EuroPROFEM - The European Men Profeminist Network http://www.europrofem.org
Men for gender justiceXY: Men's roles in achieving gender justice http://www.xyonline.net/
I have to agree
whole-heartedly with Ms. Pillay. One of my frustrations with men in
relation to the feminist rape crisis movement in the states is the
presumption that these programs will offer services to men who have been
victimized. Similarly, as I have been working to build community support
for the updated Violence Against Women Act (a law in the USA to provide
funding and expand the federal definitions of violence against women); men
and some women) ask "what about violence against men."
Men's lives have changed in significant ways over the past three decades, particularly in the wake of the women's movements and feminisms. There have been upheavals in four areas: the legitimacy of men's monopoly of political and institutional power, the gendered organisation of paid work, the status of heterosexuality, and images of male identity. Some traditional forms of masculinity are increasingly felt to be obsolete, although there is not a 'crisis' among men in general. Some men are flourishing in the context of shifting gender relations, finding both relief and exhilaration in the new forms of intimate and public life available to them. There are important signs of positive change among men. However, images of change may not match the reality (as in childrearing and domestic work), few men have challenged gender inequalities, and governments' economic and family policies can be regressive in their effects.
Any consideration of "men's issues" must keep three aspects
of Australia's gender order in mind: (1) men's institutional privilege and
systematic patterns of gender inequality; (2) the costs to men of dominant
definitions of masculinity; and (3) differences and inequalities among
both men and women (such as those based on class, race and sexuality).
These features of gender relations feed into three key principles in
constructing men's roles in gender justice. First, be pro-feminist and
guided by principles of equity and social justice. Second, be
male-positive and oriented towards enhancing men's lives. Third, recognise
diversity and be inclusive.
Thank you to the conference organisers for inviting me to participate
in this forum. I am delighted to be here.
However, I want to sound three notes of caution.
First, images of change may not match the reality. The best example is parenting and domestic work. There has been a very noticeable shift in our images and ideas about fatherhood, but the widespread belief that fathers are significantly more involved with their children and with domestic work is simply not true.
Second, few men have challenged gender inequalities.
First, "Men, as a group, enjoy institutional privileges at the expense of women, as a group." (Messner, 1997: 5) There is a gap between the reality of gender injustice and men's awareness of this injustice, and this gap is typical to systems of power and oppression.
Second, men pay some heavy costs under the current gender order, and they are limited (but not oppressed) by the unattainable ideals and constricting social relations of masculinity. Third, there are differences and inequalities among women and among men, and men of different backgrounds simply don't have the same access to social resources and social status.
There are three principles which are fundamental in engaging with men and men's issues, and each corresponds to one of the features of gender relations I've outlined (Flood, 1993-94).
First, to be gender-just is to be guided by principles of equity and social justice. It is to be critical of those aspects of men's behaviour, constructions of masculinity, and gender relations which are harmful to women or children (and indeed to men themselves). It is to challenge women's oppression, sexism and gender injustice. Other terms one could use are "pro-feminist" and "anti- sexist".
Second, to be male-positive is to believe that men can change, to support efforts at positive change, to recognise the positive aspects of masculinity, and to be oriented towards enhancing men's lives.
Third, any approach to men's issues acknowledge both commonalities and diversities in the lives of men, accepting the feminist insight that gender intersects with race, class, sexuality, and so on.
I move now to the central question of this session: what is men's role
in achieving gender justice? First of all, men are part of the problem,
but they are also part of the solution. For whatever aspect of gender
inequality we consider -violence against women, inequalities in political
power, the division of paid and unpaid work, oppressive and degrading
cultural imagery - men's behaviours, attitudes, identities and relations
are part of the problem, part of what sustains and makes up these
We should be heartened by the fact that men have shown that they can support feminism and gender justice, both in their personal lives and through organised activism. The example with which I'm most familiar is men's activism against men's violence, which in Australia is represented primarily by Men Against Sexual Assault. Small numbers of men have also taken up pro-feminist agendas in men's health, boys' education, and fathering. Men's organised and public support for gender justice has historical precedents in support for women's suffrage and equality by men's groups in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Strauss, 1982; Kimmel and Mosmiller, 1992; John and Eustance, 1997).
Men's anti-violence groups are one expression of a wider network of pro-feminist men's activism, represented for example by the National Organisation of Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) in the U.S.A., the European Pro-feminist Men's Network, and the Men For Change Network in the United Kingdom. While some campaigns such as the White Ribbon Campaign achieve large numbers, 1 should caution though that the numbers of men directly involved in pro-feminist men's activism is small.
Men's collective mobilisations on gender issues are a delicate form of political activity, as they involve the mobilisation of members of a privileged group in order to undermine that same privilege. The same issues arise when white people try to do something about racism or heterosexuals do something about homophobia.
Most if not all contemporary societies are characterised by men's
institutional privilege (Messner, 1997: 5), such that men in general
receive a 'patriarchal dividend', a 'payoff', from gendered structures of
inequality (Connell, 1995: 79-82). The danger therefore is that by
mobilising men collectively as men and thus drawing on their shared
interests, activists will inadvertently entrench gender privilege (ibid:
234-238). This potential has been realised among the 'men's rights' and
'fathers' rights' groups in the men's movements, in that this wing of the
movements is energetically engaged in an anti-women and anti-feminist
backlash (Flood, 1997; 1998). While the men's movement has a small
pro-feminist wing, most of the movement and most public attention to
"men's issues" shares a "men's liberation"
perspective. Promoted particularly by Steve Biddulph, this focuses on the
ways in which men are limited or harmed, and it very easily slides into
the reactionary claims that men are oppressed as much as women or even by
women, women and feminism are to blame, and men are now the real victims.
