Men's Studies and Women's Studies: Commonality, Dependence, and Independence.
Abstract: Article discusses areas of dependence and commonality, elements of independence, and complementary potentials between the more established women's studies and the emergent men's studies.

Key Words: men's studies, women's studies, academic programs
Subject: Men's studies (History)
Women's studies (History)
Social structure (Evaluation)
Pub Date: 03/22/2000
Publication: Name: The Journal of Men's Studies Publisher: Men's Studies Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2000 Men's Studies Press ISSN: 1060-8265
Issue: Date: Spring, 2000 Source Volume: 8 Source Issue: 3
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 62086559
Full Text: The relationship between men's studies and women's studies has a long, rich, and, at times, conflicted history. Neither discipline came into being by chance, in a vacuum, or is independent of the other. Men and women have a shared history, differentiated personal experiences, and mandated social roles. Men and women have not remained static across time and circumstances. Men and women are dynamic, evolving, and pushing limitations. These same traits are true of men's studies and women's studies. This paper will discuss areas of dependence and commonality, elements of independence, and complementary potentials.

To discuss the relationship between men's studies and women's studies, three areas need to be considered: the origins and impetuses for the establishment of each as a discipline, the development of each as a scholarly specialty, and possible future developments of the two. To simplify, one needs to look at the past, present, and future of the two disciplines.

Although arriving at the academy at different times, the origin of both disciplines can be traced to the civil fights movement and the advent of black studies. The replacing of racism with sexism launched the second wave of the women's movement and a resurgence of feminism (Clatterbaugh, 1997). Through the establishment of women's studies, the invisible became visible. The goal of women's studies was to rectify a deficiency in historical accounts of the human species, and to challenge the hegemonic tradition of scholarship (Brod, 1992). Through the last thirty years, women's studies has become firmly established in the academy as a scholarly multi-disciplinary domain.

Although courses in men's studies appeared in the academy decades earlier, Clatterbaugh (1997) marks the 1990s as the period when men's studies developed to the level of a discipline. Just as feminists drove women's studies, profeminist men have driven much of men's studies--more specifically by pro-(liberal) feminist men. Although at times problematic (e.g., backlash from other factions of the men's movement), profeminist men share a common ideology with liberal feminists, the development of human potential for both women and men. The goal of men's studies is to eliminate the old hegemonic scholarship of "man as male to man as generic human" (Brod, 1992, p. 40) and to establish "the study of masculinity as a specific male experience, rather than a universal paradigm for human experience" (p. 40). Impetus for the development of men's studies can be traced to three variables: the advent of advanced technology at an astronomical rate (e.g., from industrial revolution to high technology), lack of belief in and distrust of traditional cultural and governmental institutions (e.g., anti-establishment attitudes associated with the Vietnam conflict), and the second wave of the women's movement (e.g., challenging patriarchal structure of culture and traditional gender roles; see Doyle, 1995). The need for men to change to meet these challenges resulted in many men not finding themselves in the gender roles prescribed by the dominant culture. Many men found themselves with a sense of invisibility, caught between norms that were no longer appropriate for the changing times and the lack of new norms defining the changing roles of men. The sense of invisibility was the result of the lack of the subjectivity of men and men's experiences. This became a quandary that could not be answered by entrenched androcentric scholarship.

The discussion of origins and impetuses cannot be left without considering the influence of women's studies on the introduction of men's studies into the academy. Women's studies' and feminism's questioning of gender roles, although focusing primarily on women, from the onset included questioning of masculine gender roles. Both laid the foundation on which men's studies could be built. The questioning of hegemonic scholarship, challenging of the objectivity of scientific method (Rosser, 1989), and valuing the crossing of disciplines in studying women have all contributed to the introduction and growth of men's studies. On a personal level women had felt invisible and without voice. Far too many men had lost or never had visibility because of patriarchy's demand for the narrowly defined limits it considered masculine. Too many men suddenly found themselves marginalized when their personal experiences of masculinity were not consistent with the male ideal. This does not mean that men's studies can or should be simply women's studies with men as the focus. This is to convey that men's studies has a real and legitimate legacy in women's studies, and that replacing hegemonic scholarship is the work of both men's studies and women's studies.

Development of the two disciplines is at different stages. Women's studies has a long history and has developed to inclusion in mainstream curriculum. Bachelor as well as master's and doctorate level degrees are numerous (Filene, 1992). One would be hard pressed to find a major university without considerable offerings in the area.

