Michael Messner (1979)

Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, University of Southern California.

I arrived in Berkeley in 1979 as part of a very large cohort of graduate students, many of whom are leaders and important researchers today. We were immediately immersed in a quirky and exciting seminar, co-taught by Michael Burawoy and Neil Smelser. In retrospect, I can see that my main experience as a grad student was benign neglect; I received little direction with my work, and almost no professional socialization. In some ways, this laissez-faire context ended up serving me well; I connected with several talented grad students, learned a great deal from them, and was mostly free to pursue my interests.

Radical sociology drew me to the UCB sociology department. By the late 70s, I had become involved in networks of men who were grappling with questions related to the theory and practice of feminism. I wasn't sure if anybody at the University was doing that sort of work, but I did know that some men in the Berkeley community were doing anti-rape organizing. Hooking up with Bob Blauner aided me in getting in the ground floor of what eventually developed into a multidisciplinary network of scholars who study the social construction of gender and men. A highlight of grad school for me was being a TA in Bob's course on men and masculinity one of the first such courses taught in the nation. Bob was a brilliant discussion facilitator even in a very large class. His course became the template from which I developed my own course. The interests that I developed at UCB on men and feminist politics, and on gender and sports provided a foundation for much of my subsequent work on these topics.

Dissertation Title: 
Masculinity and Sports: An Exploration of the Changing Meaning of Male Identity in the Lifecourse of the Athlete
Dissertation Book Title: 
Power at play : sports and the problem of masculinity