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Rugby, Riverdance and Bar Fly Masculinities

25 May "The Dancing Sociologist" Illustration by Clay Darcy - © 2016

My wife and I recently travelled to Edinburgh to celebrate a Scottish friend’s 40th birthday. The party was held in a local rugby club, and coincidently on the day of the party, Ireland was playing against Scotland in an important rugby match. We arrived in time to watch the rugby and have a pre-party drink with other Irish friends who had also made the journey over. At this point you may notice, I said it was “an important rugby match”, which to the astute observer might reveal my rugby ignorance. I am not a big sports fan, actually I don’t watch any sport and I don’t really know anything about rugby. Even my in-laws, who are staunch rugby fanatics – professional appreciators of the sport some might say, have lost all hope of trying to convert me and fuel my interest in the game.

My rugby ignorance became noticeable to others early into the match, and for the remainder of the game, the other men took the proverbial out of my sporting ineptitude. It was tongue and cheek; the other men roared laughing at their jokes (and at me) and I took it as it was intended, a bit of fun. However, this type of interaction highlights how some men do masculinity.

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Masculinities And The Vulnerability Of Displaying Art

4 May
detail counts castle

Detail of ‘The Count’s Castle’

Cultural ideals of masculinity and how men ought to be often centre round notions of strength and power, stoicism and determination, being the provider and protector.  Hegemonic masculinity is a way of understanding gender and power relations.  It is a cultural ideal of masculinity, which is characterised by toughness, fearlessness, power, control and maintaining the dominant position in society.  Hegemonic ideals of masculinity are often perpetuated through media and film, but they are ideals most men will never attain.  Nor do most men necessarily want to.

Cultural ideas of masculinity, like hegemonic masculinity, tell men they must not display weakness or vulnerability.  To reveal characteristics such as these, men run the risk of having their masculinity called into question.  Men who display emotion, vulnerability or weakness may be chided as being ‘sissy’, ‘soft’ or a ‘woman’.  These are the cultural expectations of men and masculinity that surrounded me as I grew up.  From my primary education through to secondary education, I jostled alongside other boys; surrounded by these notions of what it was to be a man.  Boys pushed and punched, they tested and teased, they sought out weakness and they exploited it.  I learned along side other boys, not to display vulnerability, but vulnerability was something I would experience again and again, as I began to pursue a career in the visual arts.
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Call for Papers – Generational Masculinities

23 Jan

Call for Papers: Generational Masculinities

Journal of Gender Studies

This call for papers seeks manuscripts that address the changing nature of masculinities and how this intersects with notions of age and generations, to be published in the Journal of Gender Studies in early 2018. Evidence-based papers from a variety of fields are welcome.

The special issue is designed to explore and advance recent theoretical developments and empirical findings in the study of men and masculinities. One key area could be examining how inclusive masculinity theory intersects with Plummer’s (2010) notion of generational sexualities. Furthermore, given that most of the recent research on changing masculinities has been conducted on white adolescents, papers concerning the impact of liberalizing sexual attitudes on men of other race, class and age backgrounds are encouraged.

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Call for Papers: Conference – Political Masculinities as Agents of Change

30 Dec

Anglia Ruskin University have announced they will be hosting an interdisciplinary conference on “Political Masculinities as Agents of Change” in the historic City of Cambridge (United Kingdom), between the 2nd and 4th of December 2016.  The call for papers is now open.

The conference aims to encourage and develop diverse understanding concerning political masculinities as agents of change.  The conference organizers hope to “showcase the best work in the area occurring internationally as well as to stimulate debate within and between disciplines”.  Empirical and theoretical papers submitted from across the full spectrum of gender studies are welcome, as well as those which critically engage and reflect upon research paradigms and methods.  In particular, the conference organizers welcome papers that seek to “address ‘real world’ issues, and in so doing, encourage and contribute toward broader individual and social change”.

The organizing committee are interested in “exploring where, when, how and why political masculinities can and have served as agents of change at, and across, different levels of analysis. This may include, but is not limited to, the individual; interpersonal; situational; contextual; discursive; representational and/or ideological”.

Submissions

Proposals for oral papers or poster presentations must be submitted by April, 29th 2016 to political.masculinities@anglia.ac.uk. These should include the name of author(s), their affiliation, a title, a 250 word abstract (maximum), and a brief biographical statement. Symposium proposals, comprising four papers, should include the above information as well as an overall title and abstract of 250 words (maximum).

For more details on this call for papers and conference organizers – click here.

Web Series For Teens Debunks Outdated Notions Of Masculinity

11 Dec

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 12.03.34 a.m.

Omega Access (OA) is a Toronto based non-profit media group ‘dedicated to the idea that outstanding, real-world men can inspire a new generation to see masculinity as a spectrum and not a binary’ (O’Brien, 2015). OA are one of Movember Canada’s newest men’s health partners, who seek to engage audiences in debunking outdated notions of masculinity. They endeavor to do achieve this by celebrating men with healthy lifestyles, alternative identities and productive passions.

OA recently launched a collection of cinematic profiles on ‘alternative men’, funded by The Movember Foundation (O’Brien, 2015). These 5-minute artistic shorts tackle topics, such as, mental health, physical health, vulnerability, family, inner-strength, community, sexuality and gender roles. The aim of these short films is to ‘visually demonstrate the broad spectrum of identities men can have and inspire young men to expand their meaning of masculinity’ (O’Brien, 2015).

These short films are powerful portraits of masculinity; real life stories, beautifully illustrating the multiplicity and fluidity of masculinity. The men featured in the films provide honest accounts of their own struggle in constructing masculine identities. These struggles center around their own construct of masculinity not aligning with hegemonic notions of what it means to be a man. Hegemonic masculinity creates problematic stereotypes, expectations and notions of what it is to be a man, whilst subordinating non-hegemonic masculinities. According to the creative director of this series, Marc O’Brien, OA are “showcasing new male role models that will help break stereotypes”.

