chapter  1
13 Pages

Mapping Guyland in College

ByMichael S. Kimmel, Tracy Davis

Men and masculinities are both pervasive and invisible as subjects of scientifi c inquiry. Like the proverbial fi sh in water, what we know is so immersed in our apparent surroundings that important distinguishing factors that shape men’s development remain unnoticed. Meth and Pasick (1990) explain the nature of this apparent contradiction; “although psychological writing has been androcentric, it has also been gender blind [and] it has assumed a male perspective but has not really explored what it means to be a man any more than what it means to be a woman” (p. vii). This defi cit, then, is less an artifact of carelessness or conspiracy, and is more accurately understood as the result of dominant, takenfor-granted assumptions. Assumptions that, left un-interrogated, jeopardize an accurate understanding of boys and men and, moreover, threaten to maintain a patriarchal status quo. To be clear, we use the term patriarchy to mean the institutionalized system that privileges men and serves to oppress women. According to Johnson (1997), “a society is patriarchal to the degree that it is male-dominated, male-identifi ed, and male-centered” (p. 5). It is important to remember, as will soon be described, that a man or men in general are not patriarchy and not every man is privileged equally. Moreover, Lindsey German (1981) in “Theories of Patriarchy” has persuasively argued that it is not men who ultimately “benefi t” from the oppression of women, but capital and our economic system. Patriarchy, privilege, intersectional identities, and social, economic, historical contexts are concepts related to the critical theory

perspective advocated throughout this chapter and book. This chapter off ers a framework for critically examining men as a subject, and masculinities as a phenomenon of inquiry. As one of the authors of this chapter has argued, “the important fact of men’s lives is not that they are biological males, but that they become men. Our sex may be male, but our identity as men is developed through a complex process of interaction with the culture in which we both learn the gender scripts appropriate to our culture and attempt to modify those scripts to make them more palatable” (Kimmel & Messner, 1998, p. ix).