Concordia hosts international conference on men 

By Russ Cooper

People often see Gender Studies as outside of the traditional male point of view. Researchers at the 17th annual American Men's Studies Association conference are seeing the discipline in a different light.

Will Penny Magnifying glass

Will Penny

"[The AMSA] examines gender studies not in terms of women's studies but gender studies as masculinities studies," says Department of Education Associate Chair and conference organizer Will Penny. "That's what the weekend was all about."

Held here April 3 to 5, the conference welcomed over 150 participants and 45 speakers from all over the world, making this the largest AMSA conference in its history.

It also marked the first time the AMSA has held the conference outside of the U.S. Moving the conference outside its traditional home of the American Southeast or Midwest, conducting the conference in Montreal helped support one of the AMSA's goals of internationalizing the discussion and nicely complimented this year's theme, Beyond Borders: Masculinities and Margins.

"We really made some inroads at this conference about how to bring together different points of view from around the world," says Penny. "People weren't just being polite. They really had a good time."

Falling into the category of gender studies, the discipline of men's studies owes its existence to women's movements of the '70s, Penny explains. While there are a significant number of researchers worldwide examining men's studies, itís a very small percentage of overall numbers.

"The feminist movement began to recognize women's societal contribution and started to develop the questions and methodology to include women. Once they started to do that, researchers said, 'wait a minute, we've never looked at men through this methodological lens, either.'"

While Penny states the discipline, "really owes its genesis to the women's movement", he still comes across those who may not feel men's studies are necessary due to historical male dominance.

"Prior to the '60s or '70s, it's true everything was defined by men's view of the world. Yet, there are two questions that arise; the external question which is, how do men have and share this power? And the internal question is, how do men key into what other men are?" Penny says. "There's the examination of men from the outside, the global picture in terms of power, and the internal picture of men being not the hegemonic ideal, but actually something more complicated, more ordinary. But also very real."

Among the notable presenters was keynote address on April 3 from Sociology Professor Victor Seidler from Goldsmiths University in London, who centred his address on the theme itself.

Other interesting presentations included Indiana University's Brenda R. Weber, who's presentation American Eunuch: Troubling the Boundaries of Gender, Agency, Volition and Control examined the "bizarre" portraits of men who voluntarily choose castration to reinvent themselves.

In their lecture College Men struggling academically: What's patriarchy and dominance got to do with it?, Jack S. Khan and Benjamin Brett from Curry College in Boston presented substantial evidence of men's increasing decline in performance at American post-secondary institutions due to the perception that academia has become 'feminized' over the last two decades.

The conference will return to the U.S. next year with the city of Atlanta hosting.


Concordia University