Sometimes imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery, but the most hypocritical.
The claims being made on behalf of the self-proclaimed “new” field of “male studies” are such a mixture of misleading partial truths and falsehoods, one hardly knows where to begin (I’m aware the standard phrase would be “half” truths, but most of it doesn’t reach this threshold).
Take the claim that biological truths are being ignored in men’s studies. At a recent AMSA conference Raewyn Connell’s response to a question about the continuing media hype about supposed new biological determinist findings about gender pretty much says it all. Here’s my memory of the gist of it, so this isn’t verbatim, and apologies if I’ve haven’t got it precisely right: “It’s much too easy to latch on to these new books every few months, they give people another excuse not to do anything about gender injustice because it’s all in our genes. Actually, let me correct myself – there aren’t really new books being written, it’s just the same book that keeps getting rewritten.”
Also false is the idea that there’s some anti-male bias in men’s studies being corrected by male studies, or that we haven’t paid attention to boys, all easily refuted by just examining the historical record.
This is the academic Tea Party crowd; the successes of feminism make them want to take back their academy. Yes, men have had to surrender some of their unearned privileges to make way for women, thankfully and rightfully so, though far too much of this still remains intact. But the larger truth is that ALL of our lives have been radically improved by greater gender justice.
So what to say about male studies? In 2005, Princeton University Professor of Philosophy Harry Frankfurt published a little book of philosophy that to everyone’s surprise, probably especially his, became a runaway best seller. The book’s title had much to do with its success. It was called On Bullshit. In this little book, Professor Frankfurt makes an important conceptual distinction between bullshit and a lie. While the liar knows what the truth is, but chooses not to tell it, the bullshitter no longer knows or cares about the difference between the truth and a lie. For this reason, says Professor Frankfurt, the bullshitter is much more dangerous than the liar, because the bullshitter can no longer be effectively reasoned with, because they have lost any frame of reference related to the truth. So, thanks to Professor Frankfurt’s intellectual labors, while I said one doesn’t know where to start in discussing male studies, I at least know where to end. It’s bullshit.