<B>The IASOM Newsletter Vol 5 No 1 May 1998</B><FONT COLOR="000000" FACE="Arial" SIZE="7"><B></B>

The International Association for Studies of Men is an independent, noncommercial researchers’ initiative, a global network of researchers and other concerned professionals promoting studies of men in a gender-egalitarian, critical or pro-feminist perspective. IASOM supports the broadest diversity of research based on this common orientation. Editor: Øystein Gullvåg Holter, Oslo

Guest editors and consultants welcome

The Newsletter is the common undertaking of a global network, and we welcome guest editors, advisors, peer reviewers and copyreaders. From Vol. 5 No. 2 onwards, starting with a special issue on men’s violence, issues and sections of the newsletter will be guest-edited. Please present your plans and credentials to the editor or advisors for further discussion (by email if possible).


This issue of the newsletter is behind schedule. It has been a year since the last issue. Although it is not our intention to turn the newsletter into a yearbook, we have not had the time and resources to publish more frequently.

We appreciate readers’ active correspondence and contributions to the newsletter. Updates since the May 1997 newsletter can be found on our Web page. Only some of this is reprinted in this issue.

Some recent events:

In June 1997, a European Council-sponsored conference on masculinities in Strasbourg.

In July, the NOMAS conference in the US.

In August, IPSA, the international political science association, discussed gender and masculinity issues at their world congress in Seoul.

In September, a UNESCO expert meeting in Oslo discussed masculinities, gender-related oppression, and their links to war and peace issues. A conference on this topic was also held in Austin, Texas. In Stockholm, there was a world’s first conference focusing on involuntary fathers.

The list goes on.

The topic is large, and more people are recognizing its importance. The connection is being made in the media, for example in the US when men turn their anger towards women or girls and use violence to make their message. ‘What is it about men?’ It seems that aggressive masculinity can make a neighborhood into a nightmare and act like gasoline on the fire in the conflict regions of the world.

Therefore there is increasing concern and widening interest in the men’s studies field. Understanding more of men and masculinity seems a key to reducing the level of violence and creating a culture of peace.

For this reason, we are planning a special newsletter issue on masculinity and violence with Michael Kaufman as editor. Michael is founder of the White Ribbon campaign to reduce male violence against women. We ask readers to submit brief papers on this theme (see below).

Another main concern is the need for institutional support and long-term development of the new research field. Views of men and masculinities are often opinion-based rather than research-based. In March, Nordic region researchers discussed ways to improve this situation by clarifying the main theories and models of the field.

International research cooperation becomes more important. One main goal, comparative studies of masculinities, has been discussed in earlier issues of this Newsletter. Although IASOM has helped create increased contact and international discussion, this goal has not yet been realized, and readers’ contributions regarding common regional or global projects are especially welcome in the Newsletter.

Meanwhile, the Newsletter remains a research observer, presenting a global perspective on current research and development.

‘Random’ male violence

School massacres over the last two years

(Source: Dagbladet May 23, 1998)

Mexican women call for protests against violence and assasinations

According to the feminist news agency CIMAC, “during the past five years in Mexico, in the northern area of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, in the middle of poverty and disenfranchised situations, 134 women have been raped, tortured, mutilated and assassinated.  Most of them were young (almost children), migrants and “maquila” workers”. The authorities are not doing much to prevent this; instead the women are accused of bad morals and behaviours. CIMAC asks for international protests against the brutalization and assasinations in Chihuahua.

You can relay your protest through The National Women’s Program, Coordinator:  Dulce María Sauri Riancho, pronam@iwm.com.mx or cimac@laneta.apc.org or milenio@laneta.apc.org.

Abuse & silence

To be a man is to be ‘strong’, to deny victimisation, or to stay silent about what happens. The German journal moritz 31 (1/97) discusses men as victims, focusing on boys who experience sexual abuse. The ways in which men themselves cover up their victim experiences with silence is a main theme. You can contact them at moritz, c/o Uwe Weiss, Gutenbergstrasse 8, 14467 Potsdam.

Øystein Gullvåg Holter: Men at war - or peace?

“Combining insecurity and rage is a deadly combination”, argues Michael Kaufman regarding male socialization. Research is needed for understanding more of the “epidemic of violence against women”. This is “sexual assault and it is workplace harassment. It is wife beating and stalking. It is the fear that invades the lives of the majority of adult women”.

