I came across this guest post on Something More Than Sides (written by the bloggers younger brother). It’s great to see young men engaging with their own masculine identities consciously and recognising gender oppression early on. Yay for young people pushing back against the so common ‘yoof’ stereotypes.
Posted tagged ‘Masculinity’
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.
Just a few quick links I’ve come across that i thought I’d share,
Firstly, an Australian article on some in the medical community suggesting a renewed focus on circumcising as a harm reduction strategy around HIV. The developments around the circumcision/HIV issue are fascinating, and the very passionate debates more so, like all debates that involve gender based bodily intervention.
Secondly, this is a long and quite general article that is repeated a bit, about how masculinity needs to change, to reimagine itself in light of the ‘modern world’ – usign macro trends and big demographic indicators. This time the new (improved) model of masculinity is called the New Macho and I think it’s part of that continual analysis that pits popular social theories against each other. It’s good to see this sort of story, but it’s not really breaking any new ground.
Like many people I watched (and loved to bits) the HBO series The Wire. I particularly liked the character Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pearson (played by herself) in series 5.
I think what I really liked about Snoop was her ambiguity, the quiteness about her, and her strength. I also loved that she was a strong female character, who presented aspects of very traditional masculinity. It was of Snoop that I first thought of when I came across this great article a while back on Clutch – about the standards of beauty and femininity among POC, and it poses some great questions about where the body and gender intersect – for example;
Female masculinity remains a touchy issue for many women, mainly because it often intersects with hard conversations about gender and sexuality norms. Yet this conversation is necessary and also represents a reflection of the deepest fears about ourselves.
Imagine having your womanhood questioned. Picture having your self-identified gender rejected by society. Could you take being criticized for your lack of femininity? Perhaps you’re masculine by choice, but what if it’s simply by nature. Your muscles bulge in all the wrong “woman” places. Your body simply doesn’t curve like that coke bottle. It may be like a large, long plank of wood. Despite all of this, you still bask in being a woman and wish that other women would accept you into this sacred community.
Good stuff, and I think it’s great to see this kind of discussion that challenges ‘normal’ gender identities. Keep it coming!
This Q & A with Grant Stoddard, a ‘sexpert’ who wrote a book and might be getting a tv show (the man project) has some interesting stuff to say about masculinity and sexuality and how the twain can be limiting for guys.
This blog post by the polymathic (?) Stephen Fry. of particular interest is the “part 2” where he talks about being the right kind of homosexual man. (Thanks Rob)
This nifty little video round up of the generally pathetic state of masculine expression in advertising is worth a watch too (thanks Nio)
And this nifty article on the demise of the American action star (and it’s possible revival?) – Hello Expendables. (thanks for the heads up Dane)
The last few ‘Masculinity of the Month’ posts I’ve done, have been somewhat or mostly approving of the type of masculinity represented. This month, less so.
Mel Gibson as an actor (and it seems increasingly, it seems, in real life) embodies a spectacularly retrogressive type of masculinity. His films are almost to a fault, of the single-minded bloody vengeance type – and his personal life, as has been extensively covered in public, appears to have large doses or racism, misogyny, and general hate and anger.
I’ve got to say I’m not hugely surprised by any of this, and I think that the example of Mr Gibson is not particularly out of the norm, except in that he is famous and his comments are on record, meaning it gets press coverage. But what’s kinda nice is that this is getting coverage, and the coverage (except for the usual suspects, like Australia’s finest far right columnist) is pretty condemning of Mr Gibson’s actions, and more importantly, attitudes.
So, what do you think, does the criticism of men like Mel, and to a lesser extent, Tom Cruise, mean anything significant in terms of broader shifts of what is acceptable masculine identity, or is it oppressive hegemonic business as usual in man land? Does the tarnishing of once great masculine icons represent genuine change, or just the cycle of fashion?