Archive for the ‘pro-feminist’ category

Masculinity in the Academy; masculinity studies.

September 27, 2010

A few days ago Leah McLaren wrote an article in the Globe and Mail on ‘masculinity studies’ in the Academy. Now because I’m a lazy blogger at the moment, it took me a few days to notice related links popping up in my feed. Specifically I noticed an excellent Gender Across Borders post, and one from fellow masculinities blogger Ultimo167.

What I’m doing here is adding my two cents of opinion on McLaren’s article – I highly recommend you read the GAB post & Ultimo’s as they come from quite different perspectives. McLaren’s article, wittily entitled “Man, don’t feel like a womyn” (you can already see where this is going) is a somewhat polemic op ed piece that does I think reflect some pretty common attitudes towards the growing academic fields of studies that critically evaluate masculinity.

As someone who did gender studies at university (not women’s studies),  and because I am influenced by my own maleness to look in that direction I’m pretty comfortable saying that I come from a pro ‘masculinity studies’ perspective. I’d also like to think that I recognise the complexities of being a man interested in gender equality and how gender/sex/etc based oppression works, I’ve written about it a bit before (here and here for example, but it’s an unsurprisingly common refrain here). I reckon that involving men and male voices (in appropriate ways) is vital to working meaningfully towards a better gender balance/world/queer utopia/etc, and excluding male voices and perspectives is rarely good.

Leah McLaren has a decidedly us/them seeming conception of gender, rather than my own warm fuzzy third wave/pomo/queer/wanker perspective. Also , I gotta say, if the following statement is anything to go by, McLaren’s understanding of this particular part of the academy seems dated and surprisingly narrow;

The whole point of women’s studies, so we were taught in Feminist and Critical Thinking 101, is to bring academic focus to women’s perspective in history and literature… Now that the bulk of that ideological work is largely done, however, academia remains bogged down in identity politics. (In the real world, by contrast, feminism still has far to go – just look at the recent finding that Canadian women make 63 per cent of what men do.)

As an extension of women’s studies, the study of masculinity is illogical. After all, couldn’t most academic inquiry throughout history be classified as men’s studies?

Yep. I think that McLaren has really missed the point of masculinity studies, it’s not a companion piece to feminist analysis, it’s not about continuing a discussion based around us/them but rather a recognition that menfolk have important roles to play in advancing gender equity and the goals of feminism too.

Reading: Man Friendly Feminism

July 9, 2010

There is a great article called Man-friendly Feminism over at XY (from whence I purloined this image) You should check it out. It’s great.

Reading: Gender Across Borders on Men, Masculinities, and Peacebuilding

May 31, 2010

The international gender blog Gender Across Borders posted this great post on how systems of oppression are harmful to men as well as women, in that they dehumanise and limite the range of masculine expression. The article also stresses the importance of engaging men to challenge their masculinity for their own empowerment, and not just within the context of being allies to women.

That’s something I really agree with. Read  the article and check out the organisations they link to.

How men can support women and Feminism

March 23, 2010

(Note, this is another post that I’ve written with the audience of Scarleteen in mind, and this piece also appears there)

Recently, I’ve been talking about men and feminism a fair bit, and not just in what I write, but in other places online and in real life. This is pretty normal for me, but what’s a bit interesting is that a lot of these conversations have been around the relationship of men to feminism and in particular, what role men can play in supporting feminism and women in general.

A lot of this discussion has been about names; and in particular what you call a male identified person who supports and actively promotes feminism. ‘Feminist’ is the obvious answer, but this can be problematic because the word is SO strongly associated with women, and some feel that there personal, experiential aspects of feminism, along with male privilege (the numerous benefits and opportunities that biological men often enjoy solely on the basis of their sex – better average wages, less harassment, etc) think that is important for the term ‘Feminist’ to remain exclusive to female identifying people. Other people think that males SHOULD label themselves feminists, to better challenge the notion feminism is a concern only of women, and actively engage men in struggles for gender rights and equality. Just like UK comedian Bill Bailey is doing here.

Some other terms that are used to describe men who identify with feminism are ‘Allies,’ a term which is used by people in many contexts (not just men) who advocate and support struggles around a particular issue, for example rights for sex workers, but, for whatever reason, do not identify with that community themselves. ‘Male feminist’ and ‘pro-feminist’ are also used, which include the term feminist, along with a caveat that creates a distinction with female feminists.

This stuff with names and terms can seem kind of beside the point, but it all means quite a bit when it comes to how we think about gender, feminism, etc and this theory naturally informs personal politics and action in these areas. It’s a personal choice though, and I don’t think any of the above labels are more right or wrong than the others, it’s about what you believe and what you feel comfortable with. Regardless of what you call it, there are many ways the actions and behaviours of male people can support women and promote gender equality. I’m only going to outline a few broad (and I think key) points, I’d be really interested to get your input and perspectives and experiences, (male and female) so please be vocal in the comments section.

