3/18/2017 20:48

Masculinity Studies

I get the St Norbert College magazine, http://www.snc.edu/magazine/, in actual paper form because I sometimes give SNC some money. This month there is an article about their year of masculinity studies and, in particular, about the panel of experts who were on campus. Nobody has called on me, so apparently just being male does not an expert make.

Probably we need a discipline of academicity studies to discern just how the expectations of higher educational institutions and of their accrediting bodies shape faculty perception of themselves and others.

Back to topic. I read the article out of curiosity about what this avowedly new academic discipline might cover. The first stories in the article are about (i) men who perpetuate the cycle of domestic violence and (ii) the shaping force of social stereotypes beginning in the first 5 minutes of life. That isn't quite accurate. The first stories are about the panelists who noticed items (i) and (ii) and turned those observations into becoming founders of a new academic discipline (with perquisites such as appearing in panel discussions at colleges across the United States). Be that as it may, items (i) and (ii) seem valid research topics.

As the article went on, it became clear that the panelists -- or the author of the report -- assumed the existence of a definable "male culture". What was reported about male experience didn't ring fully true for me. The "community conversation" brought in such breadth in point of view as the director of player development, the former player and founder of My Brother's Keeper, and a "sport scholar" (which I'm sure is not as much of an oxymoron as it sounds).

All of these people are known to identify as male and to identify maleness with organized and televised commercial athletics. It was much like listening to a bunch of guys talking about golf at lunch. How could all these people have been duped into believing this is what masculinity is about? Does their rhetoric incite not the least dissonance in their own minds?

I myself have no doubts at all about what defines masculinity, but I'm disappointed to find so much intellectual capital being wasted on such wrong-headedness. (In actual reality masculinity is scaffolded by the articulation of shoulders and hips and by the ubiquity, or rather the quandoquity, of arousal. Trust me on this.)

I wondered whether any of this disconnection might be attributable to the reporter standing outside of the context of the conversation among males. Probably not. Based on the first name (Paul) and year of graduation (2005) I estimate the probability of the author being a female to be between 0.71% and 0.77%. In 1985 specifically, 74 births with the first name Paul were identified as female, while 10307 of the Pauls were male.

I myself have no doubts about what defines masculinity, but I have a number of doubts about what the article is saying about what other people are saying about the topic. When faced with uncertainty, even other people's uncertainty, even uncertainties which they themselves have failed to recognize, I like to retreat to facts. The fraction 74/10381 =~ 0.00713 is a nice, solid fact and, while it isn't an especially relevant fact, it gives me a place to stand.

That's the reality of how I play the game.