Reforming academia

By Joanna Farley

In the modern world of diverse education, there is one group demanding the right to open discussion and courses on their position in society. Though minority group focus courses are considered a sign of equality, this new group is the most privileged of them all-men.

According to the American Men’s Studies Association of America Web site, men’s studies focus on "Promoting critical discussion of issues involving men… and developing methodologies of the study of masculinities from an ethical perspective which eschews oppression in all forms."

University of Calgary Cultural Anthropology graduate student and sessional professor Bruce Freeman believes that men’s studies has an important place in current scholarship and is unique due to the perspective it takes.

"It’s important that we don’t limit ourselves to gender strictly from a feminist or women’s studies perspective," says Freeman. "Essentially [men’s studies] is taking the feminist perspective and applying it to men’s issues."

The opposition claims it is ridiculous to study a group that traditionally dominates university subjects. Because courses such as women’s studies or African-American studies examine oppression, many see the request for men’s studies as belittling the importance of minority group studies or as a "me-too" type of mentality.

"A lot of these [minority group] studies are a reaction to the fact that general university education has tended to be geared towards the interests of white European males," says U of C women’s studies professor Dr. Regina Cochrane.

"They address the fact that university education has been biased and I don’t think there has been a bias against white men. The idea of men’s studies implies that men are being discriminated against and oppressed or left out."

Many academics believe the best solution is the inclusion of gender studies courses at post-secondary institutions. Already multiplying in Canada, gender studies considers the influence of gender on actions and beliefs, usually using the feminist perspective to examine issues like sexuality and child raising.

At the U of C, many professors would like to see the implementation of gender studies courses. Although they disagree on the need for men’s studies, both Cochrane and Freeman feel this would be a good development for the university, provided that gender studies and the current women’s studies degree program be kept separate.

"I would think that we need to [have gender studies], because we do need to talk about masculinity, and sexuality," says Cochrane. "[However], men’s situation isn’t politically equivalent to women’s, and putting it all under gender studies may wind up erasing any form of feminist perspective."

Freeman agrees.

"There’s a specific need for women’s studies, because if we look at gender differences cross culturally, men are almost always in a position of superiority on the basis of biological sex," he points out.

It is this cultural perception of superiority that keeps men’s studies from the respect its champions feel it deserves. Once power is discovered it is hard to let it go or share it and men’s studies seek not to reinforce the dominance of males but to evaluate it. However, it seems that minority groups are unwilling to share the power they have found in self-reflection after years of oppression under men. Although courses are becoming more inclusive, men’s studies will remain on the fringes of academic discussion until men and women share the same privileges and pitfalls as both majority and minority groups academically.

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