By Christa Rodriguez || Staff Writer
Dr. Michael Kimmel, author and professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University, spoke at this week’s Common Hour about gender inequality, especially on college campuses. Kimmel is a prominent male feminist and supporter of gender equality. He is also a distinguished figure in men’s studies and has written multiple books on gender and masculinities, including: Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. Kimmel established an academic journal, Masculinities, in 1992 and later, Men and Masculinities, noted as one of the first academic journals that focuses on men. Kimmel teaches and directs the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University.
Kimmel believes that there is a new kind of development in young people in the United States and Western Europe. Parents of young children will say that they are growing up too fast, while parents of 30-year-olds will wonder if their children will ever fully grow up. Kimmel defined adulthood as having completed education, being married, having kids, having a job, and having a house. Nowadays, adulthood under these terms is reached a full decade later than it once was. Kimmel suggested that a new stage of developmental stage has formed between 16 and 26 year olds, a developmental stage he calls Guyland.
Kimmel states that the word “gender” tends to mean women, and men do not realize that gender is just as important to them. Kimmel explained that this is similar to the idea of race. He said, “privilege is invisible to those who have it.” This applies to male privilege as well. Kimmel vocalized the need to bring men into the conversation about gender. Men need to “make gender visible” because usually men do not think gender is about them.
Kimmel said college campuses are the most gender equal places by day, but not by night. He said, “many of you are beneficiaries of…helicopter parenting.” This means parents doing everything for their children. This is not always good because students enter college with the fear of having to take responsibility for their actions. However, the freedom college allows makes young men “eager to prove their masculinity.”
Kimmel spelled out the four basic rules of manhood from the 1950s. These included: no sissy stuff, make a lot of money, be reliable in a crisis, and “give them hell” or take risks. The first rule involves men calling each other “gay,” which does not refer to a homosexual man but rather is a label that is supposed to take away his manhood. He said, “masculinity is constantly being policed by other guys” who always have to prove their maleness. Kimmel observed a fraternity and how they put their solidarity of their brothers before women. He mentioned how fraternities have all the parties and they are the only ones that can serve alcohol. At the parties, the girls are expected to do what the men want them to do in order to get in. Kimmel suggests that colleges try making it so that the sororities are the ones that can serve alcohol. That way, if a girl gets too drunk, she can go upstairs to her bedroom, free of control from the men.
Kimmel also touched on hook-ups based on his interviews and research on universities. He said that the phrase “hook-up” is intentionally vague. The girl can say she just hooked up, which means she did not have intercourse, while the guy can say he hooked up with a girl and his friends interpret it as intercourse. Hook-ups are spontaneous and “almost always involve copious amounts of alcohol” because the participants want plausible deniability. The interviewees were asked if they had an orgasm at their last hook-up and if their partners did too. While women’s answers were correct in their partner’s orgasms, men drastically overestimated their partner’s orgasms. This is because many women are faking it, either to make their partner feel like they did their job or just to end it because they are bored. Kimmel suggested that these women take the feminine position of taking care of a guy to make him feel good.
The inequality evident in hook-ups and in fraternities display the overall nighttime gender inequality at colleges. Kimmel urges us to ask how we can make college campuses more gender equal.
First-year Christa Rodriguez is a staff writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.