AMONG MEN…: A CONFERENCE ON RESEARCH AND ACTIVISM ABOUT MASCULINITIES

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog entry for some time, as my expectations for CIME 2011, the Ibero-American Conference on Masculinities and Equity, were high. They have been fulfilled in that, to my great pleasure and relief, I’ve learned that there are many men fighting patriarchy with all their might (see www.homesigualitaris.cat for Catalonia and www.ahige.org, the Asociación de Hombres por la Igualdad de Género). My expectations have been if not exactly disappointed at least moderated by the tone of the conference presentations. Silly me, I expected from a gathering of mainly men (well, perhaps more than one third were women) something more radically men-centred. Instead, I’ve found myself in my habitual feminist territory, albeit enlarged, that’s true, by personal experience that I can’t access as my gender is different.

I know I may even sound testy but perhaps I expected a deeper interrogation of the tenets surrounding masculinity in Masculinities Studies. Let’s see if I can first understand myself what I mean. This discipline is derived from feminism and, as such, it is clearly anti-patriarchal, which, logically, means that the ideas discussed in the conference were all familiar to me. The utopian ideal was the same: let’s work for a masculinity founded on equity and not on hierarchical, power-based domination. Fair enough. The problem is that while I could see before my eyes many men deeply involved in this fight, the ‘others’ were missing and without them, I’m not sure the message, the project, is effective. The most serious quarrel arising was between gay men, as one speaker complained that all pro-gay associations were today shamefully assimilationist, which didn’t sit well with the gay activists sitting in the audience. No one, at least in the sessions I attended, disputed what others said.

I realise this concordance between feminism and men’s activism is very positive and possibly unthinkable a few years ago. My hair stood on end when Miguel Lorente, current government delegate against (so-called) gender violence and author of the excellent essay Mi marido me pega lo normal, revealed that judges and police officers working with him (he’s a forensic doctor) in cases of domestic abuse used to call him, jokingly, ‘traitor.’ I think this must be what I missed in the conference: the judge who sentenced this week that calling a woman ‘zorra’ is not an insult, not even when the word is inserted into a death threat; the plain male chauvinists and even the recalcitrant abusers. The ‘enemy,’ in short, who’s out there and growing in numbers despite all the resources poured on educating people. Of course, I realise that the ‘enemy’ could never have attended CIME 2011, yet without him there’s a certain circularity in the argumentation.

At any rate, I am very happy to see anti-patriarchal dissidence grow and look forward to many more CIMEs until they’re not necessary at all. That will be the day when patriarchy dies and gender becomes in terms of citizenship as secondary as the colour of our hair or the size of our feet.

1 thought on “AMONG MEN…: A CONFERENCE ON RESEARCH AND ACTIVISM ABOUT MASCULINITIES

  1. So you feel it’s a bit like preaching to the faithful, when everyone’s so politically correct there’s room only for agreement? Perhaps, then, although such conferences have their own point I guess, the actual debate is elsewhere. Anyway, I guess any conference on a subject you specialise in is bound to be, to some extent, too much of a good thing.

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