I posted this in my personal journal a few days ago and thought it would be interesting to share:
During my feminist reading I've religiously jotted down the title of each cited, suggested or criticized book I've come across. After delving into Susan Faludi's Stiffed and Jackson Katz's The Macho Paradox - books about men - I've stumbled across a slew of other material discussing men critically. However, in the actual men's studies section at Borders (and from what I know publishers suggest where books should go) there's maybe five books.
Do men's studies book simply not exist? Well, no. They're just never located (or are rarely) in the men's studies section. Katz is located in family violence, Terrence Real's I Don't Want To Talk About It is in general psychology, Bernard Leftkowitz's Our Guys is under true crimes. (All of these books are comparable to literature located in women's studies.) Why the scattering of books versus the ease of finding them all in one location? Alternately, does a section's isolation help stigmatize certain genres or is it supporting a genre by providing easy access?
First, what is women's studies? According to Dictionary.com it's "An academic curriculum focusing on the roles and contributions of women in fields such as literature, history, and the social sciences." When you look up men's studies - nothing. Granted, the old saying that "everything else is men's studies" certainly applys based purely on this definition. US-Centric here, but one only has to flip through a public school's history text to see what women didn't do throughout history or peruse an English syllabus outside of a women's literature course.
Unfortunately, assigned curriculum and popular history doesn't often provide a critical analysis of the cause and effects in life. Men have all the information out there, but unlike with women's studies, serious criticism seemingly isn't as pervasive. Is it important to have women's studies? I'd argue that it's vital for a myriad of reasons. Is it important to have men's studies? It's a field I think is going to continue to need further exploration and commentary in the struggle for true equality.
What about the section break downs? Not too long ago I heard someone suggest that sections such as "African American Literature" or "Queer Studies" were isolating as it ropes the books off into relatively small sections that can be difficult to find. Otherwise, it segregates the books. It's an interesting argument because as with men's studies, the books certainly exist but they're strewn around the store in sections that aren't specifically participating in counter-culture activities. All of the men's studies books I've found could just as easily be located in the (if the section exists at that store - I've seen some with the heading and some without) men's studies area.
The benefit of not having a single section is the implication of acceptance of the books and topics. Someone who's browsing general psychology has the chance to stumble upon I Don't Want To Talk About It - a book about male depression - but would never find Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within - a book on female self-esteem.
The drawback is that most men's studies sections hold roughly five books versus the estimated two hundred in the women's studies section. While the men's studies certainly exist they're spread throughout the store. As someone who loves and adores women's studies I've spent many a happy hour perusing the women's studies section and being introduced to a variety of topics from a woman's critical perspective I otherwise would have had a difficult time locating: economics, sex, literature, history, gender, work, family, psychology etc
Unfortunately, I doubt bookstores are going to begin stocking two copies of each book - one for the specific section and one for the general sections. Each has drawbacks and benefits but I'm not sure what ultimately is best. Admitedly, it would be nice to see the men's studies section fatten up, which would only mean the relocation of a few books in the store.