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!

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