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Dilemma of a Spartan Survivor: War, Disability and Masculinity

13 Jun

As in ancient Sparta, modern American military training emphasizes physical fitness. Pictured here, two Marines wrestle to demonstrate strength (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

As in ancient Sparta, modern American military training emphasizes physical fitness. Pictured here, two Marines wrestle to demonstrate strength (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


The widespread purge of modern artistic expression that occurred upon Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933 was motivated by fear. The Nazi regime was determined to use culture to control the people and they chose to promote a conservative, unadulterated classical Greek and Roman aesthetic within the Reich. Avant garde artistic movements such as impressionism, surrealism and cubism were rejected, and art inspired by these movements was deemed degenerate and was to be purged by the Reich Culture Chamber. For example, Otto Dix was labeled a degenerate artist and had his position at the Kunstakademie in Dresden terminated because of his anti-war advocacy. Perhaps his most famous painting, War Cripples, depicting German World War One veteran amputees, was displayed by the regime at the Degenerate Art Museum in Dresden and was later destroyed by the Nazis. The irony is that Dix actually volunteered for and fought for Germany in the war, and was himself almost fatally wounded in combat. Dix drew deep inspiration from war and the trauma inflicted by war on men’s bodies and minds.
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What is Heganism?

8 Jun

The following is crossposted from the Vegan Feminist Network. The original can be found here: http://veganfeministnetwork.com/what-is-heganism/

 

Actor Joaquin Phoenix poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills. He has a huge beard and is looking very scruffy.

(Photo: Vegan Actor, Joaquin Phoenix)

Heganism. Yes, it’s a thing. It’s veganism…for men. “Heganism” generally refers to the rebranding of traditional vegan concepts or products to be suitable for male consumption.

But why?

The vegan movement is crowded with 101 different variations of veganism, all with one intention: sales and fundraising. It’s non-profit marketers asking the team, “How can we make our own stamp on this trend? How can we stand out against the rest? How do we make them buy here and not somewhere else?”

Gender distinction generally serves capitalist interests, and it does so by maintaining difference and inequality. Gendering products mean that households need to buy more than one product that might otherwise be shared (and women’s products often cost more). The blue, industrial one for him; the pink, flowery (and more expensive) one for her.

Gendering can also open up products to a larger market. The feminine stigma must be removed so that men can feel comfortable consuming them; but the stigma doesn’t disappear, it’s only reinforced. Like the guy-etDr. Pepper 10, and lotion “for men,” gendering veganism works to protect masculinity by otherizing that which is feminine.

What’s wrong with dieting, drinking diet soda, using body lotion, or eating vegan? It’s what women stereotypically do, and women are one of the most detested and devalued groups in society. In order for men to participate, the stigma must be removed by creating a “masculine” alternative.

A father and son in a sea of fruit and vegetables, only their faces are peaking out

(Introducing more men to veganism is important for the health of the vegan movement and for the health of boys and men (most of whom do not consume the recommended amount of fruit and veg). But male inclusivity should not come at the cost of women’s rights. Photo credit: The Advertiser.)

Masculinity is defined largely in what it is not–and it is not feminine.  This works much in the same way as speciesism: we define humanity in being not animal, and therefore humanity is superior by comparison.  This is also thought to be one of the root causes of heterosexism: masculinity is defined by ostracizing that which is feminine. In other words, differentiating persons into groups and then placing them on a hierarchy to support these differentiations feeds structural discrimination.

Distinction greases the wheels of oppression.

PETA ad showing a nude woman laying on a giant bunch of broccoli; reads, "EAT YOUR VEGGIES"

In my book, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights, I explore the theme of feminist repackaging in vegan spaces. Because veganism is so feminized, it is deemed a threat to patriarchy and it is often dismissed. One reaction that organizations take is to actually buy into the language of patriarchy in order to “sell” veganism.

So, instead of remaining firm in radical feminist opposition to patriarchal oppression, vegans sometimes repackage veganism as “sexy” and present women as consumable objects for male consumption. PETA is probably the most notable organization in this regard, but its dominant position in the movement means that is is influencing a norm of pornographic protest. Vegan women are no longer changemakers, they’re just another “exotic” taste served up on the patriarchal platter. Take this Tumbler “heganism” gallery as one very literal example (warning, contains pornography).

