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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, March 03, 2024

Men's studies classes are necessary for women's studies to continue thriving

The standardized and nearly universally accepted field of women's studies has reached the point where it cannot continue to develop in a constructive way without the development of a new and complementary field of study: men's studies. 




The fact that women's studies courses, and even degrees, have been offered at major American universities for over 30 years without a complementary offering in men's studies is startling, as is the fact that there have been virtually no calls for this to change.  




The issues facing the gender group that identifies itself as \women"" are not more essential in the academic world than those that face the group that assumes the gender role of ""men,"" even though the hundreds of American universities that offer women's studies degrees-but not men's-might lead one to believe otherwise. 




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Professors and students alike, especially those in women's studies departments, should understand the importance of approaching issues from an insider's perspective. The issues that face any visible and identifiable group need to be studied by members of that group in order for the group to better understand itself. 




The oft-suggested solution of requiring men to take women's studies courses, or some kind of women's issues awareness classes, is inadequate. Men taking women's studies courses only addresses half the issue. 




To suggest that this might not be true is to suggest that making women aware of how patriarchal men felt would have been sufficient gender-role-specific education for the oppressed daughters of 1950s America.  




This was clearly not the case. Women's studies courses that educated women on how society upheld gender roles giving men wildly disproportionate power, while simultaneously providing them with an empathetic confirmation of what it felt like to be a woman in that society was what it took.  




Today there is an equally pressing need for a men's studies field that does precisely the same thing, and it's creation will not only rescue men's issues from the academic scrap-heap, but will help make women's studies a more effective undertaking by providing it with a similarly structured body of academic work to draw upon.  




Men's studies needs to go further than the commonly agreed-upon assertion that men need education to prevent violence and oppression of women. It must be a study of men as a group that relates to the world and the opposite gender in specific ways that function as a lens for their approach to all issues. 




The knee-jerk response to this might be something along the lines of, ""but all of history is men's studies."" This is an almost too-silly-to-mention reaction to the call for men's studies, but must be addressed since it is rather common.  




History has unquestionably been written by men, for men, and about men for almost all of recorded time. However, this does not mean that the study of men as a gender group has been sufficiently treated. Frequent mention does not necessarily equate an adequate or properly focused study of an issue. 




Men have been presented in history as leaders, inventors, explorers, prophets and tyrants, but very infrequently as men. The famous Hamilton-Burr duel, for example, is nearly always analyzed as a confrontation between bitter political rivals rather than as a battle between two hyper-competitive alpha-male patriarchs who fought one another to gain the allegiance of other men. 




The implications of this famous duel, along with many of the most celebrated events of history, need to be integrated into a self-reflective men's studies field that seeks to improve men's collective understanding of who they are, why they are that way, and how they can use that information for constructive purposes.  




Women's studies departments will find that a parallel body of academic work in men's studies will affirm the necessity of women's studies for those who still doubt it and that the two departments have far more similarities than differences: Both will work to help genders better understand themselves and each other, and true equality will become an achievable goal.  




Breezy Willis is a senior majoring in international relations.

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