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Man Hugs – Observing a Serial Hugger!

2 Dec

My best friend in UCD is a serial-hugger. He hugs indiscriminately – men, women, children, dogs,  senior lecturers and even heads of state!  Sometimes there’s a bit of cheek kissing, other times not. With men he meets it’s usually a big strong hug; one arm over your shoulder, the other under the opposite arm pit. It’s diagonal in composition, and allows for good gripping and a deep intimate embrace. Occasionally there is a little bit of backslapping. Sometimes there are two hugs in the space of a short meeting, one as a greeting, one as a farewell. I’ve become accustomed to his embraces, which by Irish standards are pretty lengthy. Recently, I’ve been paying attention to men’s reactions when they receive one of my buddy’s hugs; and I must admit from a masculinities perspective it’s extremely interesting (and at times very amusing).

Hugging Michael D. Higgins the President of Ireland

The serial hugger in question, hugging Michael D. Higgins – President of Ireland

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Jumping for Masculinity

3 Jul

Recently my wife and I went for a stroll along a near by harbor and marina. We were enjoying each other’s company, happily taking in the fresh air, views of the yachts and fishing boats, the surrounding hills and mountains, and the deep dark sea. There was a strong breeze but the air was warm. We reached the end of the north pier and were looking down into the mouth of the harbor and over toward the south pier. There across the water on the opposite pier were three topless men. The men were jumping up and down, laughing and shouting; they were shadow boxing and shoving each other around.   My wife and I watched them for a moment, not quite sure what they were up to.

The men began jumping up onto the pier wall, looking over the pier edge to the water in the harbor below and then jumping back down off the wall. They then resumed their messing around, jumping up and down, and beating their chests like hairless apes. It was clearer now they were psyching themselves up to jump off the pier into the harbor, some thirty to forty feet below. Never wanting to miss a photo opportunity and curious of the scene that was unfolding, I turned to my wife and said – “let’s watch for a minute!”

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Men In Skirts – A Pub Full Of Them …

17 Jun

I had a surreal experience recently.  Imagine if you will a stereotypical Irish pub in the centre of Dublin dominated by men; one that is normally full of crusty old regulars propped at the bar watching football and giving out about the weather, politicians and the price of water.  Now imagine the same pub swarmed by men in skirts … big hurley burley beer drinking macho men all wearing skirts … well that is exactly the scene I witnessed!  And it got me thinking, thinking about masculinities (yeah, yeah I know I am always thinking about masculinities!).

Football fans might guess the context for this story.  I was out for a social pint with colleagues and as it happened the Irish football team was playing in a European qualifier with Scotland, in Dublin.  Scottish football fans had come over to the Irish capital in their droves for the match, and in traditional Scottish style many of our Celtic brothers donned kilts.  After the match, Scottish fans flooded the pub my colleagues and I were socialising in.  The atmosphere was rowdy but jovial.  The Guinness was flowing like the Liffey, and the Irish and Scottish football fans exchanged witty jibes and taunts followed by loud bursts of laughter.  I was too preoccupied talking sociology with my colleagues to have noticed the extent of this flood of men in skirts, until I turned around and went to the little boys room.

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A Morning with the Men’s Group

9 Feb

I recently attended a meeting of a men’s group; in part to be a participant in a training session they were having, but also to meet some men that would hopefully be taking part in focus groups for my research.  The idea was to meet the men in an informal session and build rapport, so that they would feel more comfortable during the focus groups at a later date.

I didn’t really know what to expect of the men’s group meeting.  I knew one or two of the organisers of the event and I chatted with them as the men began to arrive, bustling about pouring coffee and tea while chewing on biscuits.  Although I shared the same hair colour as most of the men (well at least those that had it) I was significantly younger in years.  Worry crept into my head.  These men wouldn’t want to take part in my research I thought.  They wouldn’t understand what I was trying to achieve, or so my worries led me to believe.

[Please continue reading at the IrishSociologyBlog]

Irish Men Talking Drugs – Alcohol, Puke and the Twelve Pubs

3 Dec
From Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

People talk about drugs all the time, most often unbeknownst to themselves.   I’d wager however that if you were to ask a random person, whether they think they talk about drugs very often, they would most likely reply “no” or “not much”. My generalization is based on my own professional experiences delivering drug education and prevention programs with young people and adults. I talk to people on a daily basis about drugs, all types of drugs. In Ireland, as in many other places, illicit drug use carries huge stigma. When I begin a drug conversation, no matter whether it is with a young person or adult, invariably when I say drug … they think illicit. This reveals much about drug(s) as a social construct, and as word that is hugely value laden. Drug talk in Ireland is taboo, especially when talking about personal drug use or family drug use, and even more so when such drug use is illicit.

However, Irish people generally have no problem talking about a stranger’s illicit drug use. Nor for that matter do they have any difficulty in talking about alcohol, in fact many revel in it. It’s a regular occurrence to hear Irish people talk about being on a night out and how much alcohol they drank, and how drunk they were. Irish people have an exhaustive list of weird and wonderful words and phrases for being drunk – “hammered”, “squiffy”, “pissed”, “blotto-ed”, “skuttered”, “gee-eyed”, “bo-jangled”, “twisted”, “bolloxed”, “three sheets to the wind”, “langered”, “ossafied”, “lamped” and the list goes on! This is drug talk, yet very few Irish would consider it as such. This is because very few Irish would include alcohol in their construct of a drug.

My own PhD research is interested in Irish men’s views on men’s recreational use of illicit drugs, and how illicit recreational drug use contributes to the construction, display or maintenance of specific masculinities.

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