Masculinities Mondays: 28th of July 2014

Condom dresses at the AIDS 2014 Global Village. Source: http://aids2014.org/

AIDS 2014 participants marching through the streets of Melbourne. Source: http://aids2014.org/

 As both the AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne and the Girl Summit 2014 in London drew to a close last week, Masculinities Mondays this week takes a look at some of the conversations going on around those events, and a few other interesting bits and pieces too.

  • You can find plenty of information about AIDS 2014 (including statements, photos, videos, and daily reports) at the conference website. If that’s too overwhelming, you can also find a good summary of what went on here.
  • UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Katy Perry, has released this song, ‘Unconditionally,’ to address stigma against HIV+ youth.
  • 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. Source: http://aids2014.org/

    In this video blog, Mark King interviews several of the participants in the AIDS 2014 march which took place on the streets of Melbourne on the 22nd of July. It’s great to see some of the Unzip the Lips folks in the footage!

  • In the wake of the Girl Summit 2014, Jenny Edwards’ excellent article entitled, ‘We Cannot Give a Woman a Cow and Expect Her to Change the World,’ calls for a nuanced, context-specific approach to women’s empowerment. She writes,

Quick fixes are rarely the answer to complex and intertwined problems such as access to decent work, education and securing legal rights…To achieve sustainable gender equality, donors should look beyond targets and tick-boxes, and explore the complexity of women’s lives and relationships…For development interventions to be successful, they need to be fully appreciative of the lives of poor women and not see them as a homogenous group.

Although one of the main messages from participants in the Girl Effect Live London event is that education is the key to ending forced marriage and female genital mutilation, Edwards explains that education is not necessarily in every context the silver bullet that it’s held up to be. A study from the University of Ghana, for example, found that education did indeed lead to secure jobs for an older generation of women but this was not the case for the younger generation of women trying to find employment now.

While I completely agree with Edwards’ point that development programs need to listen to the diverse needs of women and recognise their differences, I have to ask where the men are in all this? Don’t they also need to develop a critical consciousness about women’s empowerment and equality in general for any of this to be successful? The words ‘men’ or ‘boys’ do not show up anywhere in the article. Edwards says “we cannot give a woman a cow and expect her to change the world,” but, while she’s focusing on the cow, I’m wondering why it’s solely the woman’s responsibility to change the world anyway…

  • Check out this uplifting video, ‘Use Your Head,’ made by youth who are part of Integrate Bristol – a charity focused on equality and integration. The song calls for gender-based violence education in all schools – something that I think really needs to be in schools everywhere.
  • In this New York Times article, ‘In Sweden, Man Can Have it All,’ Katrin Bennhold examines Sweden’s system of parental leave, looking at the impact that has had on businesses but also on masculinities and gender roles. Currently, Swedish law reserves two of the 13 months of well-paid parental leave exclusively for fathers – and this may increase to four months after the September elections. Former deputy Prime Minister, Bengt Westerberg, states:

Society is a mirror of the family. The only way to achieve equality in society is to achieve equality in the home. Getting fathers to share the parental leave is an essential part of that.

Female employment rates and salaries have increased, while divorce rates have dropped, and these changes are believed to be at least partly due to Sweden’s comparatively equitable parental leave system. For example, a Swedish study published in March found that a mother’s future earnings increase on average 7 percent for every month the father takes leave.The Swedish head of human resources as Ericsson says,

Graduates used to look for big paychecks. Now they want work-life balance. We have to adapt.

Of course this comes with a one of the highest tax rates in the world and a relatively small population but, as the article explains, countries like Germany have also started following the Swedish model of parental leave, with apparent success.

And we’ll leave you with that mesh of gender ideas to mull over for the next week – we strongly encourage you to engage friends, family members, and the person in line behind you at the supermarket in hearty debates about these topics; it will be entertaining, we promise!

Masculinities Mondays: 21st of July 2014

This has been a pretty depressing week for the world. Between the absolutely deplorable violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fatal attack on flight MH17 and the loss of so many lives, including those of AIDS researchers and activists, the abysmal treatment of asylum-seekers by the Australian government, and so much more, I know a fair number of people who have enforced a media blackout on themselves just to get through the week.

