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Entries in Gender & Masculinities (170)

Tuesday
Feb052013

Why I won't be taking up the "man prayer" or supporting 1BillionRising this Valentine's Day

This op-ed has been published on Online Opinion.

The 1 Billion Rising campaign has created a YouTube video called "Man Prayer," with words by Eve Ensler and film by Tony Stroebel.

The video notes read as follows:

Violence against women hurts everyone, including men. We invite our brothers to take up this cause, and be free from the limiting strictures of our modern definition of masculinity! #MenRise

There are so many things wrong with this video and the 1 Billion Rising movement that it's hard to know where to start.

Of course I support initiatives to reduce violence around the world and in our communities. In fact, much of my work for the past 10 years has been doing just that. I don't however support initiatives that do this by stereotyping and stigmatising any group, be it based upon gender, religion, race, age, sexual preference, socioeconomic status or any other demographic category. And I don't support initiatives that aren't based upon the evidence.

The message I get from the video is that men, boys and masculinity are bad, wrong, broken, stupid, violent and domineering. A message like this only creates violence, it doesn't reduce it.

Imagine a similar hypothetical video featuring girls and women saying "may I be a woman who is more rational and less emotional, who is a better partner who nags less, who pays my own way rather than being a gold digger" - and on and on using the worst stereotypes of women and girls. Now imagine that this hypothetical video was written by a man. How many women would accept it? The fact that the "Man Prayer" video was written by a woman, featuring the made-up 'voices' of men is deeply offensive.

The "Man Prayer" takes the worst stereotypes of men and masculinity that are held by a small percentage of men (and also a small percentage of women) and reinforces them, while painting the picture that females are free from the same and other vices.

The 1 Billion Rising campaign is based upon the "UN Statistic" that "one in three women on the planet is raped or beaten in her lifetime". There is no data to back up this claim - believe me I've tried to find it. It's true that arguably research shows that one in three women on the planet, on average, has experienced some form of violence in her lifetime. However most of these will have said 'yes' to a survey asking whether they have ever been pushed or slapped. A single slap can be a troubling experience, yes, but it is far from being beaten or raped. One in three based on this definition seems like a very low figure, over an entire lifetime, across the entire planet.

And if you ask the same questions of men about their experience of violence, twice as many men would say "yes" compared to women. Men experience violence - from other men and from women - at twice the rate that women do, and at much more severe levels. But there have been no high profile public campaigns or UN conventions about violence against men that I'm aware of.

Yes, women (and men) are violently raped and beaten far too often - a single victim is one too many - but the way to reduce this violence is to fight against ALL violence, wholly and inclusively, against all people, male or female, white or black, muslim or christian or atheist, old or young, straight or gay, rich or poor. And to do so in a way that doesn't attack or stereotype any other group. And to not promote misinformation in the process.

One of the greatest ironies of the "man prayer" is that it calls on men to create space rather than dominate it. The entire discourse on gender and violence has been dominated by the "violence against women" perspective for many years now, creating no space for men and women to work together to end all violence.  

Yes, some of the positive messages from the video are great - men should be able to express themselves free from the constraints of masculinity (as should women, free from the constraints of femininity). But let's send these messages without the negative stereotypes please.

Much of my other work for the past 10 years has been working to change the social, legal and cultural structures that constrain men. The difference between the "man prayer" and the work of my colleagues and I is that we don't blame and shame individual men or masculinity (or individual women or femininity) for the way they are shaped by social norms and structures. We work to change those structures - whether it is the lack of family-friendly workplace provisions and cultures for fathers who want to play a bigger part in their children's lives, the lack of services for men and their children who want to escape abusive relationships, the lack of male-friendly health services, or the education system that is anything but boy-friendly. 

Men are giving, we are both vulnerable and strong, we do listen as well as knowing, we are kind, we like to be in control of our lives, we cry, we do refuse violence, we touch as well as performing, we cherish our experiences as well as getting there, we take our time but we move fast when it is necessary, we share our fears and our shame with those close to us, we cherish, respect and love both our parents (not just our mothers), and we love women, children, and all living things - including (gasp!) men - just as women do. And sometimes we fuck up - just like women do. We are as deeply and richly human as women are.

