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Why I Wrote the Book

5 Feb

This post, authored by Tal Peretz- a regular contributor to Maculinities 101, is a revised take on the authorial appendix in Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women, co-authored with Michael Messner and Max Greenberg

Looking back on my entry into feminism while writing this book, it was very clear to me that I grew up during a period when feminism was less of a public discussion. I don’t remember ever hearing the word “feminism” until taking my first women’s studies class, in my second year of college in 2002. On the one hand, I’m glad I managed to avoid the stereotypes that circulate about feminism and feminists; on the other, I also had very little knowledge or awareness about gender inequality or gender-based violence. I had experienced more than my share of what James Messerschmidt calls “masculinity challenges,” including some male-on-male violence that was clearly about gender policing, but because I receive male, white, cisgendered, straight, and many other forms of privilege, I was effectively shielded from having personal knowledge about structural oppression. Continue reading

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The Glam Rock Rebellion

24 Jan
Brian Duffy - Photography Brian Duffy/Celia Philo/Philip Castle - Design/Artwork

Brian Duffy – Photography
Brian Duffy/Celia Philo/Philip Castle – Design/Artwork

Glam Rock is a musical subgenre and a cultural movement that evolved during the early ‘70s in Britain. Though Glam music is diverse, the performers are most distinguished from other musicians by their theatricality and public personas. Most Glam musicians were men who wore bright, form-fitting costumes, platform shoes, and makeup. Their on-stage personas were androgynous, exhibiting traits that were both stereotypically masculine and feminine. Glam performers drew from a diverse range of styles, including 1930s Hollywood glamour, 1950s pin-up sex appeal, Victorian literary and symbolist styles, science fiction, and ancient mythology (Auslander 57, 63, 87 and 141). Further, they were not afraid to step over established boundaries – their music often touched on taboo subject matter like overt sexuality.

Though many Glam Rock performers rose to prominence in the ‘70s, the one artist  who typifies the Glam movement is David Bowie. Bowie performed under several different personas and pseudonyms. He wore extravagant, form-fitting costumes and played overtly sexual music. But David Bowie was the most prominent Glam performer, continuing to utilize Glam elements in music decades after the heyday of Glam Rock had passed. He was also one of the few Glam artists to enjoy widespread success in both the United Kingdom and America. For this reason, I will be exploring David Bowie’s interactions with and interpretations of gender and sexuality as being representative of the popular Glam Rock movement. I’ll also place Bowie’s ‘gender bending’ in a larger historical context, examining popular eugenicist attitudes toward manifestations of gender and sexuality in the early to mid 20th century.

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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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Hey Mama: Let’s chat about gender difference.

31 Aug

I hate the song Hey Mama (David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha, and Afrojack). I have literally spent all summer thinking about why I hate this song, and I think I’ve finally got my finger on it with a little help from my friend, Sociology.

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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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Debunking the Myth of Childhood Sexual Innocence

8 Jun

Hello again and welcome to the second post from ‘Porn and Hookup Culture in an Irish Primary School’. For those of you unfamiliar with the first post in the series, over the coming months I will be sharing research findings about boys’ sexualities. Last month I mentioned that adults are deeply concerned about the effects of our sexualized culture on children, often claiming that today’s children are being prematurely sexualized. That children can be sexualized before it is developmentally appropriate relies on the idea that childhood is naturally a period of sexual innocence. This month’s post therefore unpacks the very notion that children are naturally innocent.

The fear of premature sexualization is premised on several misguided assumptions. The one we will be debunking today is that children are only pre-sexual (not fully sexual) since sexuality can only ever be triggered by puberty, and children are pre-pubertal.

We see evidence for this in the culture when, for example, textbooks for courses in developmental psychology fail to include sexual development in chapters on childhood. Instead, the topic of sexuality appears only when adolescence comes into focus. Developmental psychology in turn guides everyday popular understandings of children among those involved in teaching or caring for them in Western culture. As such it is shot through with power, in this case the power to discursively normalize the absence of sexuality for children but also to pathologize its presence.

We know that sexual experience among children is commonplace. For example, in the Kinsey studies of the 1940s and 1950s parents reported seeing children aged 2-5 self-manipulating and exhibiting their genitalia, in addition to exploring other children’s. We have also known since the 1960s that it is normative for 10-13 year-olds to engage in heterosexual kissing. Childhood sexual innocence, then, is an adult fabrication more than a natural feature of childhood.

Some psychologists do argue that ‘light’ sexual activities such as those above mark normal stages along the developmental trajectory but are a far cry from the sort of sexuality that is prescribed by children’s cultural milieu. That is, the extent to which our culture is sexualized is ‘too much too soon’ for children. Recognition of children’s sexual behaviors, not to mention the power of consumer capitalism, is preferable over the downright denial of childhood sexuality.

Nevertheless, what constitutes ‘too much too soon’ is in fact contestable when compared across time and space. During the 17th century, for example, the children of the French aristocracy were not shielded from sex but rather regularly encountered references to it in songs, stories and games. Fast forward to the 20th century and the following extract, taken from fieldwork with the !Kung San of the Dobe area of Botswana, further troubles the notion of precocious sexuality:

Like her counterparts in other foraging societies, the !Kung child becomes familiar with sexuality in early life. The youngest children sleep under the same blankets with their parents and are under the blankets during their parents’ lovemaking. From the age of eight or ten, children engage in sex play, which may include intercourse (…). The !Kung have no notion of virginity. I have never been able to come up with a concept or sense of a word that would correspond to our word virgin. Given the early sex play, I will hazard a guess that there are few !Kung virgins, male or female, at puberty.

(Lee, 1985: 39)

In summary, what we deem appropriate or inappropriate for children is historically and culturally contingent with the result that we cannot take it for granted that children are prematurely sexualized by the sexualization of culture.

Another way to see how sexuality is normative for children is to step back from the view of it as an essential, biological force that gives rise to bodily activities. When we see sexuality as a set of social practices, it is easier to recognize it as integral to children’s and adults’ everyday subjectivities and identities. Allow me to explain …

Foucault argued that sexuality induces specific gender effects and we see this eloquently elaborated upon by Judith Butler (1993). Individuals are assigned one of two sexes at birth. They are then expected and encouraged to do a gender in accordance with that sex. But the way to do that gender is guided by the belief that it should be done in opposition to the other sex/gender and that it should ultimately give rise to sexual desire for that opposite sex/gender. Put simply, we are getting our gender right when we are getting heterosexuality right, and vice versa.

People tend to heterosexualize their gender in many arenas and not just when being physically sexual. The same is true for children. In past research (Renold, 2005) primary school boys could successfully heterosexualize their masculinities by being a boyfriend though they could also opt out of the boyfriend/girlfriend culture without penalty by heterosexualizing their future masculinities. This was achieved by making reference to the skills that would one day be needed when the time came to have sex with women, thus consolidating a hegemonic heterosexual masculine identity in the present.

Boys could also heterosexualize their masculinity in the present by merely playing the right sport – soccer – or by fighting with other boys, or even just engaging in fight talk. Indeed those boys failing to display similar interests were marginalized as sissies or, you guessed it, gay.

Clearly then, childhood sexuality is much more than ‘light’ practice for the future but is also experienced seriously in many painful and pleasurable ways in the present.

The sooner we allow the full range of sexuality practices come into view, the sooner we can understand children’s experiences more fully and provide appropriate support. Might the panic over the premature sexualization of childhood be interfering with this goal? This is one question we will be returning to over the course of Porn and Hookup Culture in an Irish Primary School.

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