The week before spring break, Alpha Kappa Sigma sponsored a talk by Michael Kimmel on men’s role in gender equality in America. I had never heard of Dr. Kimmel before, but I’m all for a rousing talk on masculinity in America so I went with a few friends not knowing what to expect. By the end, I knew that Michael Kimmel was one of the few white men I would be open to learning about gender equality from.
A leading figure in men’s studies. Dr. Kimmel is a highly accredited sociologists with several publications to his name, including the new book Guyland, which was the topic of the night. Guyland refers to the time period beginning with college and ending in the late twenties, a concept that is relatively new for men and women. The expectation that men and women should have a career, spouse, and family before the age of twenty is gone; instead, both genders are choosing to go to college, change careers several times, and postpone family decisions for almost a decade. During this time period, boys are beginning to learn how to become men. Unlike most cultures where this rite of passage is supervised by older men, eighteen-year-old boys are learning how to become men from nineteen and twenty-year-olds, and no one is telling them when enough is enough. As a result, males this age are constantly trying to prove their masculinity, which comes at a price for both men and women. According to Kimmel, guyland is inescapable, but society and older generations can help men and women navigate it by putting an end to hyper masculinity.
Michael Kimmel was an amazing speaker, and clearly knew his stuff. He brought up several points that had most of the audience including myself snapping and applauding-like how women cannot “have it all” because men already do, and the sense of entitlement many men feel when strives towards equality lead to “a black women stealing my job” (my being the operative word; why was it your job to begin with?) Kimmel discussed the degrading Greek life initiations men and women can be subjected to, and how they affirm masculinity and male approval. As someone who has never understood why anyone would subject themselves to that level of hazing, it was an interesting perspective to consider. Finally, he touched on sexual relations between men and women that are usually much more enjoyable for men than women, and why that has yet to change. One of his best points was how many of these examples of hyper masculinity and gender inequality takes place on college campuses, where students are supposed to be educated on equality between the sexes. I highly encourage listening to one of Kimmel’s TED talks, buying his book, and using what he says to have a discussion with anyone that thinks gender inequality is a “myth”.