However, men can be and are motivated by interests other than those associated with gender privilege. There are important resources in men's lives for gender justice. Through their loyalty and closeness to particular women - a mother, a partner, a friend, a sister, a daughter - some men come to an intimate understanding of the injustices suffered by women and the need for men to take action. Some men's advocacy is grounded in other forms of principled political activism, such as economic justice, pacifism, green issues or queer politics. Others become involved through dealing with their own experience of sexual violence or sexual abuse from other men and sometime women, perhaps as children or teenagers (Stoltenberg, 1990: 11-12). Men's desires to be trusted, loved and respected and to be good husbands and fathers are further resources.
Men have much to gain from ending gender inequality. Feminism offers men the possibility of freedom from a way of life that has been isolating, violent, obsessively competitive, emotionally shut down and physically unhealthy. Yes, it demands that men let go of their unfair privileges too, but outside a patriarchal worldview this is a small price to pay for the promise of more trusting, honest, pleasurable and fair relations with women and with children.
If men are to be, effective participants in action to achieve gender equality, they will have to do so in partnership with women. Cross-gender partnerships and alliances are the crucial foundation of men's involvement in gender justice. Partnerships with women and women's groups are critical in three ways. First, they enable men to learn from existing efforts and scholarship rather than 'reinventing the wheel'. Second, they lessen the risk that men will collude in or be complicit with dominant and oppressive forms of masculinity. Third, they are a powerful and practical demonstration of men's and women's shared interest in democratic and peaceful gender relations. Women and men are in this together, and the reconstruction of gender requires our shared commitment and involvement.
Men's partnerships with women are an inspiring example of cross-gender collaboration, a form of activism which reaches across and transforms gender inequalities.
Pro-feminist men typically conduct their efforts in alliance with women and women's organisations. Ideally, they consult with women's groups, do not compete for funding or other resources, and build strong lines of communication and trust (Funk, 1993:125-126,132-134).
Responses to men's involvement in gender issues are themselves shaped
by patriarchal privilege. First, men's groups receive greater media
attention and interest than similar groups of women (Luxton, 1993: 368).
This is partly the result of the former's novelty, but it is also a
function of the status and cultural legitimacy granted to men's voices in
general. Second, men acting for gender justice receive praise and credit
(especially from women) which is often out of proportion to their efforts.
Any positive action by men may be seen as gratifying in the face of other
men's apathy about and complicity in sexism. Third, men are able to draw
on institutional privilege to attract levels of support and funding rarely
granted to women (Landsberg, 2000: 15). This can of course be turned to
Cameron, Margaret (2000) 'Young men and Violence Prevention', Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No. 154, Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.
Connell, R.W. (1995) Masculinities. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
Flood, Michael (1993-94) '3 principles for men', XY.. Men, sex, politics 3.4, Summer
Flood, Michael (1997) 'Responding to Men's Rights', XY.. Men, sex, politics 7.2, Spring.
Flood, Michael (1998) 'Men's Movements', Community Quarterly No. 46, June.
Funk, Rus Ervin (1993) Stopping Rape: A challenge for men. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers.
Hayward, Ruth F. (1999) 'Needed: A new model of masculinity to stop violence against girls and women', WHO Global Symposium on Violence and Health, 12-15 October, Kobe, Japan.
John, Angela V. and Eustance, Claire (1997) (eds) The Men's Share?: Masculinities, male support and Women's Suffrage in Britain, 1890-1920. London: Routledge.
Kimmel, Michael S. (1993) 'Clarence, William, Iron Mike, Tailhook, Senator Packwood, Spur Posse, Magic... and us', in Buchwald, Emilie, Fletcher, Pamela and Roth, Martha (eds) Transforming a Rape Culture. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions.
Kimmel, Michael S. and Mosmiller, Thomas E. (1992) Against the Tide: Pro-feminist men in the United States, 1776-1990. Boston: Beacon Press.
Landsberg, Michele (2000) 'Canadian Feminists' Uneasy Alliance with Men Challenging Violence', Voice Male Spring (Men's Resource Centre of Western Massachusetts).
Luxton, Meg (1993) 'Dreams and Dilemmas: Feminist musings on 'The Man Question', in Haddad, Tony (ed) Men and Masculinities: A critical anthology. Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press.
Messner, Michael A. (1997) Politics of Masculinities: Men in movements. University of Southern California: Sage Publications.
Stoltenberg, John (1990) Refusing To Be a Man: Essays on sex and justice. CA & Suffolk: Fontana/Collins.
Strauss, Sylvia (1982) 'Traitors to the Masculine Cause": The men's campaigns for women's rights. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
Further reading on...
Pro-feminist men and men's relation to feminism
Digby, Tom (ed) 1998 Men doing feminism, New York & London: Routledge
Flood, Michael 1999 'Introducing pro-feminism"
Fuller, Bob and Fisher, Stephen (1998) 'A Decade of Pro-feminist Activism: A brief history of Men Against Sexual Assault', Community Quarterly No. 46, June.
Kaufman, Michael (1997) 'Working With Men and Boys to Challenge Sexism and End Men's Violence', UNESCO Expert Group Meeting 'Male Roles and Masculinities in the Perspective of a Culture of Peace', Oslo, Norway, 24-28 September.
Pease, Bob (1997) Men and sexual politics: Towards a pro-feminist practice, Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications
Pringle, Keith 1995 Men, masculinities and social welfare, London: UCL Press
Men, men's issues and masculinities
The Men's Bibliography and