So, in this Masculinities Mondays, we’re going to focus on some of the positive stories that might help to reinstate some of that faith in humanity that I know many of us lost a little bit recently:

  • First up, is a great article by Anthony Carter about the importance of taking a positive, rather than demonizing, approach to masculinity. He writes:

Society and the way people, not just men think, is the real problem, the true enemy; and there was no way to truly feel good about myself and my male allies if I believed we were all flawed beyond compare and hopeless…I want us all to seek out and work towards becoming incredible men. Men who can be all things. Vulnerable and action-oriented. Playful, kind, and to the point. The type of fathers, uncles, brothers, and lovers who can be counted on to take care of children and be secure enough to say, “I don’t know. I think we should ask someone who has more experience in this area.” We need men who can think and love and a world that doesn’t fear or demonize them as a result of this choice. 

  • On Tuesday, the Girl Summit 2014 kicks off in London, encouraging the world to take a stand against female genital mutilation and child and forced marriage. Those in London can educate themselves and their friends/families/person they met on the bus about these issues by visiting the Too Young To Wed photo exhibition being held at the London School of Economics from the 21st of July to the 1st of August.
  • A group of Indian comedians have released this excellent and hilarious parody video of sex education in India. Blatantly pointing out the importance of open, honest and relevant sex education, this video has lessons for parents, educators, and policy makers all around the world.
  • And, while we’re on the topic of sex in India, meet Dr. Mahind Watsa – a 90 year-old sex guru who has been providing to-the-point advice to people of all ages for the past 50 years. Through his advice columns, Dr. Watsa provides advice on everything from safe sex:

Q: Two days ago, I had unprotected sex with my girlfriend. To prevent pregnancy, we bought an i-Pill. [emergency contraceptive] But in the heat of the moment I popped it instead of her. Can it cause any complications for me?

A: Next time round please use a condom and make sure you don’t swallow that too.

To challenging misconceptions about female virginity:

Q: My girlfriend and I are 22 years old. We had sex a few months ago, for the first time, but she did not bleed. How can I identify if she is a virgin? Please help. I am confused.

A: Is this the way you love your girlfriend? You are a suspicious person. Haven’t you heard that there are several other ways by which the hymen can split, such as by playing a sport?

To consent and bestiality:

Q: I am a 32-yr-old happily married man from Karjat. Recently, I’ve been having mixed feelings about cheating on my wife. I have a goat; her name is Ramila. Over the past two months, I have been thinking about how it would feel to make love to her. Is this normal? Will I contract a goat-related STD? Please help!

A: Ask Ramila whether she would like it! Bestiality is not considered normal and it is illegal.

And just other concerns that some readers have:

Q: Is it safe if penis is kept in the vagina when sleeping?

A: Usually when the penis returns to flaccid state, it will slide out of the vagina. Even if does not, rest assured the vagina will not have it for breakfast.

 I don’t want him to ever feel like he wasn’t able to express himself because his parents didn’t support him…If my son is gay, so be it. Maybe he is. Maybe he’s not. Maybe he’ll be a cross dresser. Maybe not. I have no control over any of it. All I can do is be supportive.

Thanks for reading, and here’s to a more peaceful week ahead, filled with less hate and more understanding. 

Masculinities Mondays: 14th of July 2014

As I switched off the television after Germany’s win in the World Cup finals on Sunday, it occurred to me that, for a whole month, I had basically only seen one gender on TV: men kicking balls around a field, men congratulating other men kicking balls around a field, men crying about other men’s inability to kick a ball around a field, men sitting in a studio discussing other men kicking balls around a field…so much so that when the wives and girlfriends of the German players came on screen to congratulate the team, I had a jarring ‘Wait – what are THEY doing there?!?’ reaction. The exception, of course, was the rife sexual objectification of female fans throughout the competition – the ‘women of the World Cup,’ as they are apparently known. As Matthew Gaw writes in The Telegraph:

At almost every level of football it seems that there is a sense of objectification of women…if the caricature of women is accepted so readily, what does it say about us men? Tolerating or even revelling in these images not only belittles women, it also reduces men to the level of tragic, grubby, thigh-rubbers.

Apparently media agencies around the world, including MTV and El Pais Colombia, missed the memo about how sexual objectification of women is not okay.

