When Stony Brook University launched its Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities in 2013, alumnus Bruce Bawer was intrigued by the new program.
“Would the new Center do anything to enhance the school’s reputation for scholarship,” he wondered.
Bawer, an author, was skeptical. And it turns out he had good reason to be.
In a recent article published by the Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Bawer discusses how the public university’s men’s studies program has become “an entirely feminist-oriented operation.”
For Bawer, it’s become clear that the center is “ideological rather than a scholarly project.” Bawer writes he was tipped off to this distinction as soon as he saw the membership of the center’s advisory board:
Six were well-known women: feminist icon Gloria Steinem, actress Jane Fonda, author Eve Ensler (author of the play The Vagina Monologues) and leading women’s studies figures Madeleine Kunin, Catharine Stimpson, and Carol Gilligan, whose claims that girls were being denied their “voices” in education led to Christina Hoff Sommers’ book The War Against Boys.
Only four men were included: Martin Duberman, a queer studies historian, and three obscure individuals, psychiatrist James Gilligan (who is married to Carol Gilligan), physician Frank Ochberg, and Chris Howard, president of Hampden-Sydney College.
Stony Brook University tapped sociology professor Michael Kimmel, author of the book “Angry White Men,” to lead the center. Bawer says a press release from the university made clear that Kimmel would direct the center with an agenda “right out of the men’s studies playbook”:
In his press release, Kimmel announced that the center—founded with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, with additional funds from the university and anonymous donors—would study men through “the prisms of feminist theory, multiculturalism and queer theory” and pursue dialogue “between academics and activists.”
Bawer has kept tabs on Stony Brook’s Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. He recently visited its website and wasn’t pleased with what he found:
One glance at its website and I had a distinct impression that the whole thing has turned out just as foreseen: the first thing that greeted me was a slideshow of photos of Fonda, Steinem, a woman named Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (“Executive Director of UN Women”), and, last but not least, Kimmel giving a TED talk entitled “Recruiting Men to the Cause of Gender Equality.”
What’s become clear to Bawer is that his alma mater isn’t focused on seriously studying men’s culture. It’s more interesting in shaming it:
The Men’s Center, in short, is not about understanding men’s psychological and emotional development and their personal and professional lives; it is about encouraging young men to feel guilty about being born male, to check their own natural male impulses and interests, to emulate (as best they can) the manners and mores of women, and to subordinate themselves, in all ways and all circumstances, to their female friends, relatives, and colleagues.