There is a real danger in aggravating sexist attitudes about Nonhuman Animal rights activism.  “Heganism” is unnecessary and offensive. Is a feminized vegan space so repugnant, that men need to spin off into a separate space in order to participate? If so, we need to back up and reevaluate our approach. So long as the movement supports the hating of women, it can’t reasonably expect its audience to stop hating other animals.

Heganism is a tactic that undermines itself. If activists inadvertently support the notion that veganism is “just for women” and that men will be stigmatized if they participate in “regular” veganism without the masculinity facade to protect them, this is doing the movement a disservice. Instead of pandering to patriarchy and capitalism to be heard, activists could instead incorporate a feminist approach to anti-speciesism. In this way, all interests are considered, and one group will not be demeaned for the hoped benefit of another.

Capitalists will inevitably argue that gendering veganism is simply catering to the market, but they are actually creating a market with approaches of this kind (LEGO makes the same disingenuous claim about its gendered products). A market built on oppression, one that functions to divide groups along lines of power and powerlessness, will not be a space that is conducive to liberation.

 

A version of this essay was first published on March 5, 2013 on The Academic Activist Vegan.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

Circumcision is a Feminist Issue… and so is how we talk about.

21 Oct

This article by Masculinities101 co-founder and editor first appeared at Feministing.com:

Circumcision is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. It is also among the most hotly debated. Scientists and doctors aren’t settled on the benefits or risk of the surgery and it is so politicized that it’s hard to parse fact from fiction, objective truth from medical mythmaking. Recently, vlogger Justin Dennis, at Everyday Feminism, gave us five reasons why (feminist) parents should consider not circumcising their boys. An important feminist foray into the topic, Dennis points to important issues like consent, bodily integrity, sexual health, and sexual pleasure (1). Those are great entry points for feminists who care about children’s rights and human rights.

But not every anti-circumcision position is a feminist one, and that’s where we need to be careful. In fact, male circumcision has been actively politicized by the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM), a dangerous and reactionary grouping of organizations who seek to undo many of the gains made by feminists (called ‘misandrists’ in the MRM). According to Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), they fight for gender equality, against a feminist movement that has made men subservient to women. When you hear men (and sometimes women) speak about the danger of false rape accusations, or the myth of the wage gap, or a marriage boycott, chances are you are talking to a Men’s Rights Activist, or at least someone influenced by their ideology. …

Please read the full article at Feministing.com

White Terrorism in Black Communities: What masculinity studies can offer to the conversation

19 Jun

The nation is reeling in the wake of this most recent mass shooting, a racially-motivated terrorist attack on the black community of Charleston, SC. Nine lives taken, among them an elected political official, and countless others left devastated by the actions of a young, white man named Dylann Roof. They were family members, community members—four ministers, a librarian, a recent graduate, a grandmother, a bible study teacher, a retiree. And they are gone because of racism. Before I say more, here are their names, because in our rage against a killer, we are too often forgetful of those he has taken: Clementa Pinckney, Daniel Simmons Sr., Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lance. Their lives add to a growing list of black lives taken and black bodies assaulted this year. Dylann Roof is yet another white man engaging in the kind of racist violence made possible (even permissible) in a system that devalues and denigrates blackness.

Dylann Storm Roof, wearing racist patches on a military style jacket. Photo from Roof's facebook page (source: New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/19/us/on-facebook-dylann-roof-charleston-suspect-wears-symbols-of-white-supremacy.html)

Dylann Storm Roof, wearing racist patches on a military style jacket. Photo from Roof’s facebook page (source: New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/19/us/on-facebook-dylann-roof-charleston-suspect-wears-symbols-of-white-supremacy.html)

While there are a few out there trying to distract from Roof’s obvious racial motives (like pundits at Fox News who are scrambling to describe this as a hate crime against Christians), most of us recognize that this was indeed a hate crime. Roof himself made it clear, both in word and action. He targeted a church that has suffered racist attacks throughout its nearly 200 year history in Charleston. He targeted a sacred space, a supposedly safe space, for Charleston’s African-American community. He was known for making racist jokes, hoping for a race war, and wearing racist garb. And, as if that wasn’t proof enough, he admitted to his victims that he was there to kill them because of their skin color, because blacks “rape our women and you’re taking over our country.”
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Call for Papers (NorMa – International Journal for Masculinity Studies)

19 Jan

Call for papers:

Special issue of NorMa – International Journal for Masculinity Studies, Vol. 10, no. 4, 2015.