Although studies have shown increasing support of women and feminist issues among men, they have also identified a ‘sex/violence syndrome’ in a subsection of the male population. This syndrome is a cluster of disrespect for women and distrust of women’s sexuality, willingness to pardon men’s violence against women, and aggression that partly stems from the man’s earlier life experience with violence and indifference from other men (violence in the home, absent father, mobbing in childhood, etc.).

Masculinities are psychological and cultural constructs that can be seen as attempted solutions to the pressures on men. Masculinities are also, however, means of dominance, and masculinities may be used for purposes of dominance and aggression by other social forces through appeals to men’s ideals of manhood. Although officially despised, men who use violence against women and the culture connecting sex and violence set an example for all, giving masculinity an edge of violence, creating distrust and loneliness.

The global violence pattern

Here are some of the problem patterns in today’s world linking masculinity and violence:

US: Jonesboro and other random murders

Latin America: murder squads

Europe: "Incidental" violence against women

Balkans: War crimes

Middle East: Siege mentality, fundamentalist violence

Pakistan, India: Increased oppression of women

SE Asia: Sex trade and sexual brutalization

Africa: Rival male factions and wars

South Africa: "Civil" violence

The research investigating these tendencies and their connection to masculinity is still mainly missing, so conclusions are unwarranted. Some main global tendencies appear. There are continued high rates for battering, rape and sexual abuse. Often, the violence against women seems linked to violence between men, yet this connection is understudied and so we do not know much about it.

UNESCO expert meeting on male roles and a culture of peace

A culture of peace must be developed by women and men together, according to the view of the peace research and gender studies experts who met in Oslo September 24-28, 1997. Today, male roles and masculinities are still often connected to aggression, with a negative impact on peace.

Focus must be put on how masculinities are linked to peace/war issues, and on the social and cultural conditions of these links, especially their non-egalitarian or patriarchal contexts.

More information including the UNESCO recommendations document from the meeting and a forthcoming collection of papers can be obtained from UNESCO/Women and the Culture of Peace, Paris.

In the wake of the UNESCO initiative, attempts are being made to put masculinity and peace on national agendas. For example, a first Russian conference on this theme will be arranged on May 30th in Moscow (details below).

Call for Papers

Special IASOM Newsletter on Men's Violence

From Michael Kaufman, Toronto, Canada

Dear friends,

I am editing a special issue of the newsletter of the International Association for Studies of Men, the currently Nordic-based pro-feminist men's studies network. The focus is men's violence.

The IASOM newsletter reaches about 300 researchers, concerned professionals and activists in 40 countries. These are people who contribute to debate and policies regarding men and masculinity in major ways in their regions. Both academics and non-academics are encouraged to contribute. This is a great way for those who don't normally publish in English, or those who only publish in North America or Europe, to have broader distribution of their work.

For those not familiar with the newsletter, it publishes a range of short articles on current research and development on issues related to men and gender equality. The special issue will be distributed through The White Ribbon Campaign and similar organizations that work against violence, and texts should be understandable while keeping to academic standards.

Some possibilities for the special Men’s Violence issue are:

Reports on current research - 300 - 1200 words; book reviews (essay form of a body of literature) 1200-2000 words ; individual book reviews 500 - 1200 words; discussion papers & debates: 800- 2000 words; short notices, conferences, publications, news items, etc.: 50-150 words; reports on practical initiatives (esp. reflecting the analytical and theoretical underpinnings/assumptions/implications of the initiative):500-2000 words.

The newsletter is particularly interested in new approaches of an interdisciplinary nature. Although they needn't have immediate practical implications, helping bringing about change is part of the mandate of the IASOM and the newsletter. We welcome papers on:

Causes of men's violence; particular forms of violence and the construction of masculinity; treatment programs for violent men; homophobic violence; violence in prisons; sexual violence against boys; the debates on women's violence against men; fighting among boys; sports & violence; warfare; peacekeeping and creating a culture of peace; education and action programs to end men's violence; courses on men's violence; etc..

DEADLINE: All submissions by October 30, 1998. Nothing will be accepted after that date. Earlier would be appreciated. Note that PREVIOUSLY-PUBLISHED MATERIAL - articles that haven't appeared in English, or in a widely available journal or magazine, or which have been shortened - are all acceptable. Please indicate at the end of the article where it was previously published, and if this is a revised form.

LETTERS OF INQUIRY: If in doubt, please send me an e-mail asking about the applicability of your topic.

SUBMISSION FORM: By diskette or e-mail as an attachment. Use a standard format like Word for Windows version 6 or 7, WordPerfect for DOS or Windows (up to version 7), or ASCII text file.

