Does God Make the Man?: Media, Religion, and the Crisis of Masculinity

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Many believe that religion plays a positive role in men’s identity development, with religion promoting good behavior, and morality. In contrast, we often assume that the media is a negative influence for men, teaching them to be rough and violent, and to ignore their emotions. In Does God Make the Man?, Stewart M. Hoover and Curtis D. Coats draw on extensive interviews and participant observation with both Evangelical and non-Evangelical men, including Catholics as well as Protestants, to argue that neither of these assumptions is correct. Dismissing the easy notion that media encourages toxic masculinity and religion is always a positive influence, Hoover and Coats argue that not only are the linkages between religion, media, and masculinity not as strong and substantive as has been assumed, but the ways in which these relations actually play out may contradict received views. Over the course of this fascinating book they examine crises, contradictions, and contestations: crises about the meaning of masculinity and about the lack of direction men experience from their faith communities; contradictions between men’s religious lives and media lives, and contestations among men’s ideas about what it means to be a man.  The book counters common discussions about a “crisis of masculinity,” showing that actual men do not see the world the way the “crisis talk” has portrayed it—and interestingly, even Evangelical men often do not see religion as part of the solution. 

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About the Author:

Stewart M. Hoover is Professor of Media Studies and Religious Studies, and Director of the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture at the University of Colorado. He is the author, co-author, or editor of twelve books, including most recently Media, Spiritualities and Social Change.

Review:

“This work succeeds in the continued problematization of the apparently ‘traditionalist’ notion that religious identities can provide an element of stability to masculine identities.”-The Journal of Religion and Culture

"Focuses the lenses of feminist analysis on critical cultural audience studies. Hoover and Coats’s research is deeply invested in the work accomplished at the nexus of media, religion, and gender, most specifically examining the shape of twenty-first-century white, middle-class, heterosexual American masculinities. In this illuminating book, media and religion coexist as alternative and intersecting symbolic worlds. They contribute to the construction of a contemporary 'elemental' masculinity that elicits and deploys commitments to vocations of 'provision, protection, and purpose.' This is a model volume with important and surprising conclusions!"-Sally M. Promey,Yale University

"Over the past two centuries men in the United States have bemoaned the decline of virility, singling out as the root cause such deep shifts as the expansion of urban life, the loss of agrarian values, the closing of the frontier, the rise of women’s rights, and the decline of the traditional family. Hoover and Coats show us that the tradition of the manly jeremiad continues today, taking shape in the broadly influential media that touch the hopes, dreams, memories, and fears of fathers and sons holed up in the sanctum of what the authors calls 'the domestic ideal.' The interviews they undertake demonstrate that religion is not merely a source of traditional values, ballast against the storm on conventional gender roles. It can also generate ambivalence about traditional constructions of gender. And media, for their part, are variously regarded as cause of moral decay and beloved source of gender ideals. There is much to learn from this clear, well-informed account of white male, mediated religious sentiment."-David Morgan,Duke University

 “In this important contribution to scholarship on communication/media and religion, Hoover and Coats report their ongoing research on the intersection of gender, media, and religion against the backdrop of a perceived ongoing crisis of masculinity in contemporary US culture.”-Choice

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