Book by Shaun R. Harper & Frank Harris, III
Review by Timothy J. Jones
Senior Academic Counselor
University College
University of Oklahoma

Student affairs professional and advisors alike will find in College Men and Masculinities a thought-provoking overview of the latest theory and practice about male students, who they are today and how to provide effective programming for them. The editors have assembled a wide-ranging set of articles representing many points of view, covering identity formation, sexuality, behavior, sports, health, and diversity. 

The readings provide an overview of men’s studies theory, grounding the theories in male students’ experiences, showing “the social construction of their masculinities, how environments shape their attitudes and behaviors” as well as “conflicts that ensue as they struggle to fulfill hegemonic conceptions of manhood” (p. 7). 

Readers will find themselves thinking about male identity and power—and perhaps seeing those concepts in a new light when they are reminded that “just at the moment the great adventure begins, college men feel the most vulnerable” (p. 248), and, instead of power, some writers place “fear and shame at the very center of the social construction of men’s identity” (p. 243). 

Within this context, contributors’ topics include the experiences of college men in traditional fraternities as well as gay fraternities. Each group’s trying to “find out what it is like to be a man” (p. 160) results in some interesting parallels, with each concluding that the “fraternal bonding experience…possible only for men” (p. 161). 

Voices that are many times silenced are heard in this book, and the stories are enlightening—gay fraternity men, Latino fraternity men, athletes, and the differently abled are all present. The Latino fraternity men find “a familial atmosphere on campus” (p. 409). Some of the revenue-sport athletes interviewed summed up their university experience as, “Okay, we’ve used you up now, so goodbye and good luck to ya and don’t come back around here no more” (p. 512). In contrast, the differently-abled wheelchair basketball athletes found ways to “minimize stereotypes of their body as lacking physical skill” (p. 486).

The readings in this book invite academic advisors and student affairs personnel to seek out undergraduate men who are successful students, and consult them “as models upon which effective educational interventions should be based” (p. 11). These essays will remind readers of the richness and challenges of learning to be a man in today’s society—and that the first step is taking the time to listen to male students’ stories as they work their way through society’s contradictory expectations and their own conflicting emotions. 

College men and masculinities: Theory, research and implications for practice. (2010). Book by Shaun R. Harper & Frank Harris, III. Review by Timothy J. Jones. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 586 pp. $65.00. ISBN 978-0-470-44842-7
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