If we want men and boys to be the best they can be, we don't need "man prayers," we need services and practical support for males on the ground where it matters.

Greg Andresen
Editor
Mens Health Australia

Saturday
Feb022013

The Boys at the Back - NYTimes.com

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Illustration by Ben Javens

Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study coming out this week in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades — and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.

The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.

The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.

No previous study, to my knowledge, has demonstrated that the well-known gender gap in school grades begins so early and is almost entirely attributable to differences in behavior. The researchers found that teachers rated boys as less proficient even when the boys did just as well as the girls on tests of reading, math and science. (The teachers did not know the test scores in advance.) If the teachers had not accounted for classroom behavior, the boys’ grades, like the girls’, would have matched their test scores.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan312013

Book review of "The Good Men Project: Real Stories From the Frontline of Manhood" by K.C. Glover

David Gilmore in his expertly crafted study of masculinity, Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity (1992), points out that manhood is nearly ubiquitous in the cultures of the world. Very early on in his book, Gilmore introduces us to the Fox Indians, one of the aboriginal peoples of North America, whose word for manhood translates into English as “the Big Impossible.” Anyone involved in discussions of manhood would do well to remember this fact. With this in mind I undertook a reading of The Good Men Project, a collection of thirty-one essays written by “a broad range of men – rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, urban, rural, famous, [and] ordinary” (from the back cover).

If anyone has had the displeasure of sitting through a gender studies course in contemporary academe, he may be familiar with a kind of class that is run as a sort of self-help group, where mostly young women trade stories of victimhood at the hands of the patriarchy amid rage and tears, while the two or three silent young men in class sweat profusely in their chairs. Luckily for us The Good Men Project is not like one of these classes. While a few of the stories delve into that weepy emotionalism, for the most part these essays have, as another reviewer put quite succinctly, “balls.” The men who wrote these essays are not trying to burden us with their problems or to saturate us with their emotions, but to give us snapshots from the stories of their lives, some of which are able to deliver a devastating emotional payload precisely because of their reserve and dignity. These stories break the great male silence and allow us to start our own analysis.

From New Male Studies: An International Journal - Vol. 2, Issue 1, 2013, pp. 78-81.

Download full review.

Thursday
Jan312013

The Primordial Man. By Jan Andersen

The work of commercial artist Jan H. Andersen, who is well known for his stock images of boys and men, is discussed in this biographical essay that reveals much more than his work as an artist. He describes his journey from doing social work with children to being a leading observer of the inner lives of boys as revealed in the portraits he creates. The emotional life of boys is not a mystery to them, as their participation in the staging of pictures reveals. The author suggests that we are on the verge of a “small revolution” in the way we will see boys that will be carried out by boys themselves. The importance of social media for boys as an outlet for previously hidden feelings is emphasized.

From New Male Studies: An International Journal - Vol. 2, Issue 1, 2013, pp. 58-71.

Download article.

Thursday
Jan312013

Perceptions of Sex and Sexual Health among College Men: Implications of Maladaptive Habits in Physical and Social Relationship Formation. By Michael Rovito

Fear, vulnerability, stigma, and masculinity are important concepts to consider when promoting health among males. However, most health education efforts targeted towards males, particularly college-aged males, do not fully grasp the influence of these variables upon men to assist with them adopting healthier romantic and sexual relationships.

This discussion presents trends from a university-based seminar during the 2011-2012 academic year conducted with college students on maladaptive sexual habits, including promiscuity, subjective norms of sex and relationships, alcohol abuse, and inconsistent STD protection, as they pertain to physical and social relationships. Approximately 225 college-aged men and women attended the seminar. A particular emphasis was placed on perceived masculinity and gender roles within the social environment and how they influence physical and social relationship formation.

The seminar was a first step for future effectiveness testing of message-delivery systems in relationship and sexual health behavioral modification research among college men. This paper presents lessons learned from this exploratory approach in community health outreach efforts. We advocate that such seminars can be an efficient and effective way to raise awareness and promote wellness among male college students.

From New Male Studies: An International Journal - Vol. 2, Issue 1, 2013, pp. 46-57.

Download article.

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