Manhood in America

Michael S. Kimmel, Author Free Press $30 (560p) ISBN 978-0-02-874067-6
In a startling, original study, Kimmel, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York, makes a persuasive case that manhood has been a constantly changing social construct in American culture. Once rooted in genteel land-ownership or in the pride of independent artisans, shopkeepers and farmers, manhood was transformed by the industrial revolution, which made American males, by the mid-19th century, insecure, mobile, competitive, chronically restive and seeking a sense of themselves as men through their economic success. Men attempted to prove their manliness through sports, business, bodybuilding, clothes, fraternal organizations, participation in two world wars and the Depression (``emasculating both at work and at home''). In 1936, Lewis Terman, inventor of the IQ test, introduced a sexist ``M-F scale'' that supposedly measured children's masculinity and femininity and their likelihood of ``successfully'' acquiring gender identity. Men today, observes Kimmel, spout angry antifeminist rhetoric in men's rights groups, or beat a defensive retreat via the men's movement's embrace of cosmic archetypes. Drawing on a wealth of material--advice manuals, union struggles, the symbolism of presidential campaigns, Tocqueville, Thoreau, contemporary films, novels and men's magazines--Kimmel's humane, pathbreaking study points the way toward a redefinition of manhood that combines strength with nurturing, personal accountability, compassion and egalitarianism. Photos. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/1995
Release date: 11/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
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