As a male, it’s important to understand and realise that you have certain advantages and privileges purely on the basis of your biological sex. Individual men are privileged because, overwhelmingly in the world and throughout history, men as a group have been privileged; more money, less domestic work, more rights, getting to keep their name in marriage, etc. Privilege is tricky, because so often the advantages and preferential treatment can seem small; for example, you get a promotion at work. Sure this is because of your hard work and general talent, but chances are that some part of the reason is that because you’re a guy you are seen as ‘more reliable’ or a ‘harder worker’ or a ‘ leader.’ I should point out that privilege is by no means a single, solid overarching thing. Not all men have the same privileges; older, more well off, heterosexual men (for example), usually have more opportunities and advantages than say, men of colour, homosexual men, lower socio-economic men, transmen etc. Gender is only one aspect among many in determining privilege. Part of the problem with male privilege and countering it is that it is often so intangible and difficult to clearly demonstrate its operation. It’s based in hundreds and hundreds of years of culture and thought, and that is tough to change. And this systemic privilege isn’t just changed in activism for institutional change, like women getting the vote, or being able to work, or have access to healthcare, (which are really important struggles by the way) but by changing attitudes and beliefs on an individual and cultural level. So you, as an individual male, can help the struggle for gender equality by recognising that, in some ways, you have certain advantages because of your sex. In recognising this, you can take some actions, big or small, to highlight this privilege, and make inequality based on sex or gender more visible.

Another really important thing that you can do to support women and feminism, and something closely linked to the sentiments above, is to listen to women, and respect what they say. It really should be that you listen and respect what anyone has to say, but again, history and culture have shown us that some voices get heard a whole lot less, and when they are heard, they are often not respected. Oh, and again, all this stuff is applicable to not just gender, but  also factors such as class, race, and very often age (younger people in particular). So in general, listening and valuing what the women around you have to say is a good idea, even (and especially)  if it is a topic that women are “traditionally” excluded from, for example car repair or something else ‘blokey’ is a spot on way to practice principles of equality and feminism.  Also, and this links in to the whole male privilege thing, there are times and conversations with women were you should just listen, and think very carefully about speaking, the appropriateness of you speaking, and what you are saying. I’m talking about conversations where the male voice (that’d be you) often is a unneccesary or unwanted one; conversations about violence against women, including sexual violence and harassment and conversations around pregnancy and reproductive choices. In this sort of conversation  it’s probably best to take a back seat and to respect the experiences that you may not have had. Respecting what women say, and respecting that some conversations are for women more than men are really good ways to support women.

The final way in which males can support gender equity is perhaps the most obvious, and often (I think) the hardest. And that is actively speaking out when you see or hear behaviour which is sexist, misogynistic or generally denigrates women – say something about it. This is especially important in exclusively male, or male dominated environments where other voices of dissent may not be heard. I often find it really hard to speak up in this kind of context, especially among people who I otherwise like,  respect and value. However in a few instances, after I’ve repeatedly called someone out for a sexist  or misogynist comment, they’ve stopped speaking like that around me. That doesn’t mean that I, on my own have caused a fundamental shift in behaviour in attitude, but it at least demonstrates that they are thinking about what they say in some circumstances. I reckon this as a good thing.

So, above are a few ways I think men can be supportive of gender equity and the goals of feminism. This is all just my own opinion, and should not be taken as gospel, and really is just a few ideas. I think it’s really important to work out your own personal relationship and interactions with feminism. Like I said at the start I’d really like to hear your thoughts and comments on men and feminism.

Reading: Another piece on Feminist Men.

March 17, 2010

Jeez, what’s going on at the moment? So many male feminist articles. Or, maybe I’m just paying attention now.

Anyway, this article here is another good look at the nuances of men and feminism. And from a Melbourne writer no less (yay).

I’ve spoken here before on my thoughts on men feminism and nomenclature – I tend to go for the clear, yet at times less problematic pro-feminist. I’ve also said before, (and likely will again) that it’s so great to see people and people engaged in feminist discourse recognising that men have a valuable role to play in working towards equality.

Reading: A great piece on XY Online

March 4, 2010

I’ve been reading this really good  Pro-feminist FAQ from XY Online, which as I may have mentioned at some point, is a really good resource for stuff on masculinity. This article just hits so many nails on so many heads. So, give it a read, share it amongst your friends, and hold it close to your heart.

Reading: The Pixel Project

February 3, 2010

The above organisation has come to my attention throught the wonders of the internet, and rather than re-hash their words I’ll let them speak for themselves….

