Archive for March, 2009

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National Conference for Campus-Based Men’s Gender Equality

18 March 2009

The first National Conference for Campus-Based Men’s Gender Equality and Anti-violence Groups happens this November 6-7, 2009 at St. John’s University (MN). Various profeminist, egalitarian groups have been meeting at the Men and Masculinities Conference for decades, but this conference marks a fresh attempt to show a unified front of these sub-movements. Key scholars, including the likes of Michael Kaufman, Harry Brod, Jackson Katz and Michael Kimmel are helping to pull together this effort. The conference abstract:

Across the country, groups of male students are making their voices heard! More and more men are finding the courage to say “no” to ideas of manhood and relations between the sexes that aren’t good for women and aren’t good for men as well. They’re speaking out against date rape and violence against women. They support gender equality. Some work through residence life or student activities offices, others through women’s centers and counseling programs. Some are campus branches of national organizations like MVP, White Ribbon, Men Can Stop Rape, 1 in 4, or V-Men. These men face common problems: How to have an impact? How to find positive ways to get their message to other campus men? How to deal with backlash, to work in partnership with women’s groups, to recruit and sustain their groups? For the first time, campus-based pro-feminist men’s groups from across the country are meeting together. To share resources, trade their best ideas, discuss strategies, and simply find out what’s happening on other campuses.

More information can be found at www.michaelkaufman.com/campusmensconference.  They have also issued a call for papers.

This conference strikes me as having some potential to expand the profeminist men’s movement, particularly in its attempt to express positive masculine identifiers.   The movement has had a difficult time rallying too much support in the past, in my opinion, because it has defined masculinity in so many negative terms: against sexism, against rape, against discrimination, against homophobia, etc.  Fighting for equality has been their theme, of course – but how is this a gendered identity?  How do men struggle, how are men struggling for equality in a different way than women?  Perhaps some of the men will be able to engage the nature-arguments and yet say, “Our masculinity is to fight a distinct war within the baser, inherent tendencies among men.”  Perhaps at this conference some truly brave men will be able to say, “Look, guys, we can’t avoid developing some kind of masculinity, even a masculinity vis-a-vis women, so let’s start working towards some healthy concepts of equality-in-distinction.”  Perhaps.

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“If You Leave Me, I’ll Die”: Emotional Dependence on Women

10 March 2009

I find it strange that our society perpetuates the myth that men aren’t emotionally attached.  It seems to go hand in hand with the way we find it permissible for a girl to be “boy-crazy,” but for boys, only “sex-crazed.” 

In reality, boys and men have intense feelings of emotional dependence on women.  Consider that a recent study (Peggy C. Giordano et al., “Gender and the Meanings of Adolescent Romantic Relationships: A Focus on Boys,” American Sociological Review 71 [Apr 2006]: 260-87) found that male adolescents reported similar levels of commitment to their girlfriends and substantially less confidence in navigating and controlling aspects of the relationship.  I do not know of a study of boy suicides related to this, but I find it frightening that husbands commit suicide ten times more often when their wives die than when the converse occurs (see Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, 169).  Should we be surprised that widowers and male divorcees remarry at a much faster rate than women?  For all their ascribed independence, men are literally dying to be in a relationship.

couple_needsThe primary reason for this, I believe, is that men have not been given the resources to establish, maintain and express intimacy.  They are taught from a young age that emotional intimacy is inappropriate for a man unless it is directed towards a woman (mothers and wives especially).  Even a man’s “best friend” may only provide a few minutes of deeply emotional conversation – and maybe a hug if they’re both drunk.  Women, in contrast, have practiced their emotions much more openly, and often have an established circle of friends with whom to process their feelings.  But men too often have only one emotional confidant: their wives.  Their wives are the only outlet for emotional release and coitus is the centerpiece of this catharsis. 

A final comment, about wives’/girlfriends’ mixed responses to men’s support groups.  Sometimes women feel threatened by these group affiliations, whether they be AA-style recovery meetings, ManKind Project I-Groups, or church sponsored studies.  The fear is that these groups are being used to foster antipathy toward women, or detracting from personal or family time.  In a few cases this may be the case.  But I would challenge a woman to ask herself if she feels threatened in large part because her man is acquiring emotional resources from a venue outside herself.  More than that, I can say from personal experience that I come home much happier and more in love with my wife after a men’s group meeting.  Breaking the cycle of desperate compulsion for catharsis, a support group can provide skills and generative energy for a man to bring home with him.