Ninety-nine percent of the time when I introduce myself as a women’s studies major, I face the same three responses.
“Uh-oh, you must REALLY hate men.”
“Oh so are you a crazy feminist?”
“Hey, where’s the men’s studies?”
The last comment, usually quipped by some guy trying to be cute and witty, actually underlines a problem that the film “Tough Guise” highlights. Though men are considered the “dominant” gender group, they are growing increasingly invisible, enabled unconsciously by our society. For instance, news headlines do not say “Man killed wife,” but rather make the woman the subject of discourse by announcing “Woman murdered by husband.”
The invisibility of men can be attributed to their majority status as it is the norm. For instance, the film listed categories such as race. My mind immediately reverted to African, Asian, Latina. Never did I think Caucasian, because they are the majority. Their actions, thoughts, and beliefs are thus considered the norm and free from observation, which becomes a great danger.
I was very struck by this phenomenon that the film brought up. I love women’s studies and have accepted that we are indeed the “minority” gender. However, I had never realized how powerful this implication was for men. Because of this, men as the majority group are allowed to slide under the radar. Thus the cheeky question actually has some validity- where is the men’s studies? Connell’s article on masculinity is a start. By examining hegemonic masculinities, we can explore a lot of what creates the typical image of a “manly man” and begin to understand the roots of many problems.
Studies such as Connell’s become even more important with the invisibility of men. We need to study men just as we study women, especially if men’s majority status allows them to slide by. For instance, “Tough Guise” often brought up the need for young boys to act tough and macho. This leads to violence, as numerous statistics show the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed by males. Connell also elaborates on this danger, citing the relationship between hegemony and force.
If men have the protective shield of invisibility, granted by their dominant status, I am in full support of a men’s studies programs. Perhaps even men don’t understand what makes them who they are. Women’s studies has certainly taught me a lot about being a woman and opened up another level of understanding to me. I believe men could benefit from the same. Traditionally, soul searching and discussions over identity has been scorned by men but perhaps this is what we need. Connell sums it up with, “The cure lies in taking a consistently relational approach to gender- not in abandoning the concepts of gender of masculinity.” An even more radical idea could be studying men and women in relevance to one another instead of separating the sphere. A better understanding of ourselves would benefit all sides.