Varying narratives of masculinity and femininity have both shaped and been used by the far-right in its mobilization of support and polarization of debate. This report follows the academic literature in identifying ethnonationalism as the unifying ideology of a heterogeneous political tendency that can be collectively referred to as the “far-right”.
Working with Boys and Men
When facing the often seemingly insurmountable issues of ‘toxic masculinity’, ‘patriarchy’, ‘men’s behaviour change’, ‘male culture’ and any other buzzwords one wishes to describe this with, it can feel like we are; spitting on a bush-fire. All that ends up happening is we as an individual become dehydrated, exhausted and ultimately defeated.
The UN Women Training Center has developed a great resource for men to educate ourselves: the Self-Learning Booklet: Masculinities and Violence against Women and Girls (2016).
The booklet was developed as the result of a series of training courses that aim to strengthen capacities of development practitioners and advocates to understand, integrate and address critical gender issues in their lives and work. This tool aims to assist both UN and non-UN staff to better understand the issues of masculinities in relation to violence against women and girls.
Research tells us that socially constructed gender norms which associate masculinity with power, violence and control can play a role in driving conflict and insecurity.
The SHED Manual: For workers engaging in men’s behaviour change to shed abusive beliefs and violence (2013) was developed over almost 20 years of practice in rural Australia by Chris Laming. The SHED (Self Help Ending Domestics) Project engaged with men and challenged them to look at themselves, as though in a mirror. It was ‘time and space for men to face who they are and what they have become and a chance to change what is not good’.
Efforts to promote gender equality and violence prevention in workplaces and organisations often meet resistance. Resistance takes a variety of forms, from denial of the problem, to inaction, to victim-blaming, to outright attack. How should we respond to resistance and backlash? And, how can we make resistance less likely in the first place?
Everyday sexism is a serious problem. Sexist jokes and comments, intrusive and harassing treatment, and other behaviours are a near-daily experience for many women. They cause direct harm, and they contribute to wider gender inequalities. Everyday sexism is routine, invisible, and often excused or ignored.
So, how can we challenge everyday sexism? What can you say when your uncle makes a sexist joke at the Christmas dinner? What can you do when your workmate comments on a passing woman’s appearance? How can you respond when your mum says that women need to be more careful to avoid rape? What can you do when some guy on the train is making a young women uncomfortable?
The notion of the ‘Man Box’ names influential and restrictive norms of manhood. The ‘Act Like a Man’ box or ‘Man Box’ has been a common teaching tool in efforts over the past three decades to engage men and boys in critical reflections on men and gender (Kivel, 2007). The ‘box’ names the qualities men are expected to show, the rewards they earn for doing so, and the punishments they are dealt if they step ‘outside’ the box. It emphasises that these dominant standards are restrictive and limiting for men, as well as harmful for women. Individual qualities in the Man Box are not necessarily bad, and indeed some may be useful or desirable in some contexts. On the other hand, some of the qualities are negative in themselves, the range of qualities available to men is narrow, and men are expected not to deviate from them. The Man Box norms also sustain forms of privilege or unfair advantage for men, and men’s attitudes and behaviours that underpin inequality between men and women. The reference to ‘acting like a man’ makes the point that masculinity is a ‘performance’, a set of qualities and behaviours practised in particular contexts.
I have been working on issues of men, masculinities, and gender for 32 years, and it looks to me like men’s roles in building gender equality are now part of the public agenda to an unprecedented extent. Almost every day, there are new stories and initiatives on how men can support women’s participation in medicine and science, end domestic and sexual violence, share the load of fathering and housework, and more. This focus has a compelling rationale. Above all, we will not make much progress towards gender equality without change among men—and men themselves will benefit from this progress.
We’re going to focus this morning on how to engage male students and staff on campus in violence prevention.
So I want you to think for a moment about the young men you see every day on your campus. The young men in your classrooms, in the cafeteria, in the college residences, and so on.