Sociologist will discuss the changing concepts of masculinity
December 5, 2014
The relationship between men and women and the conceptions and misconceptions of gender roles is a hot issue today and Dr. Michael Kimmel is one of the leading authorities on these topics.
Much of his research has been about the concept of masculinity and how the school of thought has changed and developed over time.
An author of more than 20 books, Kimmel is distinguished professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University, where he directs the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities.
The professor is looking forward sharing some of his research in Park City when he speaks at a student assembly at Park City High School and to the public at Temple Har Shalom on Tuesday, Dec. 9.
"When I speak at the high school, I’m going to give the students a basic conversation about gender and why we should think about it and how we should think about it," Kimmel said during an interview with The Park Record. "I’ll address when we say the word ‘gender’ why we don’t usually think that it has anything to do with guys. We usually think the word has to do with only women."
Kimmel will also examine how the idea of masculinity works and what it means.
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"I’ll [give examples of how] guys try to measure up to different ideas of masculinity and make some arguments at the end about why, in fact, supporting gender equality is actually a good thing for guys," he said. "In fact, one of the biggest changes among young people in this area is friendship. They are far more comfortable with cross-sex friendships than any generation ever."
The event at Temple Har Shalom is free and open to the public and made possible through a partnership with the Park City Community Foundation and the Women’s Giving Fund.
During this presentation, Kimmel will discuss the findings that went into his 2008 book, "Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men."
"[This book] is about young men, ages 16 to 26, and the ideas they have about how they have to prove themselves as men and how peer culture works," Kimmel explained. "It’s really about campus culture and how guys are performing for other guys and how they evaluate each other."
The book contains chapters about sports, binge drinking, fraternity initiation, campus sex and video games.
"Given the most recent case when [Anita Sarkeesian, known for her video blog Feminist Frequency], who canceled her lecture on video games at Utah State University because of terrorist threats, there should be a lot of interest for the Utah audience," Kimmel said.
The lecture will also, in a more broad sense, examine a new stage of development in the United States and Western Europe between adolescence and adulthood.
"It’s about the phrases ‘extended adolescence’ and ‘Peter Pan syndrome, and the fact that Americans are extending the period before they become full-on grown-ups almost to their 30s," he said. "When you look 50 years ago, being an adult was a done deal when you were 20 or 21, but that has changed and it’s a new stage that is permanent today. It’s not going to go away."
On the other side of the issue, Kimmel has seen changes in the adult males’ expectations for themselves as well as their female partners.
"Young men today, my male students, for example, fully expect their wives will work and be as fully committed to their careers as they are," he said. "They also expect to be involved fathers, far more than their own fathers were."
In his most recent book, "Angry White Men," Kimmel examines various groups of men who believe that they’ve become the new victims of discrimination in America ranging from men’s rights activists to fathers’ rights groups to White Nationalists.
"There is increasingly some discomfort among some men who feel that the court or law doesn’t credit the type of active fatherhood they have been experiencing," he said. "However, it turns out, actually, after all the data is looked at, that most people, when they divorce, they get the custody that they want.
"Eighty percent of people who are divorcing agree with custody arrangements that are organized before any court appearance," Kimmel said. "While there is some truth in that courts are lagging behind the changes among men, only 20 percent of the cases are contested."
Kimmel hopes that his presentations will spur civil discourse about gender roles and masculinity within the community.
"One of the misconceptions that I hear is that guys haven’t changed over the past 40 years, when in fact, they have changed a lot," he said. "I think given the right environment, men are desperate to talk about it."
Dr. Michael Kimmel will be in Park City on Tuesday, Dec. 9, to give a presentation at Temple Har Shalom, 3700 Creekside Ct., at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Earlier in the day, Kimmel will give a presentation at Park City High School during a student assembly. In addition to his talks in Park City, Kimmel will speak at a couple of engagements at the University of Utah and the Alta Club in Salt Lake City. For more information, visit creativepromotionsagency.com/mk/index.htm.
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