October 12, 2001
Panel to Explore Masculinity
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.--For the
past several years, feminist studies has broadened its scope
to consider masculinity an essential element in the analysis
of gender relations.
In other words, "You can't look at females without looking
at men, too," says Ann Ferguson, associate professor of
Afro-American studies and women's studies. "You can't understand
the condition of women in society without paying attention to
how masculinity is produced and encouraged through everyday practices
as well as through institutions and the media. There's a growing
field that looks at gender as a relational construct. The field
of feminist studies has more and more turned its focus away from
As part of that trend, the Women's Studies Program will hold
a panel discussion on "Making Men: Masculinity, Media and
Violence," featuring the perspectives of two authorities
on the sociology of masculinity: Sut Jhally, a professor of communication
at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and founder and
executive director of the Northampton-based Media Education Foundation
(MEF); and Michael Kimmel, professor of sociology at the State
University of New York at Stony Brook and the author of several
books that have received international recognition for their
study of men and masculinity.
The panel--which is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible--will
take place at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22, in Wright Hall Auditorium.
As part of the panel, Jhally will present a talk, "Wrestling
With Manhood in the 21st Century," in which he'll examine
the tremendous popular appeal of media portrayals of professional
wrestling for men and boys.
Jhally has gained recognition from a videotape he produced in
1990 titled "Dreamworlds: Desire/Sex/Power in Music Video,"
which presented his critique of representations of women
in popular culture and commercial images. That video, which received
national press after MTV threatened a lawsuit, sparked the creation
ten years ago of MEF, a nonprofit organization devoted to producing
educational materials that foster critical thinking about mass
media. Jhally is regarded as one of the world's leading scholars
of advertising, media and consumption.
Jhally's most recent video, "Tough Guise: Violence, Media
and the Crisis in Masculinity," will be shown
at 4 and 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21, in Seelye 106. The video
argues that violence in America is actually a crisis in the societal
construction of masculinity, and offers suggestions of how American
society can create an environment for producing "better
Kimmel will also present a talk, titled "Masculinity, Homophobia,
and School Violence," that will explore school shootings
as a meditation on violence in the construction of adolescent
Kimmel's books include "Changing Men: New Directions in
Research on Men and Masculinity," "Tide: Pro-Feminist
Men in the United States," and "Manhood in America:
A Cultural History." His most recent book is "The
Gendered Society." His course "Sociology of
Masculinity" examines men's lives from a pro-feminist perspective
and has been the subject of articles in The Wall Street Journal,
Newsweek and other publications as well as several television
shows. Kimmel is the spokesperson for the National Organization
for Men Against Sexism.
Ferguson points out that initially feminist studies focused on
women exclusively, and that masculinity remained ignored. "It
was almost as if feminists fed into the argument that male behavior
was natural and ahistorical, and that men acted out of an overdose
of testosterone," she says.
However, in the last two decades, an important body of work has
built on feminist and race theories to critically describe and
analyze the social production of masculinity. "I feel we're
in a real transitional time," she says. "The field
is looking at gendered ways of living in the world and asking,
'What about how men have been socialized?'"
Ferguson, who will moderate the "Making Men" panel,
is the author of "Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making
of Black Masculinity" (University of Michigan Press 2000),
which this year won the distinguished book of the year award
from the Sex and Gender section of the American Sociological
Association. The book investigates why African-American males
are disproportionately the targets of school discipline and suspension.