LANGUAGES: English only.

FOOTNOTES/ENDNOTES are not commonly used in the newsletter.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Keep references to a minimum but give the reader a chance to check your sources. Use references imbedded in the text, as in: (Kaufman, M 1997:53) -- Last name, First letter of first name, year-colon-page. The reference must point to a listing in the bibliography at the end of the article (Kaufman, Michael (1997): Main Title: Subtitle, Publisher, Place). Use italics for title/subtitle for books and for the journal name for papers. For book reviews, put page numbers in parentheses, and give the proper information in the listing.

STYLE: Please make it readable, and check the spelling including names and titles. Include your name as you'd like to see it appear, your position or job (or the way you'd like to be identified), and an email address for others to contact you (if you'd like). EDITING: I will do modest editing of articles. These will be returned to authors before publication for approval. COPIES OF THE NEWSLETTER AND JOINING IASOM: Contact Oystein Holter, ogh@afi-wri.no.

Please submit articles or inquiries by e-mail to:

Michael Kaufman mkmk@yorku.ca

Tel. +1 (416) 536-4135 FAX: +1 (416) 536-3309.

Web: http://www.commplusc.com/mkaufman

‘Gendering the Millennium’

“Your readers may not be aware, but there is an interesting international conference 'Gendering the Millennium' coming up in Dundee, Scotland on 11-13 September. Speakers include Bob Connell and Jeff Weeks. Contact Gerda Siann, University of Dundee, DD1 4HN (Tel. 01382 345033) for details. I would be obliged if you would put this information in the next edition of IASOM. Best Wishes”, Steve Whitehead (UK). - Ingólfur Gíslason prov ides more information:

The conference will provide a forum for the debate on gender transformation in the late modern world. The context of the discussion will be social, cultural and economic changes in family structures, sexualities and divisions of labour. There will be four major streams: 1. Representations, discourses and ideologies (convened by Halla Beloff, Jane Goldman and Norma Starszakowna). 2. Power and conflict (convened by Brigid Fowler and Lyn Tett). 3. Materialities: Divisions of labour and resources (convened by Gabriella Lazaridis, John MacInnes, Margaret Reid, Fiona Wilson and Anne Witz). 4. Legitimising and querying sexualities (convened by Lynn Jamieson and Gerda Siann). More information and registration: Gerda Siann (T: (+) 44 (0) 1382 345033; F: (+) 44 (0) 1382 221057; e-mail: g.siann@dundee.ac.uk.

Research developments in Europe

In the Nordic countries, especially Sweden, men’s studies are gradually given a more permanent institutional and financial basis. The Nordic networks for studies of men has received funding for a second conference in 97/98 (the first was in Norway, September 1996).

In Norway, the Network for studies of men has received network support funding ($12.000 per year) for three years starting from 1998.

In Denmark, however, a similar network (which was mainly student-based) has been partially dissolved and passive over the last year or two.

Elsewhere in Europe researchers and authorities are taking note. IASOM recently has had a modest increase in members and contacts in central and east European countries including Russia (see separate Moscow conference announcement)..

IASOM after five years

Here are some statistics (May 1998), almost five years after the start of IASOM.

Members and contacts: 263. Of these, 90 are members. Over the last year there has been a fifteen percent increase in members and contacts.

Women are 32 percent of members and contacts, men 68 percent.

The newsletter reaches researchers in about 40 countries. The list includes Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, China, Columbia, Denmark, El Salvador, Estland, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the US.

The following estimates are based on 60 member and contact questionnaires returned 1993-95 and later information.

Full-time researchers in studies of men are about 15 percent.

Part-time researchers in the field are about 25 percent (estimates).

Researchers in other areas, including women’s studies are about 20 percent.

Concerned professionals, therapists etc.: 30 percent. Others: 10 percent.

These figures are impressive for a non-commercial and non-sponsored initiative. The response to the IASOM initiative has been positive in the international research community, across different regional traditions, different disciplines, different genders, not to speak of different hues of gender interpretation....We have had almost no negative responses.

At the same time, the figures reflect where we have to go.

The fact that one third of members are women stands in contrast to some regional ideas of ‘profeminism’, and clearly shows that IASOM is not promoting a men-only field or studies of masculinity in isolation.