MASCULINITY, WAR AND VIOLENCE

In this special issue we intend to address the relationship between masculinity, war and violence. We interpret this theme broadly and invite contributions that discuss gendered violence, military practice/s, resistance to war and violence from multilayered perspectives. Contributions may concern macro level phenomena such as public policies, debates and ideologies on war and terrorism, which may directly or indirectly reflect gendered discourses and specific notions of masculinity. Macro level issues may also include perceptions of national identity and questions of (re)making nations and national borders. Relevant topics at the meso level may focus on military organizations, peace and resistance movements, processes of radicalization, as well as collective narratives and memories of war, violence and resistance. At the micro level focus may be on processes of political identities and masculine subjectivities and positions such as warriors, victims, veterans and war criminals.

We would like contributions to relate to societal and transnational changes in the West as well as the Global South, and contributions should preferably include consideration of social and gendered inequalities. Finally we invite articles that analyze the relation between masculinity, war and violence based on a combination of theoretical development and empirical analysis.

We welcome submissions from different regions and disciplines that in one way or another further our understanding of how masculinity is co-constituted with war and violence.

Submit your 250 word abstract to Editor Ann-Dorte Christensen no later than January 30, 2015 at adc@socsci.aau.dk

Reviews with decisions on acceptance will be finished by February 16, 2015.

Full length papers (40-50,000 characters including references and bio) should be submitted by May 29, 2015.

Final paper early August; publication December 2015

National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference: bell hooks’ Keynote Speech

5 Jan

Late in 2014, Cheryl and I represented the blog and the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at the annual NWSA conference in Puerto Rico. The highlight of the several day event was the keynote speech given by feminist hero, bell hooks. (The entire speech can be found here.) In her talk, hooks discussed a variety of important topics: violence, male allies in feminism, the role of the academy, and the importance of love. Here, I’ll provide a brief overview.

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Week in Review 9/21-9/27

27 Sep

This week at Masculinities 101, we featured a two part post by frequent contributor, Peter Rauch. He gave us the history and current controversy surrounding what is being called Gamer Gate. For some reason, the post struck a nerve, and several people wrote nasty comments.* After sharing the blog post on my Facebook page, the same thing happened there. (You know you’re on to something when people come out of the woodwork for an attack.) We’d love to hear people’s actual thoughts (not just nasty emotional reactions) on this piece, so please share!

*On a side note, these comments forced us to evaluate our commenting policy—if you have nothing constructive to say, your comment won’t go up. Now, that is not to say you can’t be critical of the post, or that you have to agree with our politics at Masculinities 101. But if you are commenting simply to insult the writer or the blog, with nothing intelligent to offer on the topic at hand, well, we’re not going to stand for that.

And, unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard that Emma Watson gave a speech on men and feminism at the UN for the launch of the HeForShe campaign. We’re thrilled to see this topic getting international attention! Her speech has sparked conversations in traditional and social media forums, and it is worth sharing some of the feedback.
First, immediately after the speech, Watson was threatened with the release of nude photos. The threat turned out to be a hoax. Nevertheless, my guess is that, before finding out it wasn’t real, Watson experienced some distress. On that note, here are a few posts about the real meaning of these leaked photos (spoiler alert: SEXISM)…here, here, and here.

Far and wide, Watson was lauded for bringing feminism back into public discourse, and for defending it against claims that feminists “hate men.” But not all responses were so favorable. Here’s an important critique of the HeForShe campaign by Mia McKenzie from Black Girl Dangerous. Important points here include: the dangers of equating men’s experiences under patriarchy to women’s and the complete erasure of genderqueer folks from HeForShe. Her analogies to anti-racist and anti-homophobic activism really drive her points home.

Finally, from the Center for the Study of Men & Masculinities, Michael Kimmel wrote about Watson’s talk for Ms. Magazine.

Obviously, the Men’s Rights groups were (predictably) in an uproar about the speech, but I don’t feel like going into more than to say their responses were fairly typical. Feel free to google for those.

