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The Man Question

The Man Question: Male Subordination and Privilege

Nancy E. Dowd
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 197
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  • Book Info
    The Man Question
    Book Description:

    Among the many important tools feminist legal theorists have given scholars is that of anti-essentialism: all women are not created equal, and privilege varies greatly by circumstances,particularly that of race and class. Yet at the same time, feminist legal theory tends to view men through an essentialist lens, in which men are created equal. The study of masculinities, inspired by feminist theory to explore the construction of manhood and masculinity, questions the real circumstances of men, not in order to deny men's privilege but to explore in particular how privilege is constructed, and what price is paid for it.In this groundbreaking work, feminist legal theorist Nancy E. Dowd exhorts readers to apply the anti-essentialist model - so dominant in feminist jurisprudence - to the study of masculinities. She demonstrates how men's treatment by the law and society in general varies by race, economic position, sexuality, and other factors. She applies these insights to both boys and men, examining how masculinities analysis exposes both privilege and subordination. She examines men's experienceof fatherhood and sexual abuse, and boys' experience in the contexts of education and juvenile justice. Ultimately, Dowd calls for a more inclusive feminist theory, which, by acknowledging the study of masculinities, can broaden our understanding of privilege and subordination.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8537-9
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Feminist legal theory began by asking “the woman question.” Feminists persistently asked why women were missing, what justified their subordination, differentiation, and inequality. Feminists affirmatively called for valuing that which was woman-identified. Antiessentialist critics of feminism required feminists to “ask the other question” or questions—questions of race, class, and sexual orientation. Feminists had to acknowledge differences among women and the intertwining of privilege with inequality, including instances of women’s subordination of other women.

    Antiessentialism inevitably led to noticing how the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexual orientation dissolve any notion that only women are subordinated. And that fact...

  5. PART I Theory

    • 2 Men, Masculinities, and Feminist Theory
      (pp. 13-24)

      Why have men, as a focus of discussions regarding gender bias, gender equality, and gender-specific concerns, been absent from feminist theory? There are two obvious answers to this question. First, women have been the focus of feminist theory,and rightly so: their inequality, oppression, and unjust status as a group generated the inquiry and also exposed their absence and invisibility in virtually all academic disciplines. Thus feminist analysis explored not only women’s inequality but also how the construction of knowledge has been influenced to a significant extent, theoretically and empirically, by the perspective, concerns, and presumed centrality and universality of...

    • 3 Masculinities Theory and Practice
      (pp. 25-56)

      Understanding masculinities, manhood, and men is critical for feminist theory. First, men are not universal or undifferentiated, and seeing men and boys in a more complex, real way helps to identify inequalities more clearly. Second, the intersections of masculinity with other critical identity factors or traits, especially race, class, and sexual orientation, tell us more about the interaction of privilege and disadvantage, an interaction that operates for some women as well and that operates differently for men than for women. We can learn from those intersections more about resistance and change, as well as the pull of privilege. Third, men...

    • 4 Toward a New Theory of Feminist Jurisprudence
      (pp. 57-72)

      What does masculinities theory add to feminist theory? How is feminist theory advanced, enriched, solidified by adding the insights of this scholarship? There is no doubt that masculinities theory and applications enrich gender understanding, analysis, and strategizing. At the same time, there is the potential to obfuscate and hide a justified continued primary focus on women’s inequality with false notions of symmetry. The greatest promise may lie in the more nuanced understanding of the replication of power amid an ideology of equality.

      Masculinities scholarship suggests a series of insights about men that are critical for gender analysis. I list them...

  6. PART II Boys

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 73-74)

      Boys and men are gendered beings, functioning within culture, structures, and institutions that are infused with masculinities norms. As feminists have long argued and explored, as a group men have disproportionate power and privilege over women. Masculinities analysis, as suggested in part 1, adds to that analysis by further unraveling how male power and dominance, as a group, is sustained. Masculinities analysis also suggests how boys and men can nevertheless be unequal and/or subordinated as part of dominance, how they can be rendered invisible and hidden even as they define dominant norms. In parts 2 and 3, focusing first on...

    • 5 Boys and Education
      (pp. 75-86)

      Masculinities affect boys as they move through the educational process in a number of ways. The evidence that boys as a group are doing poorly in comparison to girls as a group includes lower grades, being held back more, a higher dropout rate, lower test scores, more behavior problems, more suspensions, more failure, and a lower likelihood of attending college. Boys are also disproportionately diagnosed with learning disorders, particularly ADD and ADHD, and show up more frequently in special education classes.

      The dialogue about why this is so frequently is antifeminist and antigirl. It is said that girls and women...

    • 6 Boys and Juvenile Justice
      (pp. 87-100)

      Unlike the contemporary education system, which is expressly gender neutral, the juvenile justice system is a gender-specific system designed to manage, control, and respond to boys. Although girls are in the system, boys are the overwhelming subjects. In this, the juvenile justice system mirrors the gender composition of the adult prison population. The juvenile justice system reflects and operates on assumptions about masculinities and reflects masculinities norms. Yet we rarely think about or discuss this system as a gendered system. Rather, we simply assume it.

      Where the sexes are asymmetrically represented, it is critical to consider gender analysis, of both...

  7. PART III Men

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 101-104)

      Just as the two chapters in part 2 apply masculinities analysis to boys, the two chapters in this part are examples of the application of masculinities analysis to men, in the context of fatherhood and men as victims of sexual abuse. In the discussion of fatherhood in chapter 7, we have an explicitly all-male category that has drawn some gender analysis but not much of an explicit look at masculinities. Masculinities analysis would be particularly helpful, I argue, in understanding the economic and cultural barriers to involved, egalitarian fatherhood. It exposes how the construction of gender identity gets in the...

    • 7 Men and Fatherhood
      (pp. 105-124)

      Fatherhood is inherently male identified. When we talk about fathers we talk about men. Yet fathers remain strangely invisible as gendered subjects. We do not talk about masculinity; rather, the tendency is to essentialize fathers. This is donetomen as well asby(some) men. At the core of fatherhood, however, is a tension that resonates in the contemporary practice of fatherhood. Fatherhood is one of the critical life roles for men, but care of children is significantly at odds with the concept of masculinity. One of the core principles of masculinity is “Don’t be a girl.” Care is...

    • 8 Men and Sexual Abuse
      (pp. 125-140)
      Ted Shaw

      Sexual abuse is the antithesis of any vision of fatherhood, whether traditional or redefined fatherhood. We do not imagine fathers as perpetrators or as victims when they were children. Men are typically linked with sexual abuse in our minds as perpetrators of sexual offenses against girls and women. The paradigmatic sex offender is the sexual predator male who ruthlessly attacks and violates multiple victims, classically the rapist or the child molester. This offender is always a male, and often a stranger; the attack is random; and the gender of the victim is always female.

      We miss several things in this...

  8. 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 141-150)

    Masculinities analysis has much to add to feminist analysis. By focusing on boys we begin to reexamine the dynamics of gender socialization and how it reproduces gender inequality. The psychological data expose fundamental similarities between girls and boys and how those similarities are affected by concepts of gender role that are not limited to families but are also strongly reinforced in the structure of education. In the ecology of childhood, education is one of the most influential systems, along with family, peers, and community. As chapter 5 demonstrates, for both boys and girls, education remains a highly gendered structure and...

  9. References
    (pp. 151-184)
  10. Index
    (pp. 185-186)
  11. About the Author
    (pp. 187-187)