This panel, which featured Feministing’s own Miriam Pérez, was a complex and nuanced discussion of the idea of masculinity. Speakers addressed masculinity from personal and cultural perspectives, from within queer communities and compulsory straight communities, and in U.S. and international contexts.
Panelist’s presentations were followed by a fascinating discussion that focused on, among other topics, the ways traditional masculinity hurts men and boys and limits their gender options and ability to express themselves.
Some of the panelists comments after the jump.
Before I went on hormones I asked myself, my friends, my therapist: how will I be able to do feminism from a masculine perspective? The context I want to set is that masculinity is informed by people’s personal experiences. It’s informed by their race, their gender, their sexuality, their family.
I am from Kenya. I want to quote a saying that I find disturbing: “He who [steals?] with a young man will never find peace until that young man becomes a man but he who [steals?] with a woman will never find peace until that woman is dead.” For a young man when you become an adult your life has been tranformed. What are the notable manifestations of patriarchy and how we view masculinity in Kenya? You find negative views of women in popular culture. You hear pop songs where the man is in a dominant position, he always knows everything, he is always saving the woman. Women tend to control fewer resources so therefore they have lesser power and find themselves in subservient positions. Abortion is prohibited unless the life of the mother and the child is in danger.
You also find division of labor between girls and boys at a very young age. When I was going to school for you to be a leader you had to be big, you had to have that physicality.
What are the impacts of masculinity on reproductive health? Men will not take the responsibility, women will take the responsibility for contraception. Most men do not understand the implications of their behavior to the family, the community, and the society. Because the culture has this binary understanding of gender, male and female, it has lead to the erasure of the gay population. This impacts for instance HIV/AIDS work.
In many ways women are starting to have a voice, especially in sexual health. We have a youth population that is more informed about gender roles and they do not go to the traditional male and female dichotomy.
I grew up in a college town in North Carolina but my family are Cuban immigrants. I came out really late, I came out at 21 in college. And I think that has a lot to do with not having any queer role models. I didn’t have any role models of how I wanted to be. So I was very gender conforming until my twenties. I came to CLPP for the first time and I was shocked, there were all these genderqueer people. For me I think gender was a big part of my coming out process because I was looking for role models of who I wanted to be.
I remember in college I went to an American Eagle store with a friend and she went to the left side where the mens clothing was. And I was like, what are you doing? You can’t do that! I thought the alarms were going to go off or something.
I didn’t have a tomboy childhood. That’s a very common narrative in the genderqueer community. There’s this idea that we’re supposed to have this specific experience and if we don’t we’re not butch enough or we’re not genderqueer enough.
The popular idea of masculinity is very white, very male, very able bodied tough guy, all these things that I’m not. I’m short, I’m chubby, if somebody tried to fight me I’d run in the opposite direction. And that’s a lot of why I think I’ve shied away from the language of masculinity. A big piece of that is race and the different role of masculinity in Cuban culture. Why is that the only way I can be? What are other types of masculinity that I can identify with?
I work in domestic violence, so there’s this question of how to bring masculinity into that work. There’s questions of how do we bring men in, and genderqueerness and butchness aren’t even part of the conversation.
I am male bodied, I identify as genderqueer, and I have performed many genders over the years.
I saw this ad posted on Feministing.com… and my friend said it was really masculinity in its most negative form. And it got me thinking, because I couldn’t think of what was masculinity in a positive form, that wasn’t about dominance.
There’s this idea of emasculation. Masculinity as far as I can see is dependent on another person or thing. There’s this idea, oh he’s completely emasculated, he’s dominated by a woman, he’s so whipped. There’s this idea that a pink shirt can be emasculating. So how flimsy is this idea if it’s so dependent on what’s around it?
What I really don’t want to do is reverse the dichotomy of good/bad, and make masculinity a bad thing and femininity a good thing. But I do really want to look at what happens when masculinity is dependent on the dominance of other people.