Archive for November 2009

Australian News/Reading: Respectful Relationships Education

November 30, 2009

In local masculinity education  news, I’ve just heard about a Vichealth report to the Victorian Education Department on teaching boys about healthy gender roles and challenging attitudes that allow violence and silence around gendered violence. The only link I’ve got here is one to an article on the Herald Sun – it’s not very positive and the comments are horrible. But I highly recommend you read the embedded chat with the report’s author, Dr Michael Flood, where he more cogently expresses the aims and goals of the program.

Here’s an excerpt from that chat;

 I should stress that the Herald Sun’s initial reporting wasn’t very accurate. The report, and my work in general, recognises that most young men (like most men) treat women and girls with respect and care, and that most do not use violence. A minority do, while others sometimes stand by silently and let this happen. So part of this work is addressing the sexist and violence-supportive attitudes among a minority of young men which feed into physical and sexual violence in relationships. And building on the positive roles which many young men already play.

Awesome stuff.

Here is the article

And here is the report (PDF)

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Today is White Ribbon Day

November 25, 2009

Today, in Australia at least, is White Ribbon Day – a day aimed at rasing male awareness around, and action towards the prevention of violence against women.

So, check out their website (I’ve linked to the Australian one) and educate yourself about violence against women and do something to help bring about cultural change when it comes to violence against women.

And in an interesting and somewhat related link, check out this article from the Guardian on research into lyrics dealing with sexual violence and it’s impact on women.

Image of Masculinity: Young male surfers (“The Pier Club Mob”) tease Alf “Bait” Gould about his backless swimsuit (a gift from his girlfriend), Bondi Beach, 10 October 1932, by Sam Hood

November 21, 2009

Here’s a great picture of the social regulation of masculinity in action, 1930’s style! There’s a few interesting aspects to this;the swimsuit is a gift from his girlfriend, this guy can (I’m assuming) be pretty secure in his masculine bona fides, and he is transgressing current regulations about acceptable dress codes.


Young male surfers (“The Pier Club Mob”) tease Alf “Bait” Gould about his backless swimsuit (a gift from his girlfriend), Bondi Beach, 10 October 1932, by Sam Hood

Originally uploaded by State Library of New South Wales collection

Masculinity and how we talk about it.

November 19, 2009

I’ve been reading quite a bit about masculinity on the internet over the last week. Specifically in relation to issues with and how to improve it. (Which is super, by the way)

I think it’s great that people are talking explicitly about men and masculinity, but I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in these writings (which have usually been from a feminist or allied perspective), which I find a little worrying.

This being that when masculinity is spoken about, it is often framed (usually implicitly but explicitly also) as some sort of  monolithic, overarching concept. This is kind of ok, because in a lot of ways, the dominant idea of masculinity IS a monolithic, overarching concept, and a concept that moreover operates as a really effective system and ideology for regulating society, perpetuating many ideas and attitudes that are oppressive or at best, problematic.

And when writing about problems or issues with men or masculinity it makes a lot of sense to use this clearly defined idea of masculinity. But masculinity is not a singular thing, and my masculinity is not the same as other peoples. Sure there is a great deal of commonality, but also a great deal of diversity, even amongst ‘hegemonic’ masculine identities. I think it would be helpful to the broader conversations and criticisms  about masculine identity and men to recognise this variety and diversity.

I’m not trying to come across as someone who thinks that people should stop criticising the poor old menfolk, but rather that those criticisms and discussions around them can be made stronger and more nuanced by a recognition of a diversity, in the same way that discourses of feminism have benefited from a recognition of and engagement with diversity. 

I think this post might lead onto a larger post about hegemonic masculinities, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and which is one of my favourite things in the world (the concept, not the “thing”).  I guess I just think that while it is often convenient and pragmatic to have discussions about ‘masculinity’ which is really shorthand for a whole bundle of dominant masculine ideologies and representations that are so problematic and need challenging; the act of referencing other, equally valid, expressions and identities is important in terms of broadening the discourse of what “masculinity” is.

Don’t emasculate your dog!

November 12, 2009

I’ve noticed, for a certain type of man and his dog, testicles are a very big issue.

Or, more appropriately, the absence of them is.

Apparently, man is concerned that his best friend will be adversely affected in the desexing process. And not just in the capacity to reproduce way.

