Posted tagged ‘queer’

Reading: Odds & ends

August 11, 2010

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)

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Australian footballer Jason Akermanis on why gay players should stay closeted.

May 20, 2010

One of my favorite factoids about Australian football (AFL) is that it is the only professional sport league with no openly homosexual players. I can’t verify this, and have no way of knowing if it’s true, but I’d believe it.  In my opinion Australian football, as an exemplar for ‘traditional” Australian masculine values is representative of a harmful, internalizing and regressive model of masculine expression. And it’s also one that is hugely influential in hegemonic terms.

Jason Akermanis, a footballer with a prominent media profile wrote an opinion piece in the Herald Sun today, (here it is) in which he extolls the importance of gay player remaining closeted for the integrity and general good of the game, and for the individual players.

It’s an interesting article. I’m going to post a few choice passages and unpack them a little bit.

I’ll start off positive, saying that I agree with Akermanis in that gay AFL players are under no obligation to come out, simply because they are high-profile. That’s a personal choice, and if the hypothetical homosexual football player chooses not to come out, that’s totally cool by me. However, Akermanis goes a little bit further;

But I believe the world of AFL footy is not ready for it. To come out is unnecessary for a lot of reasons.

Imagine the publicity associated with a current player admitting he’s gay. It would be international news and could break the fabric of a club.

Well, first of all  I’m not sure it would be international news, and I really doubt it would break the fabric of the club. And if it did, to be honest that’s probably a good thing. If a tightly knit bunch of elite male athletes can’t handle one of their own preferring men as partners to women, if this would cause a fundamental breakdown in the sporting esprit d’corps, then it’s a club probably not worth being part of.

But if Akermanis is anything to go by, I might be expecting a little too much out of AFL footballers, something Akermanis puts down to the totally unique work environment of a professional sports team

I believe it would cause discomfort in that environment should someone declare himself gay.

I have played with a gay player in the twos for Mayne in Queensland in the mid-1990s who was happy to admit his sexual persuasion. He was a great guy who played his heart out and was respected by everyone in the team.

The only time I noticed a difference was when I was showering with 10 other players after a good win and I turned around to see all 10 heading out in a second with their towels. Sure enough, our gay teammate had wandered in.

For some reason I felt uncomfortable, so I left. I am sure most players these days would do the same.

I know he wasn’t about to try to convert me to his way of thinking, but I was uncomfortable all the same

Wow. that’s all kinds of depressing and homophobic. And I can really see why gay footballers aren’t leaping out of their closets if this is the reaction they can expect from their peers. But I also think this is about heterosexual footballers (and lets conflate that to include a great many men) complex and troubled relationship with homosocial environments and ‘homoerotic’ behaviour. Akermanis touches on this;

 In an athletic environment the rules are different from the cultural rules for men.

Never in a mall will you see two straight men hugging, a— slapping and jumping around like kids after an important goal.

Locker room nudity and homoerotic activities are normal inside footy clubs.

Well. I’d argue that expressions of intimacy and emotion between men are not, by default, homoerotic. And to claim that is the case is a clear demonstration of the social and cultural regulation of masculinity at work. The above statement is exemplary of how a model of masculinity which prohibits display of homosocial affection or care is created and perpetuated. I would argue that the cultural rules of football, while different, inform, to a large degree, broader cultural norms of masculinity. And to have footballers act in an emotional way with other men in one context and condemn this masculine expression in the next breath, is hugely damaging and hypocritical.

There is NOTHING wrong with men hugging, crying, or what have you. To have prominent male role models act in this way is great, as gatekeepers of masculinity their actions have the potential to normalise a broader range of emotional expression in men. Instead of celebrating this, they isolate their actions to the context of the professional playing field, further internalizing harmful norms and homophobia. I think this hypocrisy is at the heart of the AFL’s issues with homosexual players. To accept openly homosexual players as their own would be to hold a mirror to their own masculine expression and ideology, and cast a perhaps uncomfortable light on their own double standards.

That Akermanis wrote this article is not a casual coincidence, he is taking an active, pre-emptive role at maintaining the cultural walls of a particular hegemonic masculine identity; clearly defining what it is to be a football playing man, and warning any men who may not totally conform to this cultural ideal not to rock the boat.

Reading: My somewhat complicated relationship with Gay Marriage.

March 12, 2010

I’ve got a bit of a troubled relationship with the push to legalise gay marriage. It’s something I’ve hesitated to write about because my views and opinions are not black and white, and I’ve been concerned that anything I write would come across poorly, and be so full of caveats as to be generally confusing.

