R.W. Connell has been a dominant force in scholarship on masculinity Australia for the last 25 years. One of the key concepts to come out of Connell’s work is the argument for the diversity of ‘masculinities’. This concept was developed to account for the shifting relations of dominance and marginalisation between groups of men. The emphasis on the plurality of masculinity debunks the popular myth, pursued by masculinity writers like Steve Biddulph and Robert Bly, that males have a fixed natural masculinity.
Whenever I think about masculinity in Mauritius, I'm reminded of a conversation between two friends of mine, both girls. It was on the recent emergence of several guys that would wear clothes or haircut styles that were understood feminine, like wearing a pink shirt and having rather long wavy hair along with trendy sunglasses, in a word ‘metrosexuals’. One of the two girls was arguing that these guys could not be called 'feminine' because they were not 'like us'. What surprised me was the firstly the argument, why is it so disturbing to both of them that guys should wear pink shirts? How did we come to consider pink as feminine? And why should it matter so much that a man should dress according to a certain code. But above all, the choice of the expression 'like us' puzzled me. I think it might come from doing a BA in English: to a certain extent you cannot help but notice how people use words. Words are never just words. They bear a history and a background that they cannot be divorced from.
A week that began celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) ended with closet ‘scandals’ in sport and politics. Only days after the IDAHO and the GLORIA awards for homophobic comments made in public, AFL player Jason Akermanis announced that the ‘AFL is not ready’ for openly gay players and the former NSW Minister for Transport, David Campbell, was ‘outed’ leaving a sex on premises venue for men. While one controversy suggested the value of silence surrounding one’s (non-heterosexual) sexuality, another emerged hours later highlighting the consequences of managing sexual visibility. Akermanis suggested that players should remain silent about their sexuality sending out a troubling social message that being gay is not only disturbing but also something to keep hidden in sport.
Every person on the planet is affected by masculinity in some shape or form. This is why getting masculinity right is so important. If we get it wrong, everything falls apart. You might have noticed that everything seems to be falling apart... But the debate about masculinity rarely seems to progress.
On one side (I'll put my cards on the table here and say my side), progressive academic types mostly take a feminist position and talk about patriarchy and power, and how this marginalises women (and atypical men). Increasingly, these types also refer to queer theory, which is not solely about gay and lesbian people, rather resisting ways of pigeon-holing the identities of all people.
On the other side, are those who (often quite rightly) identify the many problems suffered by men in society, and simply do not see claims about patriarchy and power as valid any more, chiefly because they are looking at individual men who appear not to be enjoying the privileges of power, rather than the systemic and institutional nature of power. The very words 'systemic and institutional nature of power' will often make these types wince.
This debate has been going on for years: one side claiming they cannot state their watertight case about patriarchy any clearer, the other finding that case unrepresentative of the truth. We have to start finding different ways to frame this debate to make any progress. This is not about finding a middle ground; it as about finding a different ground. It is about finding a different lens through which to view the 'problem' of masculinity. Recently I have been using the lens of conspiracy logic.
I wanted to write about my relationship to feminism, as a trans-masculine person. I identify as a queer transgender masculine person who has in the past, identified as a queer woman. My feminist politics have strengthened and solidified throughout my transition, despite the fact that I no longer identify as a woman. I think that my realisation of, and my acceptance of my own masculine identity, has transpired partly because of this consolidation.
When we think about violence against women, we imagine a slap, a punch, or repeated physical abuse. Violence, however, can be much more subtle. It can be in the form of an offensive word, a coercive act or a culture of sexual harassment. Recent media reports have drawn attention to the complex relationship between youth culture, gender norms and consensual behaviour. As a young man, these complexities invite us to rethink the subtleties of violence against women.
I am often struck by the way people say 'I'm not racist but...'. What is particularly humorous about such statements, is they are often based on racial assumptions and ideas that mark out (and marginalise) people based on a particular racial or ethnic characteristic. While most people define 'racism' as an institutional and systemic problem, it is often associated to how we think rather than how we feel.
For example, if someone were to say 'Whenever those Aboriginals are around, things go missing', quite a few people would (hopefully) jump and retort, that those statements are really racist. If, however, we held our wallets close to us, or hid our belongings while we were in the presence of indigenous persons, these bodily movements or actions would not be considered (as they are not often conscious) to be considered motivated by racial (or racist?) assumptions that we have internalised.