But a loving and concerned owner can fill this void with Neuticles – testicular implants for you pets! It would be pretty easy to relegate this into the WTF file of crazy products on the internet. But there is some really interesting stuff at play here in regard to masculinity. First of all, here’s a few take away lines from the manufacturer’s website.

..it has become our ‘culture’ to accept emasculation as being the norm.

That is in relation to the standardisation of neutering of domestic animals, and the following is on the ethicacy of neuticles…

We feel the removal of a God-given body part – leaving a male pet looking unwhole after the traditional form of neutering is not only unethical but unnatural. With Neuticles it’s like nothing ever changed.

And here are some testimonials from the owners of ‘happy’ – neuticle enhanced pets…

He’s a guy and I wanted him to remain looking like one.

Baby Snow has all the benefits of being neutered- Neuticles are just a whole lot nicer.

A dog is like a kid- consideration for his feelings.

I personally wrestled with the idea of having him look altered…Jacob looks Natural. I gladly advertise that he is neutered, but looks intact.

OK. There’s some pretty serious anthropomorphising of pets going on here. Hopefully it’s obvious to readers,  but I’ll say it anyway – gender is a socially constructed  concept, dogs do not have gender roles. And I find this actual, physical projection of the owners insecurities and concepts of normalcy onto an animal particularly distressing.

It’s not particularly surprising or unusual to assert that some peoples masculinity is (partially at least) constructed through their possessions – but I find it particularly disturbing if a dog, often a valued companion , is seen as a such a clearly superficial marker of identity.  I can’t help but wonder how fragile the owners of these neuticle enhanced dogs sense of masculine self must be, that they are concerned about the conspicuous presence (or absence) of their dogs balls.

I’ll end with something a bit happier, still on the topic of men and dogs: This is from the blog Mental Floss. An amazing compilation of returning soldiers being re-united with their dogs. It’s a bit of a segue, but they’re such amazing videos I just had to share them.

Reading: Courtney Martin on young men engaging with masculinity

November 10, 2009

I’ve been reading this article on The American Prospect. It’s a good write up on increasing engagement of younger men with gender activism, and particularly how young men are trying to negotiate new understandings and relationships with masculinity, traditional or other.

I guess it describes pretty much what I’d like this blog to be, and by extension, it describes people like me.

It’s really good that positive ideas of masculinity are getting attention recently, but I’d take a slight issue with one point.

They’re also not particularly effective in imagining what they do want to be….But what are these young men saying yes too? We’ve all failed to envision an alternative.

It is clearly easier to define oneself in opposition, and indeed opposition to misogynist and harmful ideas and practices is a great activist goal, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that young men are directionless and unclear as to what constitutes positive masculine identity. To draw an obvious parallel – Feminism isn’t and has never been, homogenous.

I’d agree with what Courtney Martin is saying in regard to a notable lack of  highly visible examples of respectful masculinity. I certainly can’t think of any of the top of my head, except perhaps (probably only recognisable to the Australians reading) Matt Preston, but even this example is problematic. 

I’d like to suggest that while high profile examples of non-hegemonic masculine identity are needed, perhaps a more fruitful place for meaningful examples of positive masculinities are those around us, and that engaging in conversations with those we know might lead to positive change around masculinity and more general issues of gender.

EDIT:  I’ve just come across this really excellent summary on of both the Courtney Martin article and the National Conference for Campus-Based Men’s Gender Equality and Anti-Violence Groups. It’s from Feminists For Choice and I thought I’d add it in here.

Jack Black Saves Some Boobs

November 9, 2009

Ok, I’ll be upfront at the start. I mostly like Jack Black.

Right  – now that’s out of the way, Jack Black, along with a raft of other celebrity types are doing little promo spots for Men for Women Now– The Noreen Fraser Foundation – an organisation aimed at raising funds and awareness around breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

I like using humour to raise awareness, I like that this is getting guys explicitly concerned with issues of women’s health, and I like mainstreaming of men’s involvement with women’s health.

For the above reasons the I can deal with the objectification of (women’s) bodies (well, breasts) that is implicit in this promo, as I don’t think it’s overtly offensive. I think this spot is well done and is positive in terms of (hopefully) making more men aware of women’s health.