Basically my views on legalising gay marriage can be boiled down to something like; Marriage equality is important, but should the LGBTI/Queer community be pushing so hard for inclusion in an institution that is (in my opinion) very problematic. I also worry about who is being marginalised and excluded by this movement. I get why gay marriage is politically important and relevent in terms of fighting for equality, but it doesn’t really change how I feel about the structure of marriage on the whole.

BUT, The Queer Kids of Queer Parents Against Gay marriage articulated this a WHOLE lot better than me, so read their views on it here.

Oh, and by the way, I know this isn’t totally masculinity related, but thems the breaks.

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.

Reading (actual hard copy- ooh!)

November 2, 2009

Late last week I hear about a new magazine called Spunk – which “explores masculinities and male genders.” This seemed right up my alley (and it TOTALLY is). Better than that it’s a local Melbourne publication, which pleased and surprised me. So I popped down to the excellent Hares & Hyenas and grabbed me a copy. It’s good. nice mix of content, critical articles, interviews, subversive  photo shoots. All good stuff, with a healthy dose of genderfuck . I think what I like about it the best, is that it doesn’t take itself to seriously. All in all a great start and I hope that the good work is continued.

Oh, and you can get it in Hares (as linked above), some place in Sydney and online through their website.

PS – I’m peeved to have missed their launch party.

Martial Arts and broadening understandings of masculinity.

October 27, 2009

One of the few ‘traditionally’ masculine and predominantly homosocial activities I engage in, and have (on and off) for many years, is martial arts/self-defence – and I’ve found it  really interesting and surprising in terms of engagement with masculinity.

A little bit of context about my involvement – the martial arts I have done broadly speaking, are hard martial arts – which (among other things) means there is partnered contact training – think Kung Fu instead of Tai Chi. Furthermore what I’ve done – while being ‘traditional’ (ie with a claim to history/heritage) – has also had a strong practical self-defence aspect, against empty-handed attacks and attacks with weapons. So this broadly speaking, places my personal experience in the broad spectrum of martial arts kind of in the middle, between Sunday morning Tai Chi in the park and Dave’s Ultimate Commando Defence. Oh, it is also relevant to note that what I’ve done hasn’t really had a competitive, sports element, like judo (for example).

My experience of martial arts has been that it has not been full of macho, blokey guys trying to hit each other hard in the head (Though these type of men are very well represented).  Now, when I started thinking reflectively about this kind of thing, I was a little surprised by this. Moreover  – over time I’ve practiced with a few men who exhibit forms of, what I would call, a radical masculinity – varying  forms of queer or genderfuck, in terms of presentation at least. These chaps have not been marginalised within the martial arts class context, nor in my experience, have any other people; be they younger people, women, people of varying fitness, etc. (Here I should point out that all my classes have been taught by professional and generous people, had this not been the case my experiences may have been radically different)

I think I have a theory (surprise!) about this.

The classes I have done have a strong emphasis on supportive training and safety. Obviously, if you’re practicing how to hurt other people you want to avoid injury. In this way, a class is a very (self) regulated place – it’s inappropriate to train with someone who has been there for 2 weeks in the same way as someone who has been there 2 years. And aggression is regulated in the same way, most people (and I can think of a few notable exceptions over the years) recognise that training is a learning environment and curb any aggression – or when training with aggression, are well aware of the need to stop when their partner lets them know.  This all makes a lot of sense in an occupational health and safety sense, but I think this awareness and attitude has a broader impact.

What the above really is, is getting along with other people who you don’t know that well, in a potentially dangerous environment – and this, I’ve found, breeds a more general tolerance.

Many of the people I’ve done martial arts with I would not choose to socialise with, outside that little realm, but within that context – we get along great, punching and kicking and whatnot.  And, as a result of this I’ve gained a little more respect or understanding for their various opinions, ideologies etc.  

So, in my experience, martial arts classes provide a neutral and regulated space, where diverse people can (to a degree)  interact sans usual sociocultural baggage, and because of the largely male component of classes it allows men to interact on an equal footing with other men they may normally have little to do with. In  martial arts class men with (at times) greatly different conceptions of masculinity can interact in a neutral place. Thus allowing them to broaden their understandings of the diversity of what constitutes masculine identity, and form meaningful personal relationships with someone they might usually make a whole host of assumptions about. I think this is  really positive, and my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive.

I’m sure this kind of interaction takes place in other contexts, but I think martial arts attracts quite a broad range of people for diverse reasons (plus it’s the only context I have any real experience with). I’d love to hear other peoples experiences in relation to broadening understandings of masculine identity, in a martial arts, or any other context.