Yay for Sweden!

Two heartwarming stories to come out of Sweden recently, that make us want to buy some crisply-designed, light wooden furniture and eat some Kalles Kaviar.

  • The Swedish Academy announced that they will be adding the gender-neutral pronoun, hen, to their official dictionary in April. Coined in the 1960s, hen was later revived by Sweden’s transgender community as an alternative to han (‘he’) and hon (‘she’).
  • And Swedish photographer Johan Bävman has created a beautiful series on men during their paternity leave. In Sweden, parents are given a total of 480 days of leave which they can choose how to split between them; however, if men do not take at least 60 days, those days are lost. Says one father in the series,

I think it’s important to share the responsibility of staying at home with your children, even if you lose out financially. We have less money because I stay at home, but at the same time I will have more time to bond with my daughter and that is what is most important for our future together.

Thanks, Sweden – keep on showing the rest of us the way, please!

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© Johan Bävman

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Masculinities Mondays: 30th of March 2015

Taking the starring role this week is a tweet by user Texpatriate that went viral about rape prevention tips. Unlike the Spanish Ministry of Interior’s suggested list for women on how to prevent rape (which included such helpful tips as ‘don’t put your first name on your letterbox’ and ‘close the curtains’), Texpatriate’s list is directed at men.

There are so many gems in there but our personal favourite is #9. It is a rehash of an old post but it doesn’t matter – it’s too good not to have multiple lives.

Now, the idea of teaching men not to rape is not new. It seems, however, that when this post went viral last week some men didn’t take kindly to the suggestion that they have any kind of responsibility for preventing rape. Like other women who have tried to turn the tables on the issue of street harassment (in London and New York), Texpatriate and those that several of those the retweeted this post about rape prevention received aggressive reactions from some men. Clearly the ridiculousness of the normalised discourse of putting all the onus on women to stop men from raping them, was completely lost on these men.

We were reminded of this article from a few years ago entitled, How to teach kids not to rape:

We need to teach our sons about rape. We need to expect much, not little, from them and from the men they will become. We need tell them what rape is and that it should not happen to anyone. This is the only loving way to parent.

The author’s words are as necessary now as they were four years ago, as they were forty – or 400 – years before that. Come on, world – we can do better.

Masculinities Mondays: 23rd of March 2015

Participants at a recent conference in the U.S. were asked to define what masculinities meant to them. All of them responded with something along the lines of: the freedom to be and express who you are. This same sentiment is apparent in the massive (over 1.5 million views so far) online reaction to a father who dressed up as Elsa from the film Frozen to take his daughter to a sing-along, with viewers calling him ‘the best dad of the year.’

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“Dad of the year.” Image from Imgur

Okay, so if masculinity means freedom of expression, what does femininity mean? According to Nike, it means flouncing around in completely inappropriate clothes. NikeLab’s most recent line of the activewear for women consists of lace, fishnet stockings and bustle-tailed dresses…yes, bustle-tailed dresses. As Megan Wiegand of Slate states,

Just like our fellow male athletes, we want athletic gear that doesn’t chafe, sag, or stretch, that’s breathable and fitted, and that survives through countless spin cycles…how about reinforcing running tights’ seams for the overwhelming majority of us who don’t have thigh gaps?

Nike’s self-proclaimed “bold, feminine and modern” new designs for women are an example of what Finn Mackay describes in critiquing ‘choice feminism:’

There is an attempt, unfortunately fairly successful, to reduce feminism to simply being the right for women to make choices. Not choices about whether to stand for parliament, or instigate pay transparency in the office or lead an unemployed worker’s union, or form a women-only consciousness-raising group in their town; far from it. Instead, there are choices about what amount of makeup to wear, whether to go “natural” or try mascara that makes your eyelashes look like false eyelashes, or what diet drink to buy, or whether or not to make the first move with a man – or other such modern and edgy decisions of the sort which face the feisty, sassy, pull-no-punches liberated woman of today.

This is not to say that companies don’t also make ridiculous representations of masculinities just to sell their products – they most certainly do. It is, rather, to say that the ‘freedom to be’ is presumably something that everyone aspires to, regardless of whether they consider themselves masculine or feminine. And feminism (despite whatever assumptions this word conjures up for people) is really just about equality and freedom for everyone. It’s not about taking power from men and giving it to women. It’s not about women finally being able to choose to do kickboxing in a bustle-tailed skirt. It is, as Mackay states, “about change, not a changing of the guard.”