Lessons Learned at Genital Autonomy 2014

30 Jul

GA14bannerV3r1eThis past weekend, I was able to attend the 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights. The conference, sponsored and organized by the Sexpo Foundation, Intact America, the National Organization of Circumcision Resource Centers, and Genital Autonomy International, hosted speakers from the US, Canada, Liberia, Australia, Israel, Germany, Belgium, England, and Denmark. A mix of academic and activist presentations, with films and experiential sessions, the symposium focused on the importance of children’s right to bodily integrity. Though most of the presenters focused on male circumcision (in both its religious/ritual and medical instantiations), a few also connected to issues of female circumcision and intersex genital surgeries. Though the viewpoints of individual presenters varied somewhat, the take home message of the conference was that genital surgeries on infants and children—regardless of cultural, religious, aesthetic and hygienic justifications—contravene the rights of children and are therefore in violation of international human rights principles.
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Week in Review, July 13-19

18 Jul

This week, around the web…

A new study from Oregon State University found that teen girls and young women negatively evaluate other girls and women who post sexy social media pictures. The girls and women surveyed rated women in sexy photos as less attractive, less socially attractive, and less competent. One psychology researcher quoted suggests encouraging girls to use profile photos that depict their likes, rather than their looks. Certainly we want our young girls to value themselves deeply, and not suffer from sexualization, but what does it say about our culture that we believe sexiness and competence are incompatible? And what does this tell us about gender policing?

In a related vein, this HuffPost piece suggests that the world is still a difficult place for girls to navigate. We teach them to speak up and be confident, and yet when they do that in the “real world” they are penalized. Women who are seen as confident are also seen as less likeable. Some researchers suggest teaching girls “gender judo”—“the art of combining masculine competence and feminine warmth in order to remain both likeable and respected.” Again, rather than asking women to control their own behavior, what kind of cultural and structural solutions could we implement? And speaking of annoying gender imbalances, here’s a post continuing the conversation on “mansplaining.”

Last week, we shared a link discussing Dungeons & Dragons new support for gender nonconformity. Well, it appears that Marvel is also shaking things up—the next character to play Thor will be female! Although some of these changes may seem small, the author explains: “OK, this is silly, but then, in comics and games, the audiences are growing and diversifying, yet the gender imbalance in both both [sic] characters and writers in only very gradually improving. So gender-swapped reboots may be the safest way for publishers to improve the ratio.” So, calling all game writers and programmers…where my ladies at?

Interestingly, although we’ve begun to see some softening of rigid gender roles and expectations in notioriously conservative places like the Catholic Church, a recent study of materials produced by the Mormon Church shows that little has changed in gender perceptions in the last 40 years.

For your reading enjoyment, a couple of interesting posts: on boyhood and masculine values, as well as this one on the new Old Spice “Mandroid” commercials—what’s your take on these?

This week, in the news…

Two important trans-news tidbits. First, Chelsea Manning was denied her request to transfer to a civilian prison for gender transition treatments. This is raising questions about the type and quality of care she might receive, and at what point transfer to a women’s facility becomes necessary, specifically because “Manning’s treatment request was the first by a transgender military inmate, and it set up a dilemma for the department of how to treat a soldier for a diagnosed disorder without violating long-standing military policy.” As some readers may know, the problems facing trans men and women in prisons are overwhelming. Perhaps this Manning’s case will bring some publicity to an issue that often gets swept under the rug. Second, Finland’s discriminatory policies toward transgender people have been brought into the public eye. The European Court of Human Rights is backing the Finnish government’s policy to force a trans woman to divorce her current partner to complete her gender transition and update national IDs. She is being asked to choose between her life partner and having her gender identity officially recognized.

This week, on Masculinities 101…

Clay Darcy wrote about the gender dynamics of selfies, where unsurprisingly both men and women live up and reproduced gender stereotypes in the photos.
And, we reposted Garry Gilfoy’s HoffPost piece on the father-son archetype. Gilfoy explains its role in therapy, and how breakdowns in the father-son relationship have intense effects on men’s lives. Briefly, he discusses some of the Celebrate Manhood weekend retreats in which he has been involved.

The International Conference on Masculinities: Engaging Men and Boys, for Gender Equality

29 Jun

CSMM

This call for papers has been updated and the updated version may be found here.

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