, chiefly by scholarly work not driven by ideology."

The conference was organised by the Foundation for Male Studies and sponsored by the On Step Institute for Mental Health Research, which supports graduate fellowships at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

It ended with the announcement of the first annual conference on male studies, to be held in October, and the planned launch of Male Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal in 2011.

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