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Try doing kickboxing in THAT, ladies. Image from NikeLab

Masculinities Mondays: 16th of March 2015

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Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

From dancing in Dili to cross-dressing in Kabul, millions of women and men, girls and boys, around the world spent last week celebrating International Women’s Day, joining forces to honour women’s contributions and to heighten awareness of the many injustices and challenges that women across the globe still face. This week, those conversations about masculinities and gender equality continue, in various forms:

  • The 59th Commission on the Status of Women is currently underway in New York. But if you thought this was only about women and for women, you’re mistaken. If you’re in the Big Apple, there are some great CSO side events on masculinities. Check them out here and here – just don’t forget to RSVP!
  • An article has recently been published examining men’s lifetime physical intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration across eight low- and middle-income countries to better understand key risk factors that interventions can target in order to promote gender equality and reduce IPV. In exploring data from men in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), India, Mexico, and Rwanda, the authors found that witnessing parental violence was the strongest risk factor for men’s perpetration of physical violence against a partner. Having been involved in fights not specifically with an intimate partner, permissive attitudes towards violence against women, having inequitable gender attitudes, and older age were all also associated with a higher likelihood of ever perpetrating physical IPV.
  • In Denmark, a professor is controversially campaigning to have pornography shown in sex educational classes in all schools. Prof Christian Graugaard states,

My proposal is to critically discuss pornography with 8th and 9th graders [age 15 – the legal age of consent in Denmark – and 16 respectively] as part of a sensible didactic strategy, carried out by trained teachers…We know from research that a vast majority of teenagers have seen porn at an early age – so it’s not a question of introducing youngsters to porn…We should strengthen their ability to distinguish between the media’s depictions of the body and sex and the everyday life of an average teenager. They should become conscientious and critical consumers.

  • And, while we are on the topic of sex education, if you read anything this week, make it this brilliant article that explains how sexual consent is really as simple as a cup of tea.
  • To wrap up, we’d like to leave you with a video from Indonesia on transforming masculinities for positive social change, brought to you by MenCare+ and Rutgers WPF.

Have a great, active and transformative week!

International Women’s Day around the world

Some interesting stories about gender equality are coming out in the news right now, for International Women’s Day on March 8th, so if you’re wondering what’s the point of celebrating this day, have a look:

  • While China continues its, albeit slowed, economic boom, Didi Kristin Tatlow and Michael Forsythe’s recent article in the New York Times explains how Chinese women are being left out of the opportunities for financial gain and career development. Less than one in 10 board members of China’s top 300 companies are women and, in terms of government, no woman has ever been on the Politburo Standing Committee. Feminist, Feng Yuan describes,

We call it the ‘sticky floor. There is a glass ceiling here too, but most women never even get off the sticky floor.

Read the full story here.

  • The Chinese police then marked International Women’s Day by detaining at least 10 women’s rights activists, who had been trying to organise a nation-wide campaign on ending sexual harassment in public transportation. A lawyer representing one of the activists remarked,

We’ve always thought the country supports equal rights for women. Speaking as a lawyer, this act is beyond our imagination and has shocked us.

Obviously they’ve just broken down the last barrier and they’ve made the men-only club admit women…Admit women! Isn’t that fantastic? At last, this bastion of chauvinism has admitted women and they’ve done it on International Women’s Day because of the Liberal National Party.

Mr Abbott failed to add that the club will continue to not allow women to become members after the event.

  • In Southern Africa, the Salvation Army came up with a very effective way to use a recent social media craze to raise awareness about violence against women. Tapping into the recent online sensation of a dress that appeared to some people to be black and blue and to others as white and gold, the Salvation Army produced the strong campaign below. The image reads “Why is it so hard to see black and blue. The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women”Salvation Army dress
  • The Asian Development Bank has released an infographic of wage inequality in Asia and the Pacific. According to the ADB data, women in the region earn between 70-90% of what men earn for the same work!
  • And, in India, Priya – a new, female hero – has been named a UN Women Gender Equality Champion as she continues to spread awareness about preventing violence against women and promoting gender equality – all on the back of a tiger! stand_with_priya3-1024x1019
  • The 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women kicked off today and will run until the 20th of March. The theme this year is on implementing the Beijing Platform for Action.
  • We know there are a lot of parts of the world not listed here. And that’s so that YOU can tell us how YOU (or your friends/community/country have been celebrating IWD. In the meantime, stay tuned for regular updates of the IWD buzz this week.