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It's been a super-social last week or so and today I'm stealing a few hours' of silence to catch up on all my reading.  Funny how the theme of so much today seems to be masculinity.  Guess it's officially "Man Day" at the Rach household.  I'll take it.

Michael Kimmel's latest, "Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men," came out fairly recently, and I've been trying to catch a few reviews here and there.  Salon's got the latest, one I'll highlight here for readability and insight. 

Kimmel's a well-known name in the sociology of gender.  He's done a lot of important work over the years looking at American masculinity, and his was the name on many of my textbooks as an 18-year-old studying this shit.  I respect his measured and mindful approach.  "Guyland" seems like what you'd expect it to be: a rumination on the ways in which, well, it's really hard to be a young dude these days.

I've said for years that this is where gender studies is going.  Masculinity, and maleness, are hot topics right now, after being somewhat ignored in the 1970s and 1980s, assumed to be the "default" against which a lot of feminist activism was taking place.  But I think there's a certain tenderness toward studies of masculinity that was missing for a long time, and maybe just now, finally, it's coming into its own.

The Salon review touches on some of this, exploring Kimmel's discussion of a sense of "thwarted entitlement," looking at the ongoing pattern of young men underperforming in school, and digging into the difficult dichotomy right now that seems to present young men with two options: "the choice between gay or guy."  How true.  There's this tumultuous dynamic between masculinity and gayness, a fine "line between the homosocial and the homoerotic" that seems to be a constant source of angst, a precarious space wherein men are "nowhere safe from homophobia."  

Kimmel's book looks interesting for his work on this problem alone.  I appreciate, too, though, the way he highlights how the definition of "adulthood" has changed since the 1950s, when being an adult meant 5 things: "leaving home, completing one's education, starting work, getting married, and becoming a parent." 

Writer James Hannaham points out how "two of these indicators are themselves heterosexist -- getting married and having children are new phenomena for some people, and far more optional than they were 58 years ago."  He argues instead that "adulthood perhaps more commonly arrives these days in packages that have nothing to do with heterosexual identity or marriage: adopting a child, buying property, taking on greater responsibility at work, caring for disabled relatives, the death of one's parents, etc."  Oh my, yes.

So along with trying to walk the fine line of gay/guyness, young men struggle to address the question of what adulthood even means anymore (at least, for anyone who attempts to move beyond a 1950s definition of maturity).  

Whew.  That's a lot to carry on anyone's shoulders, no matter how broad.  Read the book.

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