AFP via http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Sports/2014/02/25/Sexist-Cup-shirts-withdrawn-after-Brazil-complaint

Adidas’ sexist t-shirts caused a stir before the World Cup had even started (AFP)

Having seen the ‘#SayNoToRacism’ signs on the sidelines in each of the matches, I turned to my flatmate during one match and asked, much as Belen Fernandez did, where the #SayNoToSexism messaging was. And then, Germany beat Brazil 7 to 1 and Twitter, other social media, and, tellingly, even a porn website, were overrun with a barrage of all-inclusive racist, sexist, and just plain offensive Nazi rape jokes. At least there was an immediate backlash from people around the world pointing out the obvious connection with such jokes and violence against women. As Fernandez puts it:

The widespread deployment of rape lingo and the portrayal of a fundamentally vile phenomenon in a positive light also contribute to the perpetuation of societies in which violence – both sexual and otherwise – is normalised and glorified…This is not to imply, obviously, that the World Cup Twitter commentary will compel everyone to go out and rape with abandon, or that war and rape wouldn’t exist if video games and Twitter didn’t. The point is merely to acknowledge the resulting reinforcement of violent structures. In the end, if what gets you off is typing 140-character-or-less rape jokes as a means of vicariously appropriating the spoils of athletic victory-cum-sexual conquest, rest assured that you’re not only pathetic but also structurally complicit.

Sadly, as usual, a perusal of the comments on either of these articles reveals how many people just really don’t get it and seem, instead, deeply upset that calls for gender equality and non-discrimination are taking the fun out of their lives. Perhaps it’s time for them to get a new hobby.

And, as it turns out, there is a pretty direct connection between the World Cup and gender-based violence. U.K. organisation Tender Education and Arts, released a video in June bringing attention to the 38% rise in domestic abuse in England when the national football team loses a match.

Given all of this, perhaps it should come as no surprise that a new report in the U.K. has found that women hold less than 20% of board-level positions in top governing bodies for sport and that Oxfam has estimated that it will be another 75 years before women in G20 countries are paid the same as men.

And what of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada? Can we expect to see it presented as a real, respected sporting event, free from sexism? Or if we aim for that will people like theremittanceman who commented on Gaw’s article remind us to “stop being such a sad specimen of metrosexual political correctness, ignore your inner feminist for once and enjoy the spectacle like a real man”?

Actually, it probably won’t even be shown on major TV stations anyway, so I guess it’s a futile point.

New resource: straight up video on ‘Sexualization vs Objectification’

Thanks to reader, Svenn, I’ve come across this excellent video by the1janitor on ‘Sexualization vs Objectification which breaks down, in the most direct way, the issue of sexual harassment. I’ve tried to deal with this topic before but the1janitor gets to the heart of the matter in a completely no bullshit kind of way that I really admire. 

Just because women are fun to look at (which I think they are) does not mean that they are here for us to look at them. Just because women turn us on (which I think they do) does not mean they exist to turn us on. Just because sex with women is awesome (which I think it is) does not mean that women exist for us to have sex with them…A woman is not obligated to give a shit whether you think they’re sexy or not.

And, even though the1janitor says he was not trying to make a feminist video, he sends out a pretty great gender equality message:

Women are people – as in, they have thoughts and opinions and desires and emotions and bodily autonomy (ie. the right to do whatever they want with their own shit, which may or may not including fucking you)…It’s okay to be sexually attracted to people and it’s okay to like sex and it’s okay to like women or anybody but it’s not okay to treat people like not people.

Check out the whole video (it’s only 5 minutes long) here

Masculinities Mondays: 7th of July 2014

This week I happened to watch ‘The Nutty Professor’ (the original 1963 Jerry Lewis one, not the Eddie Murphy one) and, at least for me, the film was really about masculinities. The lead character (a short, geeky, socially-awkward professor with crooked teeth) spends the whole film trying to attain a certain type of hegemonic masculinity, which comes in the form of his alter ego, Buddy Love (a confident, handsome, charismatic, unapologetically sexist crooner who is adored by men and women alike). The film ends with the professor realising that it’s actually just best to be happy with who you are and he is rewarded with social acceptance (and, of course, he gets the girl). I came out of the film straining to think whether I had seen any more recent films that similarly explored the tensions that guys face in trying to figure out how to be a “real man” and, even more so, films that concluded with the message that it’s okay for men to be physically weak, bumbling and not traditionally attractive. Unable to spring any such films to mind, I began wondering where the positive self-esteem messaging is for men and boys.

