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ASU to hear from expert on issues regarding men and masculinity

A professor of sociology and gender studies will come to Tempe campus to highlight how men and women are affected by gender issues

Dr. Michael Kimmel speaks at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in May 2016.  

Dr. Michael Kimmel speaks at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in May 2016.  

This month ASU students will have the opportunity to hear a lecture called "Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era."

Michael Kimmel, a notable professor of sociology and gender studies, will come to ASU on March 24 to discuss ideas and answer questions regarding feminism, men and masculinity with students. 

Kimmel, the founder of an academic journal dedicated to men and masculinity and the author of over a dozen books including “Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era” and “The Guy's Guide to Feminism,” said he plans to show students that gender issues affect everyone.

According to the Webster dictionary, feminism is the theory of equality between sexes as well as a movement on behalf of women's rights and interests. The movement, which began in the 1960s, used lobbying and activism to publicize issues such as salary inequity to raise awareness about the inequality of women in society.

Kimmel said one of the reasons he gives lectures to colleges is to get students talking about the societal gender issues that may affect their campus.

“Every college campus is facing certain problems or issues that need to be discussed,” he said. “I have a feeling that people will know some of it, not know other parts of it and also be surprised by it.”

The lecture content seeks to enable the audience to gain perspective on the "extreme right" and what makes them angry, Kimmel said.

“I’m going to be talking about my most recent research on the extreme right in The United States, a topic that since the election of Donald Trump, has been of great interest to many people,” he said. “Then I’m going to talk about my interviews with neo-Nazis and white nationalists.”

Kimmel said some people will be surprised by how important masculinity is to men, especially white men.

“Masculinity is part of the way that they understand the world, and gender is part of their way of criticizing those that they’re against and also a vehicle for recruitment,” he said.

Kimmel said he thinks gender issues affect not only women, but also men because of how deeply rooted they are in the concept of masculinity.

“I do think it’s important for men to talk about these kinds of issues,” he said. “One of the ways in which we express racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism, all has to do with masculinity and gender.”

Sarah Tracy, a professor of human communication at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at ASU, said Kimmel offers a platform for diversity and inclusion in his lecture.

“It’s really important for students, no matter what the demographic, to realize that gender issues are not just women’s issues or that race issues are not just the issue of marginalized groups,” she said. 

Tracy said she thinks students in the Hugh Downs school should be able to express their thoughts on these issues.

“If we can’t talk about difficult issues in a university setting and within a school of communication, it’s hard to know where we’re ever going to be able to talk about it,” she said. “The students in the Hugh Downs school have an open mind and are interested in seeing how we all play a role in creating just societies.”

Tracy also said some people may have defensive reactions to the lecture.

“Some of the reactions to his book suggest to me that there’s going to be some people who really don’t want to hear what he has to say,” she said. “I’d never seen so many reviews of a book by people who admittedly say they didn’t read the book, but they just didn’t like the title of it.”

Tracy said she hopes students who may not agree with Kimmel's ideas will listen to a new point of view.

“I would hope that they leave the lecture realizing that the truth does not lie only in one place,” she said. “All of us have a particular point of view that is neither wholly perfect or wholly bad, and we can learn from hearing those different points of view.”

Rose Weitz, a professor of women and gender studies at the School of Social Transformation at ASU, said she heard Kimmel speak at ASU about 10 years ago, and she definitely considers him a feminist.

“He is someone who believes that men and women both have gender, and that although men have been traditionally more in a position of power than women have, men are harmed in some ways by having to live up to expectations of masculinity,” she said.

Weitz said she does not think of Kimmel as a radical or unconventional.

“I think he is simply talking about things that most of us don’t remember to talk about,” she said.

Weitz said Kimmel’s lecture will highlight the issues surrounding men and expose students to a new perspective.

“We are certainly now — since the election in November — much more aware that there is a part of the white male population that feels like it has dramatically lost power and not been listened to, and I think Michael will have some interesting things to say about why we should listen to these people,” she said. “Anything that opens our minds is good and useful at this moment.”

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