Masculinities Mondays: 8th of June 2015

On June 16th, MenCare, in collaboration with the Clinton Foundation and HeforShe, will launch the very first State of the World’s Fathers report. The report is intended to provide a periodic, data-driven snapshot of the state of men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving globally by addressing four issues related to fatherhood: unpaid care work in the home; sexual and reproductive health and rights, and maternal, newborn and child health; men’s caregiving and violence against children and women; and child development.  As the MenCare Campaign explains, the report aims to provide the basis for concentrated social, political, and healthcare initiatives; broad institutional change; and public awareness to bring about a transformation toward equitable, involved fatherhood. It defines a global agenda for involving men and boys as part of the solution to achieve gender equality and positive outcomes in the lives of women, children, and men themselves. Speakers will include Chelsea Clinton (Clinton Foundation), Gary Barker (Promundo), and Dean Peacock (Sonke Gender Justice).

For those of who will be in New York, you can register for the event for free here. And, for the rest of us, we can follow the event live here.

Masculinities Mondays: 25th of May 2015

Partners Adrian, left and Shane, arrive to cast their vote at a polling station in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Partners Adrian, left and Shane, arrive to cast their vote at a polling station in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

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Reactions to the ‘yes’ vote. (Photograph: Cathal Mcnaughton/Reuters)

With Ireland voting ‘yes‘ to same sex marriage, just one week after the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, this has been a pretty good week. Becoming the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriage by referendum, Ireland is, as Irish PM, Enda Kenny, said, “a small country with a big message for equality.” Congratulations and thank you, Ireland! Now the rest of us just need to sort ourselves out.

This week is also wonderful because, to mark Orange Day on the 25th, we have come across a bunch of excellent, touching and though-provoking videos to share.

  • To learn about why research is crucial to ending violence against women, check out this informative and inspirational Tedx Talk by Mary Ellsberg:

* TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains descriptions of violence, which some viewers may find triggering or distressing. 

  • And last, but not in any way least, we would like to share this incredibly powerful Tedx Talk by Bella Galhos, entitled ‘My own father sold me for 5 dollars!’, about the urgent need to end violence against women in Timor-Leste, for the sake of the next generation:

* TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains descriptions of violence, which some viewers may find triggering or distressing. 

Masculinities Mondays: 13th of April 2015

When women get arrested for trying to stop sexual harassment, something is very wrong. The stickers that these women had planned to distribute on public transport in Beijing on International Women’s Day said, “Stop sexual harassment, let us stay safe.” With hindsight, they should have used holograms.

Sending out thoughts and support to these five brave women in China.

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(Clockwise from top left): Zheng Churan (郑楚然), Li Tingting (李婷婷), Wang Man (王曼), Wu Rongrong (武嵘嵘), and Wei Tingting (韦婷婷). Source: Telegraph UK

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

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