Men's studies, on the other hand, although not a fledgling discipline, is often included in or seen as an offshoot of women's studies. Indeed, the very need for men's studies itself has been questioned (Kimmel, 1987). The answer as stated by Brod (1992) and Clatterbaugh (1997) is that the studying of men before men's studies was hegemonic in nature. Men's studies as a discipline is nonhegemonic. Although growing, the number of men's studies courses and universities offering courses, let alone degrees, is small in comparison to women's studies. Doyle (1995) reported a growth from 40 courses in 1984 to over 200 at present. The reaction to the introduction of men's studies courses varies from institution to institution (Urschel, 1999). Nonetheless, the numbers are growing steadily.

The multiplicity of women's studies and men's studies is often conflicting and driven by political as well as ideological factions that affect both the relations within and between the two disciplines. Political agendas fostered by ideologies ranging from conservative to radical vie for positions of influence. Feminists and profeminists from both disciplines accept the male oppression of females and have the shared goal of development of human potential for both men and women. Radical feminists and separatists see men as the problem, believe that all men benefit from the subordination of women, and therefore do not accept that men can be part of the solution. The men's rights ideology defines men as the true victims and sees male powerlessness as the true basis of men's problems. Although they claim to be anti-sexists, there is much antifeminist, and one might believe, anti-women rhetoric (Clatterbaugh, 1997; Doyle, 1995).

Men's studies has been struggling for some time to evolve an exclusive unique identity. This certainly is desirable and part of the maturation of the field. However, a cautionary note must be sounded. In order not to replace the old hegemonic study of men with an equally destructive philosophy, men's studies identification process must be careful not to fall into the old trap of "anything female cannot be male." Masculinity has been easily defined in the past as not feminine. This definition by default has proven unhealthy for men, has limited development of their human potential, and has blocked collaboration between men and women. Much of the energy of anti-female factions in men's studies has been spent on growing away from anything female and any identification with women's studies. This alienation from association with women's studies has perpetuated the separate spheres theories and blocked gender relations theories.

Separation of the disciplines for the sake of study is not to be faulted. This method serves the process of investigation, information gathering, and comparative gender studies. Isolation of subject matter can be beneficial to understanding, and certainly genderization processes and experiences differ for men and women as groups as well as for individuals within each group. However, if independence from the other is seen as the ultimate goal of the disciplines, the continuation of hegemonic tradition and separate spheres will surely be the result. At best total isolation of the disciplines can produce only comparison. Comparison and especially focus on differences often breeds evaluation. Difference becomes better and worse, winner and loser, victim and perpetrator, superior and inferior. Comparative gender studies, although valuable, is the midpoint in understanding the genderization process. To truly develop to their full potentials, the disciplines need to move toward collaboration with a focus on gender relations. Collaboration does not mean losing or giving up what has been achieved. It means benefiting from the labors and perspectives of other scholars. Focusing on gender relations prohibits isolation and places study into a holistic, multidisciplinary, multicultural mode. The ultimate goal that would best serve the growth to full potential of men and women would be the goal of both disciplines becoming unnecessary. To paraphrase Kimmel (1992), it is through the deconstruction of masculinity (and femininity) that the achievement of "sexual equality and gender justice" (p. 153) will occur.

In summary, the commonalties of men's studies and women's studies include their origins in the civil rights movement and black studies, and impetuses of reaction to androcentric scholarship and sex-typed gender roles of the dominant culture. Feminists and profeminists played and continue to play a role in the development of both disciplines. Men's studies has a heritage in women's studies. Development of each discipline is in a different stage, with women's studies being older and more a part of mainstream curriculum in the academy. Political ideologies are problematic to both, as is limited financial funding. Finances are a point of contention influencing the acceptance of men's studies by women's studies advocates. The future of both disciplines is undetermined. It has been suggested that independence as a final goal is ill advised. Rather, this paper has proposed that collaboration and a focus on gender relations hold a better promise for both disciplines. Ultimately the success of both can result in the necessity for neither.


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Urschel, J. K. (1999). Four pedagogical issues encountered in psychology of men and gender courses. The Journal of Men's Studies, 8, 1-10.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Joanne K. Urschel, Department of Social Sciences, Purdue University North Central, Swartz 210C, Westville, IN or

JOANNE K. URSCHEL Department of Social Sciences Purdue University North Central Westville, Indiana

Joanne K. Urschel is an assistant professor of psychology and gender studies at Purdue University North Central where she is campus coordinator of women's studies. She has taught courses in Psychology of Men, Psychology of Women, Gender Development in Childhood, and Men, Women, and Madness. She developed and taught a course in Gender and Multiculturalism in the fall of 1999. Urschel received her bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Valparaiso University, a master's degree in clinical psychology from Roosevelt University, and her doctorate in counseling psychology from Indiana State University. She completed an internship at Danville Veteran's Administration Hospital, Danville, Illinois, with rotations in drug and alcohol treatment, neuropsychology, and inpatient services. Urschel is a nationally certified counselor, a member of the board of directors of the American Men's Studies Association, and a member of the American Psychological Association. (
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