For women and girls, on the other hand, this has been an inspiring and empowering week in terms of the pieces that were doing the social media rounds.

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Carol Rossetti

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Carol Rossetti

 

First there were Carol Rossetti’s beautiful images of women just being themselves, no matter what society tells them. Hairy women, disabled women, lesbian women, large women, women who’ve had abortions, tomboys – they all grace the papers of Rossetti’s images with defiance and pride. The Brazilian graphic designer says of her art pieces, “It has always bothered me, the world’s attempts to control women’s bodies, behaviour and identities. It’s a kind of oppression so deeply entangled in our culture that most people don’t even see it’s there, and how cruel it can be.”

Then there was the Always ‘Like a Girl’ video that questions why running/throwing/fighting/etc ‘like a girl’ is an insult (side question: is this also a common insult in other languages or just in English?). The video transitions to an uplifting girl power message in which one young girl of about age 6 answers the question, “What does it mean to ‘run like a girl’?” with: “It means to run as fast as you can.” Aimed at the issue of teenage girls’ self-esteem, the video attempts to reclaim the phrase ‘like a girl’ to being a positive thing. A young woman in the video says,

I kick like a girl and I swim like a girl and I walk like a girl and I wake up in the morning like a girl because I am a girl. And that is not something that should be ashamed of.

No doubt very carefully edited and scripted (and, let’s not forget that it is an ad from a company that is trying to make money), at least the video is making an attempt to challenge gender norms. Sadly, the misogynistic undercurrent in many of the comments suggest that we’re still quite a while away from any kind of gender equity.

Interestingly, though, on both the pages of Carol Rossetti’s illustrations and the Like a Girl video, some male commenters posed similar questions to the one I had after watching ‘The Nutty Professor.’ One said, “Wonder how long I will be waiting to see ’18 Empowering illustrations to remind everyone who is really in charge of MEN’s bodies’ ?????” The comment on the Always video was a lot more angry and defensive but, nonetheless, expressed the same type of deep frustration with the socially-prescribed expectations of masculinity:

Yeah, and no one gives a fuck that young boys are always told to “man up” and be strong and athletic and hate art and emotions and that they have to grow up to be ripped and strong and have a huge penis and be in control of everything and provide for their families and grow lots of body hair and kill the damn spiders even if you’re secretly afraid of them. Go away, you delusional, one-sided feminist propagandists. Always just wants to profit off of your ignorance.

There’s a whole lot going on there.

This reminded me of the conversation I came across last week about the need for a ‘boy power’ movement to expand and diversify the ways available to guys to ‘be a man.’ The closest that anything came to that idea this week were the photos from the UK paper, The Sun, of regular guys reenacting underwear ads. While the photos were originally meant half as a joke, they have been very well-received, especially by female commenters. But, apart from reasserting that men don’t have to be models in order for women to find them attractive, this campaign doesn’t really go anywhere in the direction of challenging deeply-entrenched harmful gender roles and asserting a diverse and nuanced view of masculinity. It won’t help the self-esteem of guys with small penises or guys who are afraid of spiders. In order to make that kind of change, guys need to start speaking out for themselves and for each other.

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The Sun

The Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, in Colombia, the national football team’s star player, James Rodríguez, commented after the team lost to Brazil on Friday’s World Cup match that, “Men also cry.” It’s not much, really, compared to the types of empowering messages that are out there for women and girls right now. Yet, having such a high-profile role model breach the topic of gender stereotypes that are restrictive for men, is an opening and an opportunity for other men to come in and expand the conversation.

James1

AFP

So, come on guys – why wait?

 

 

New resource: ‘The Making of Sexual Violence: How does a boy grow up to commit rape?’

Promundo and the ICRW have just launched a new report based on the findings of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) in Chile, Croatia, India, Mexico and Rwanda.

Promundo report

© David Snyder/ICRW

The Making of Sexual Violence: How does a boy grow up to commit rape? states that between about 4 and 25 percent of men across the study sites reported having perpetrated rape. Among the findings are an association between experiences or witnessing of violence during childhood and rape perpetration in adulthood, as well as an overlap between men’s use of different types of violence. The report calls for more work with boys at a young age, focusing on gender equality and non-violence and addressing the concept of male sexual entitlement.

Check out the report here.