Women's and Gender Studies Program


Date of this Version



Published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC, Vol. 4, Issue 4, p . 120-1 22, electronic ISSN 1553-661 0. Copyright (c) 2007 by the National Sexuality Research Center; published by University of California Press. Used by permission.


To begin with, although Daniels's work could be categorized as political science, part of this book's appeal is that it addresses what we historians might call a massive hole in the historiography--in this case, regarding men's health. In other words, we just do not know very much about this topic, nor do we know much about its history. Ironically, this dearth of knowledge stands in stark contrast to the wealth of information about the history of women's health--something that might seem a bit odd given the feminist argument that history has more often been about men than about women. However, part of the explanation for why the interest in women's health has trumped a focus on men's health lies in history itself: The desire to understand the history of women's health arose in the late 1960s and the 1970s, precisely when second-wave feminism, women's history, and the women's health movement--which, in 1973, produced Our Bodies, Ourselves (Boston Women's Health Book Collective), the groundbreaking work about women's health-were all picking up steam. Add to these factors the concurrent push within the field of history to engage in social history--a trend that medical historians translated into accounts focused more on patients and society and less on great doctors, scientists, and medical discoveries and what emerged was a vibrant new body of scholarship about the history of medicine, health, and society. Given its intellectual and activist heritage, this social history has, for the most part, been rooted firmly in the experiences of women and, in particular, their reproductive health.

In writing this book, therefore, Daniels, along with other historians such as Leslie Reagan (1997), is looking to fill what has for too long been a rather large, gaping hole in the history of men's health. Furthermore, she does so in a way that resonates with what sociologist Michael Kimmel (1996) called upon scholars to do: to apply the tools and methods feminists developed for understanding women and femininity in order to understand (paradoxically enough) men and masculinity. This shift, it seems to me, is important because, as Kimmel himself thoughtfully-- and with full awareness of the irony--noted: "American men still have no history in part, I believe, because we haven't known what questions to ask (p. 2)."