The 1993 IASOM platform states that researchers of both sexes are equally welcome and should participate in research on men. “Men’s studies” is not used in the association name, since it easily conveys an anti-scientific position of continued segregation instead of free and democratic research by everyone into a topic of common concern. “Men’s studies” easily presupposes men’s ownership to problems not known and fields barely investigated, and moreover ‘relational’ fields rather than men-only domains according to available evidence. Like most researchers today, we use men’s studies only as a term meaning studies of men and masculinity.

Many newsletter contributions and debate notes have emphasized the importance of women and cooperation between women and men (see e.g. Jeff Hearn in this issue). Sometimes, the need for dialogue among and within men is used as argument for segregation. This may be valid in some concrete contexts. Contributions in The IASOM Newsletter have been fairly consist, however, that new forms of integration, research cooperation between women and men, dialogue between feminist and egalitarian views etc. should be a main focus. Increasingly this is also being acknowledged as a important methodologically for development of the field.

IASOM members and contacts are often pioneers in the sense of going against the main/malestream, by using a broader democratic judgement in their research; by letting research obligations count for more than opportunities; by networking first, getting the institutional support next, and similar awkward but also fairly vital traits.They are not surrounded by institutions encouraging their effort, although some exceptions now exist. Mostly they are doing this despite institutional setups and quagmires of the research world, despite various forces that tell them to leave well enough alone, to ignore or stay ignorant regarding men’s issues and issues of men. As members of a gendered society, they are encouraged to translate the real issues of men into their own masculinity context ( a context ‘in’ women as well as men) by way of ideology rather than research, and it is precisely the tiredness of these moves that has created initiatives like IASOM.

The list is less slanted, in terms of global divides, in 1998 than it was a couple of years ago, but it is still dominated by male and female researcher from the rich world. Increasingly, researchers come from wider areas (and smaller national niches) wherever studies of men have been given some room or can be developed as part of a gender studies umbrella. From third world countries there has been an influx of concerned professionals, psychologists and sexologists especially. The IASOM platform addresses the need to achieve better representation from developing countries and help create more independent voices in the field. We know that many poor regions and southern hemisphere scholars appreciate the newsletter and the cooperation that IASOM promotes. Indeed, the support of engaged professionals and researchers in countries where we know that conditions are not easy for any critical light on men, is an important part of our continued motivation to keep the association going. IASOM only reaches a fraction of the potential, and we need translators and other help to be of more use in this area (We need someone to do occasional Spanish-English translation of brief papers especially - if interested don’t hesitate to get in contact (see p. 2).

Also, our work is still not well known in other relevant research fields and communities. Only a small minority of those doing research on non-priviledged groups, youth and age research, family studies, environmental research and peace research, to mention some, have heard of IASOM.

We have chosen an independent, non-sponsored approach, and we may have to revise this . It means overtime work and limited resources.The institutions and many of the individuals on the list would probably be able pay for the newsletter, yet this would require a commercial setup which we’ve not created. Members have been undecided (give us your opinion), and for now, at least, seem more keen on the independent ‘researchers with a conscience’ network approach.

Through this approach, IASOM has gradually emerged as a resource base for research on men and masculinities, partly through the newsletter and web page, partly through mutual contacts and cooperation between associated researchers. Some Newsletter information is in turn picked up in national newsletters, e-mail-lists, or similar or relayed to other global networks. IASOM has established cooperation on a network level with some other relevant organizations, like the European gender relations research network

How far do we have to go? Some statistics from the Sociofile database of sociological abstracts indicate the current scope of research attention:

Sociological papers listed for 1996: 19081.

Of these, with ‘gender’ in the title: 651.

With ‘masculinity’ in the title: 33.

Given the importance of the subject, the silence regarding men is ironic.

The editor

New members

Among new IASOM members are Ruta Aidis, a consultant in Vilnius, Lithunia with a master’s degree in international development, also a PhD candidate.. Aidis writes that she enjoyed the newsletter - thank you - and that her research interests include gender and business and gender issues in Eastern Europe.

Another new member is Bo Wagner Soerensen, a social anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen, who holds a PhD and has written a book called Power or powerlessness? Gender, emotions and violence in Greenland (in Danish, Akademisk forlag 1994).

Iasom joins Sid

IASOM has applied for membership in the UN-sponsored Society for International Development (SID) which is “aiming to provide a space for women and men working on gender to strategize together while seeking to bring their voices to mainstream human centered development discussions”. The invitation says that “the SID-WID network will aim to bring together SID members and associates from civil society, the donor community, academia and activists in a virtual dialogue. This cyberdialogue will ground the big questions of development in the everyday realities of women and men as they negotiate through life as individuals and as members of communities. Through the SID-WID network SID aims to  resume its place as one of the key forums for the international community to discuss women’s empowerment and social justice issues.” Moreover, they promise “cutting edge debates on women’s empowerment for economic and social  justice”.