We are a worldwide coalition of grassroots activists and volunteers using the power of Web 2.0 to mount a global effort to raise awareness about and hopefully mobilise millions to get involved with ending violence against girls and women. We strongly believe that men and women must take a stand together for the right of women to live a life free of gender-based violence.

We aim to raise US$1 million for NCADV and WAO by selling a world-exclusive million-pixel collage of Celebrity Male Role Model portraits online for US$1 per pixel. The project will invite 6 world-famous male celebrities with strong family connections, no history of violence, and are role models for men in relationships with women and children, to participate in the collage of portraits.

The philosophy behind choosing positive male role models from different walks of life is to emphasise that men have a major role to play in breaking the cycle of violence against women.

All I can say to this is Bam! Awesome! Well, I could really say a lot more, but that gets across my sentiments pretty well.  I also like that the Pixel Project has a section on the site engaging directly with men, (called The Men’s Room ) with links to resources, a section on how to recognise gender based abouse and violence, and an excellent bit on how men can actively help to prevent and end gender based violence. I especially liked this little list.

Like I said, The Pixel Project are clearly Awesome AND Bam, by which I obviously mean a great example of an organisation advocating the importance of including men and getting them onboard  to make meaningful changes to how we think and act about gender, and hopefully help in preventing gender based violence. Love it.

Reading: A bit of Michael Kimmel on Feministing.

January 8, 2010

This post at Feministing by Dr Michael Kimmel is a response to some criticisms of a recent pro-feminist mens conference, of which he was an organiser. The conference was aimed at networking and discussions ways to be more effective activists, etc. I’ve spoken about this conference previously, and it got a lot of coverage from a Courtney Martin piece (here).

What is Radical Masculinity?

December 20, 2009

I was asked this question the other day – and I thought I’d answer it here, as it is a term I like and use a bit, but it’s not necessarily clear what it means. A lot of it has to do with another question, I think a more useful question; “Why radical masculinity?”

But first things first, lets flesh out the concept of  radical masculinity, some examples thereof.

Radical masculinity as a concept and identity is kinda new, and far from homogenous. So I guess any answer I give to the above question has to be a little broad.  My take on what constitutes a masculinity that is radical would be one that pushes at the edges of masculinities accepted norms and definitions. Moreover I’d say that this transgression of accepted norms, (which are very socio-culturally specific and are transgressed quite a bit) are, in an expression of radical masculinity, intentional. Radical masculinity is a masculinity that is transformative – the performance of masculine identity that aims in some way, to change how masculinity/ies are conceptualised. Radical masculinities are often concerned with challenging and criticising gender binaries, and problematising traditional understandings of what is male. Spunk magazine, who I wrote about here are a good example of radical masculinities. Another example, and a favorite of mine at the moment is this column, entitled (funnily enough) Radical Masculinity, by Sinclair Sexsmith (and in particular I’d highly recommend this amazing piece). 

So that’s a little bit about what I think radical masculinity is, or rather can be. Like I said, any definitional stuff can’t be too rigid or constraining. The second half of this little exploration is the why part. I firmly believe that a lot needs to change in terms of how society and culture understands gender, and how gender operates. Various movements have done lots of great work in this regard,  notably (again speaking very broadly) feminism and the GLBTI communities. I think that criticism and exploration of how masculinity is expressed and operates, from within the construct of masculinity itself is important and vital to working towards meaningful change. The more people performing a visible masculinity that doesn’t tally with the norm, means that the norm has to change and expand over time, and that more people, and in particular more men, will become a little bit more accepting of difference and diversity of masculine and gender expression. 

Also I don’t think that a performance of a masculinity that is radical or challenges is required to be a 24/7 thing, a single act or statement, or temporary expression has the potential to be radical, if it is within a broader context of respect. A husband taking the name of his partner, refusing to dress a baby boy in blue, learning to dance, wearing a pink shirt, unashamedly having no aptitude for repairs or DIY, men getting teary, hugging (without thumping each other) – these are a few little examples of acts that have a radical potential, acts that can advocate for understandings of masculinity vastly different from the norm. Masculinities of openness, emotional expression and maturity, the ability to show vulnerability, and not be shamed.

For these reasons I hope all my masculine readers think a little about their masculinity, and the choices they make with it, and maybe sometimes do something with it that is a little out of their masculine comfort zone, the occasional expression of a more radical masculinity.

Just another quick one.

October 14, 2009

I came across this  post from Harriet Jacobs’ blog  via Teaspoon of Sugar.

It’s an awesome series of stories and anecdotes of men making a stand against misogyny, and it’s refreshing and uplifting. It shows some of numerous way that men can actively, in small or large ways, work towards advancing gender equality.