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.