You can contact SID through Wendy Harcourt, Director of Programmes.

Society for Int’l. Devt.  Fax: +39-6-487-21 70

E-Mail: info@sidint.org  URL: http://www.sidint.org

Søren Ervøe: ‘Moulding Masculinities’ - two volumes coming up

Following 6 conferences over a 3-year period (95-97), the 73 members of the Nordic Network for Masculinity Studies within the Nordic Summer University (named 'Between Men and Masculinities') decided a year ago to collect some of the presented papers in order to forward a book-proposal to different international publishers.

Originally the anthology was meant to reflect the work being done in this field in the Nordic countries and therefore the book-proposal received the title 'Nordic Masculinities'. Though all of the authors included were Nordic, and many of the articles were based on Nordic empirical material, the specific connections between gender-relations (i.e. the styles of masculinity) in the Nordic countries and the national culture and history was not discussed in depth.

When SAGE turned out to have no interest in the topic of Nordic Masculinities, but preferred more generally applicable stuff, we chose to assemble a revised proposal, and now felt encouraged to include papers from our many well-known guest-speakers. Robert Connell, Michael Kimmel and Klaus Theweleit agreed to this, and in order to form coherent subthemes we again included several papers that initially had been excluded due to the limitation on the Nordic theme.

Finally, SAGE turned our revised proposal down, leaving us with articles enough for two anthologies. Luckily, another publisher, ASHGATE was interested in publishing two volumes, both subtitled MOULDING MASCULINITIES, which will be published sometime in the spring of 1998.

Moscow conference on men and masculinity

The association ANNA (No to violence) and others organize a conference in Moscow 30th of May. Andrei Sinelnikow will present the Russian version of the Oslo Unesco report (Expert Meeting on Male Roles and Masculinities in the Perspective of a Culture of Peace). Sinelnikow are among the participants in the UNESCO initiative.

The arrangers hope to initiate a broad discussion in Russia on men and masculinity issues.

For inquiries or to express support for this important conference, use fax 7 095 335 96 48.

Study materials

The Changing Men's Collection’s web address:


Administrator: Ed Barton.

Guillermo Vilaseca: Men: a population at risk

Abstract: The author, who is a psychologist from Buenos Aires, Argentina, reflects on the issue of male potency, using as a frame of reference the experience and accounts of his male psychotherapy clients, most of whom are regarded as successful in their professional lives.

Feeling male, like feeling potent, is not innate. It is an internalized outcome that derives from cultural construction. To support this argument we have to look at the different models of masculinity and potency that have been produced throughout history and across cultures. We normally tend to assume our social reality as natural and constant but in fact it is constantly reproduced by our activity and therefore it can also be constantly changing.

Nowadays, it is necessary to inhabit new social spaces and functions in order to identify and to be identified as a man.  Each man’s subjectivity is built by highlighting some traits and inhibiting others, starting from the models provided by  the social environment. To be male, in current times, means: to have knowledge,  to possess, to be powerful, to be important, to be proud and confident.  All these characteristics have the common quality of potency.

However, this ‘hero’ that has to make successful conquests, to control his passions and feelings and with a body capable of coping with everything, very often finds some incongruities between his male internalized model and the possibilities to put it into practice. This huge contradiction is a source of conflicts within a society that demands success from everyone and a reality that increasingly restricts the possibilities of being successful. As an example of this it is worth considering job instability which is today the common and accepted pattern in the labor market.

It is very common to hear men talking about the feeling of not being male enough, moreover, they feel as if they could always be even more male.  As a result the male self esteem can be lost at any time, so it is permanently at risk. Weakness and  defeat are endlessly haunting them, creating a feeling of failure as a macho figure. The resulting insecurity is then resolved through arrogance, and tendencies to impulsivity, diffidence, a diminishing capacity for communication, or simply silence.

Other features are sexualization of bonds, reduction of empathy,  and emotional and physical blocking. That is why some proposals that imperiously claim for a more assertive attitude are so dangerous. Their best known slogan is “you’re able to do it” (or  you can cope with it), which is directly in tune with the male mandate of being the hero - Superman- who is able to do everything and therefore can avoid the acknowledgement or elaboration of the above mentioned conflicts.

