Course claims ‘masculinity is problematic’ for everyone

An upcoming course at Hobart and William Smith Colleges is slated to examine how the concept of masculinity is “problematic” for men and women. 

“Men and Masculinity” will be taught by professors Chip Caparo and Jack Harris next spring, and is among the courses required for students at the Upstate New York institution who wish to earn a minor in Men’s Studies

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While many similar classes shy away from directly denigrating masculinity, the “Men and Masculinity” course description plainly notes that “masculinity is problematic—for both men and women.” 

“This course offers a reinterpretation of men’s lives from the perspectives of history and sociology, informed by pro-feminist men’s studies,” the course description explains, adding that the class allows men and women to “re-think the male experience.” 

“We assert that masculinity is problematic—for men and for women—but also, subject to change, since it is socially constructed and historically variable,” the description continues. “We focus on men’s lives in American society from the late 19th-century to the present, and explore the varieties of masculinities in the diversity of race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality.”

According to the course catalogue, students enrolled in the class will be required to write three essays, including a “biography exploring the problematics of masculinity” and a “speculation on solutions and social change.”

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Although a full syllabus of the Spring 2019 class hasn’t yet been released, the institution’s course catalogue notes that typical readings for the class include books such as Men Doing FeminismMen Confront Pornography, and Becoming a Man.

While Hobart and William Smith College has offered a formal minor in Men’s Studies since 2001, other colleges also frequently offer classes on the same subject. 

Notably, HWS students who wish to obtain the minor will only be required to take two classes that focus on masculinity. The remaining credit requirement can be fulfilled from a pool of courses that examine feminism, sociology, and other similar topics.

Some of the suggested classes include “Feminist Literary Theory,” “Sexual Minorities in America,” “Feminist Sociological Theory,” “Gender and Islam,” and more.

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Campus Reform reached out to the Men’s Studies department for more information, and was referred to Chip Caparo, the new department head, who will also be co-teaching the “Men and Masculinity” class next spring. 

Campus Reform inquired why students are required to take a class predicated on the notion that masculinity is harmful, but did not receive a response from Caparo in time for publication. Jack Harris, the second professor involved in the course, said he was away in Italy. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen