Foundation for Male Studies

  • ‘Solutions’ is the theme ‘Of Boys and Men” by Richard V Reeves, Senior fellow in Economics at the Brookings Institute.

    “ In the current political climate, highlighting the problems of men and boys is seen as a perilous undertaking”.

    Even so, the drastic decline of the fortunes of boys and men has become undeniable and uncomfortably intrusive into each of our lives on a very personal basis. Problems abound in  glaringly obvious form, in the vilification of maleness, in the epithet of the ‘toxic male’.

    David Brooks and Michele Goldberg of the New York Times braved the storm and both had recent op-ed essays on the tragedy of ‘deaths of despair in men’, workforce decline, failure of boys in education, decline of male college enrollment, and the male exit from family life.

    Now, also, the crisis has risen to the level that it is worthy of a ‘think tank’ deliberation in spite of the fact that, up to this point, no institution to my knowledge has even hinted at looking at the gendered male elephant in the room. Bravi to Brookings!

    Reeves dispenses with lament and speaks to understanding institutional failure as  a causative factor rather than the failure of individuals. He cites the need for Institutional change as the key to creating the true equality that embraces ‘the other half of gender”. Years of single-sex gender promotion have created the zero sum gender game of, ‘if you win, I lose’.

    Reeves focuses on three areas:

    1)   ‘Redshirting’, boys need an extra year in the classroom;
    2)   Heal’, getting men into the jobs of the future;
    3)   ‘New Dads’, fatherhood as an independent social institution.

    ‘Redshirting’ in sports is the deliberate holding back of a player from regular season competition because they are not ready. Boys' intellectual and psychosocial development lags behind girls by about a year. Educators know this and yet the educational institution as a whole does not build this fact into the curriculum. Differences in educational readiness are being ignored. The outcome is that boys start from behind and stay behind throughout the educational process. Often, their educational difficulties are then treated as ‘behavioral’, where medication is the preferred remedy, thus codifying the educational mismanagement.

    ‘HEAL’, the acronym for health, education, administration and literacy, is another call to institutional change. Gender desegregation of the labor market has overwhelmingly gone only one way: women moving into positions formerly held predominantly by males. This, together with the decline in the traditional male labor force, manufacturing and strength jobs have sidelined men.

    Men need the institutional support of approval and subsidy to be incentivized to move into the ‘pink collar’ market.

    Redshirting and Heal go hand in hand. Better educational performance and increased educational participation advance men’s chances of becoming teachers, administrators, nurses, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers and accountants. Yes, doctors, as of the latest account, 63 % of our medical school class is female.

    “New Dads” points to restructuring the role of the father in the family away from, ‘provide and protect’, to being integral to the family unit. The glorification of the heroic ‘single’ mom speaks to the institutional failure of seeing men as essential to the well being of the family unit and the healthy development of both the female and male children.

    Every single parent family, more than likely, speaks to gendered interpersonal failure or economic hardship, rather than a triumph over adversity. Children are disadvantaged in every way in these families, even if they are economically viable. Fatherlessness takes a toll that can easily be seen in the biographies of all the school shooters as well as the entire shamefully bloated prison population.

    As with climate change, where we are deep into the effects of the poor stewardship of our planet, so also are we deep into the erosion of male participation in our complex new world.
    The wonderful development of our female resources has been, by this time, at least a half century mission. The actualities of full male participation in society, as with climate, raise the question as to whether or not we have gone past the ‘tipping point’ from which there is no return.

    Have boy’s and men’s prospects been put on a path of continued, inexorable decline?

    [Twenty years ago, Dr Ed Stephens and a group of visionary advisors created the Foundation for Male Studies (FMS), as an effort to encourage the ‘study of the male’.

    The vision was to establish a higher education study of all things male. The rationale was that maleness in the person of the individual male, as well as, the social and socioeconomic aspects of maleness, was as worthy of study as the femaleness that was central to Women’s Studies.

    Male Studies, as it was envisioned, was an academic, scientific, and a-political discipline that would promote the kind of institutional considerations that are the stock and trade of sociology. Male Studies highlighted the need to understand the bio-psycho-social forces that were determining the future of all of us, girls and women, boys and men. It was meant to promote the commonweal.

    - FMS joined the Center for Non-profits. FMS was the only non profit foundation dedicated to this effort in a Center that had a catalog of 1000 non-profit institutions that supported efforts on behalf of women and girls on a worldwide basis, and accounted for billions of dollars of dedicated effort on behalf of all things female.

    - The World Bank published a research study in 2006, “The other half of Gender” that foresaw all of the above: economic, social and family distortions that have come to pass. The book detailed the effects, even at that time, of one sided support of gender.

    - The details were grim. The conclusion was worse.,While single gender advocacy promoted the interests of that gender in meaningful ways, research showed that the overall effect was detrimental to both genders by undermining the social and economic cohesion that advances all, without disadvantaging any.

    Twenty years ago, FMS presciently, though mistakenly assumed, that ‘Male Studies’ was an idea whose time had come.

    - There has been little if any change of policy or perspective, either in academia or institutional interest in the special needs and vulnerabilities of the male. The climate of single gender support and concern has had its effect, and we are there.

    - “Of Boys and Men” by the Brookings Institution, while less comprehensive than the World Bank study, is a breath of fresh air.

    (All of the above is not meant to say that there have not been pioneers and efforts by hundreds of individuals and groups during this time. FMS, over the years has paid tribute to them by acknowledging their work and attempting to assemble a representative sample of their effort in the FMS library at its website: www.malestudies.org)

A colorful boy on a colorfully blue background