Tag Archives: Michael Kimmel

Familiar Men in the Toxic Masculinity Conversation


Laurie and Debbie say:

The #metoo conversation, instead of disappearing, is expanding to cover many related topics. Discussing rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape culture demands a discussion of masculinity–the toxic masculinity that creates these disastrous stories, and an exploration of alternatives.

While Laurie was taking the photographs for Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes, Debbie and her collaborator Richard Dutcher were working on writing the text for the book. All three of us spent five years engaged in examining masculinity from a wide variety of perspectives. Fourteen years after the book was published, those conversations are finally showing up in the mainstream news:

The eyes are clear, focused, expressive. These men are there, present, alive. They engage with each other, they engage with the camera, and they engage with the viewer. These men are not merely their hardened shells; there is somebody home, they inhabit their bodies. These are men you could know, men whom you would want to know.

“That … is resistance to traditional norms. Thesei men invite you in to their world; they do not keep you out. They open doors; they don’t build fences.”

Michael Kimmel, from his introduction



Paul Kivel, in Men’s Work, encourages people to think about masculinity as a tightly constraining box. The rule of being masculine is to make sure that you always appear to fit inside the box, because everyone is always checking to make sure that nothing sticks out. Everything masculine is inside the box. Everything outside the box is one of three things: female, weak, and queer. … So many men spend an awful lot of time and energy keeping all of themselves inside the box.

–Debbie and Richard, from “To Be a Man,” in Familiar Men



No aspect of being male is more complex or, perhaps, more determined by the [masculinity box] than sexuality. Who you have sex with, when, and how, as well as who you tell, when, and how, all have very strict guidelines. The first of these seems to be that you aren’t supposed to even think directly about the guidelines; you learn them in your body by watching and copying other men and you defy them at your peril.— from “To Be a Man”



Power is based on the projection of power, and real male bodies unerringly repudiate that projection. I think novelist Dorothy Allison said it best when she remarked that she thought the penis was the original source of the literary concept of irony, that something so small and vulnerable could be accorded such impressive powers. To see a penis is to know that it couldn’t possibly be a phallus.

Jonathan D. Katz, quoted in “To Be a Man”

In the United States in the beginning of the 21st century, simply being a man is bad for your health and your lifespan. Women statistically live longer than men and stay healthy and functional for a longer percentage of their lives.

— from “To Be a Man”



As far back as I can remember, I’d always known that Real Men don’t have asses. They walk all seized up, or run the risk of being accused of being a wimp or a faggot. It made my back hurt and it made my soul hurt, just so I could try to be a Real Man. Real Men have strong arms and chests and maybe even legs, but they don’t have bodies. After all, you can’t have a body if you don’t have an ass.

I began to explore new ways to move. The roadblocks I had to get past were amazingly deep and subtle.

Charlie Glickman, quoted in “To Be a Man”


Grandfather and Grandson


A Guys Guide to Feminism

Laurie says:

We’ve always been impressed with Michael Kimmel’s thoughts on masculinity, which is why he wrote the introduction to Familiar Men:A Book of Nudes. Recently he and Michael Kaufman have written a book called A Guys Guide to Feminism.

Quotes are from Seal Press:

Authors Michael Kaufman and Michael Kimmel, two of the world’s leading male advocates of gender equality, believe it has everything to do with them—and that it’s crucial to educate men about feminism in order for them to fully understand just how important and positive these changes have been for them.

Kaufman and Kimmel address these issues in The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. Hip and accessible, it contains nearly a hundred entries—from “Autonomy” to “Zero Tolerance”—written in varying tones (humorous, satirical, irreverent, thoughtful, and serious) and in many forms (“top ten” lists, comics, interviews, mini-stories, and more). Each topic celebrates the ongoing gains that are improving the lives of women and girls—and what that really means for men.

This seemed like an appropriate place for a Familiar Men photo.

Here’s Michael Kaufman talking about The Astounding Simple Truth About Masculinity and Goodness (It’s well worth reading the whole post.)

To answer the question, “what is good about masculinity?”, we need to remind ourselves that:
Masculinity doesn’t exist. At least not in the way we think it exists. There is no timeless definition of manhood. It varies from culture to culture, era to era. It’s simply how we define manhood and how we define the relations of power among men and between men and women.
That means that masculinity (like femininity) is a collective hallucination. It’s as if we’ve all taken the same drug and walk around imagining that masculinity is real. We might assume it is biological, we might think it comes from being male or female, but in truth, each culture makes it up.

…and here’s the great paradox I’ve written about for the past three decades:  the very ideals that confer and represent power and privilege, are a death trap for men. They are a source of enormous pain, isolation, and fear. The reasons are many: To demand that any human not feel or express pain is impossible. To push boys (and men) to ceaselessly prove we’re real men leads to a constant dialogue of self-doubt about making the masculine grade.

And them he goes on to discuss what is bad and good about masculinity and concludes:

So, rather than talk about what’s good about masculinity, I’d rather encourage both boys and girls, men and women to do two things:  To celebrate and nurture the human qualities that are good for us all. And, secondly, to allow for true individuality: yes, some of us will be more one thing or another. Let’s let our boys and girls be those things without wedging them into the miserable world of pink and blue.

And it’s so good to hear people saying what Debbie and Richard Dutcher said in their essay in Familiar Men.