Manhood in America: A Cultural History
In a time when psychologists are rediscovering Darwin, and much of our social behavioral is being reduced to ancient, hard-wired patterns, Michael Kimmel's history of manhood in America comes as a much needed reminder that our behavior as men and women is anything but stable and fixed. Kimmel's authoritative, entertaining, and wide-ranging history of men in America demonstrates that manhood has meant very different things in different eras. Drawing on advice books, magazines, political pamphlets, and popular novels and films, he makes two surprising claims: First, manhood is homosocial - that is, men need to prove themselves to each other, not to women. Second, definitions of manliness have evolved in response to women's movements. When women act, men react. Originally, manliness was an internal virtue and a democratic ideal - British men were viewed as fops, and American men had to be independent, honest, and responsible. By the 1890s, however, manhood changed to masculinity, something that had to be constantly proven through the new explosion of sports, fraternities, and fashion. Finally, in 1936, Lewis Terman, the creator of the IQ test, developed an "M-F" test to analyze adolescents' masculinity and femininity. Until well into the 1960s, the test penalized boys who preferred to draw flowers instead of forests, or who knew that a teacup was used for drinking tea. But just as Terman's categories and questions seem outdated to us, so will our own standards seem temporary to our successors.
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And these meanings become one of the poles around which our experiences
revolve.2 The women's movement made gender visible — at least to women.
Courses on gender in the universities are populated largely by women, as if the
term only applied to them. "Woman alone seems to have 'gender' since the
category itself is defined as that aspect of social relations based on difference
between the sexes in which the standard has always been man," writes the
historian Thomas ...
As a middle-class white man, I have no class, no race, no gender. I'm the generic
person! Sometimes I like to think it was on that day that I became a middle- class
white man. Sure, I had been a member of all those groups before, but they had
not meant much to me. That was, itself, a form of privilege. Since then, I've begun
to understand that race, class, and gender do not refer only to the marginalized "
others"; they also describe me. Writing a history of men in America, I have placed
The M-F test was perhaps the single most widely used inventory to determine the
successful acquisition of gender identity in history and was still being used in
some school districts into the 1960s. The test also formed the basis for virtually all
studies of gender-role acquisition ever since, including some of the most widely
used psychological tests in our nation's history: the Strong Vocational Interest
Blank (1943), the Guilford Temperament Survey (1936), and the Minnesota
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MANHOOD IN AMERICA: A Cultural HistoryUser Review - Jane Doe - Kirkus
Kimmel (Sociology/SUNY, Stony Brook) applies the methodology of feminist history to the experience of being male in America. Rejecting the idea that almost every history book is about the male ... Read full review
Manhood in America: a cultural historyUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Kimmel, a noted men's studies authority, coeditor of Against the Tide (LJ 2/1/92), and editor of The Politics of Manhood, reviewed below, presents in his own words the first cultural history of men in ... Read full review
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