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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Fragile LifeA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Tapestry of ValuesA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst Moral ResponsibilityAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, 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The whole notion of masculinity
studies may conjure up images of masculine protests to womens studies and
feminism in general and, more specifically, images expressing a need on the
part of some men to reassert masculine privilege in the face of womens critiques
of gender relationships in society. The
reader who approaches Masculinity Studies
and Feminist Theory: New Directions with such images in mind is in for a
surprise. This edited volume on
masculinity studies offers a very different approachone that does not fight
with feminism but complements and extends feminism even as it challenges some
feminist premises. The volume of
fourteen essays represents a broad base of approaches to understanding
masculinity that collectively inquire and provoke (in the best sense of that
word), all the while offering new understandings of masculinity that are at
once complex and accessible. The volume
is marked by a commitment to enact an observation made by one of the authors,
Calvin Thomas: To leave masculinity unstudied, to proceed as if it were
somehow not a form of gender, is to leave it naturalized, and thus to render it
less permeable to change (p. 61).
The fourteen essays in the book
bring a critical approach to studying gender by focusing on constructions of
masculinity. Generally, these authors
view of masculinity has much in common with Michael Kimmels view, as expressed
in his foreword to the book: masculinity studies is a significant outgrowth of
feminist studies and an ally to its older sister in a complex and constantly
shifting relationship (p. ix). This
observation should not be taken to mean that there is a high degree of
agreement among the books contributors.
In fact, considerable breadth of approach can be found in the
essays. Most of the essays are arranged
in pairs; each pair of essays focuses on the same phenomenon but each member of
the pair approaches it in a decidedly different fashion. These essays address such areas as the
relationship between feminism and theories of masculinity,
developmental/historical influences, teaching masculinity, the academy and
masculinity studies, masculinity and psychoanalytic thought, masculinities and
racialized and national identities, and female masculinity.
If there is one thing with which
nearly every author in the volume agrees, it is that there is a crisis around
issues of masculinity. Most would also
agree that this crisis is not altogether a bad thing. The crisis offers challenges to old renditions of masculinity,
thereby opening the possibility for new ways of thinking and even
behavingalthough there is far less emphasis on behaving, on the possibilities
for enactment that flow from new understandings, than there is on these
Editor Judith Kegan Gardiner has
brought together a collection of essays that challenge the gender binary found
in essentialist notions of gender. Just
as importantlyperhaps more soher collection challenges the binary that casts
people as victims and victimizers, a binary that has hampered many movements
for liberation, particularly movements that are vulnerable to the simplistic
but appealing pull for identity politics.
These essays neither ignore the power of the would-be victim position
nor are they seduced by the constraints of the victimizer position. Instead, the authors, taken collectively,
insist that we are all in this soup together, all of us expressing masculine
and feminine possibilities, all of us caught in the reified gender binary,
and all of us capable of challenging it at the same time. The book is a satisfying read, rarely
lapsing into pedantic or jingoistic language.
I kept hoping for an essay that would directly address the question of
transgender issues; my desire had more to do with how well the authors in the book
succeeded at taking on tough issues than with any failing on the part of the
In sum, this is a very fine volume,
far more interesting than its title implies.
Its essays stayed with me, inviting me back, unsettling me in good ways,
and offering me expanded notions of gender.
© 2003 Glenda M. Russell
Russell, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Associate and Project Director at the
Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies in Amherst, Massachusetts. A psychologist and an activist, she is the
author of Voted Out: Psychological
Consequences of Anti-Gay Politics and co-author, with Janis S. Bohan, of Conversations About Psychology and Sexual
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