The male model as hero is then established as a mandate that is highly difficult to accomplish on the one hand and also difficult to ignore on the other hand. That is to say, there is a need to be the model and ignore the possibility of fragility which then comes as a shock when it arises.  In such circumstances it is very common to appeal to psychodrugs as emotional or physical anaesthetics.

As a consequence, while men have the privilege of being part of dominant social groups they have to carry on with both deficit and pathology derived from maintaining that status: sudden deaths, accidents, impulsive use of violence, isolation and unbearable difficulties related with sexual potency.

In social terms, today’s men have less power, but they feel obliged to behave as if they still had it. Old models have not died, and new ones have not been born yet.

This situation renders me to think of men as a “population at risk”. The feeling of risk generally produces defensive attitudes, the same ones that appear many times as a defense of privileges sustained through the patriarchal model, but that are basically  identity defenses instead.

Shaken by such circumstances, confused and poorly self-reflexive, men tend to entrench themselves.

The loss of power is related to the breakdown of  identity. The self image of being the one who can cope with everything, makes it almost impossible to consult and to say “I cannot”, not only because they feel certain specific difficulties but also because they feel underestimated and ashamed. Because of this, many men arrive at the consulting workshops sent by physicians, lawyers, friends, relatives or almost at random. Only  a few come through their own decision and the feeling that it is legitimate to ask for help.

Other concepts, such as the so-called maternal instinct, have already been deconstructed in previous studies, e.g. “Critiques of the Everyday Life”.

Hence, it should be possible to carry out a deeper analysis to deconstruct both the male power instinct and the male hero myth.

With these considerations in mind, I believe that the most enriching and liberating conception for today’s men, is the one that confines potency  as a “capacity to become”.

Lic. Guillermo Augusto Vilaseca

Lic. en Psicología U.B.A. Psicólogo Social. Psicodramatista. Ex Presidente de la Sociedad Argentina de Psicodrama - SAP-. Representante de Relaciones Interinstitucionales Internacionales SAP. Miembro de la International Association of Group Psychotheraphy - IAGP - Miembro de la International Association for Studies of Men - IASOM -. Miembro del Grupo Autogestivo de Teatro Espontáneo - GATE - Co-fundador de la Revista Argentina de Psicodrama y Técnicas Grupales. Profesor invitado en la Facultad de Psicología de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, de la Universidad del Salvador y de la Universidad de Montevideo - IPUR-.Profesor invitado en los Cursos de  Post-Grado de:  la Universidad Bar-Ilam, la Sociedad Argentina de Psicodrama, el Centro de Estudios Bioenergéticos, el Centro de Investigaciones Grupales,  la Escuela de Teatro Espontáneo de Capivari -San Pablo - Brasil-, el Grupo de Estudios de Técnicas Psicodramáticas GETEP - San Pablo - Brasil - y La Asociación Brasilera de Psicodrama y Sociodrama - ABPS - San Pablo - Brasil. Investigador de: a) “Dispositivos Transdisciplinarios de Supervisión: Co-Visión”; b) “La construcción de la subjetividad del varón desde la perspectiva de género: Talleres de Varones”; c) Abordaje de situaciones de crisis y cambio: “Talleres de reciclado”.

Domicilio: Julián Alvarez 2814 - 2º “D” (1425) Capital. Tel.Fax: 54-1- 804-5811, Fax: 54-1-784-3901.   E-mail: sa_psicodrama@psinet.com.ar

A new German work group

In December 1997, 24 male researchers within gender research and men’s studies in Germany created a Work Group for Studies of Men and Gender (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Männer- und Geschlechterforschung) in Berlin. Their press release states:

“The foundation of the work group, as a starting point for contact between men involved in men’s and gender studies, has become necessary due to the poor condition of the field compared for example to the UK and US. There are still no academic positions for critical studies of men in the Bundesrepublik. Researchers in this field are often isolated, seldom appreciated by male colleagues, and often seen with distrust by women’s researchers.”

The work group will work for improved financial conditions and university recognition of the field. Yet the press release emphasizes that new funding must come as an addition to the existing funding for women’s and gender studies, not as a subtraction from it. Further, the interdisciplinary group’s goals include improved democratic gender dialogue, better integration of theory and practice, and development of new themes for research.

The contact person for the group is Dipl.Pol. Peter Doge at the IAIZ (Institut fur anwendungsorientierte Innovations- und Zukunfforschung e.V.), Tempelhofer Damm 45, 12101 Berlin - Germany, Tel/fax +49 30 691 19 84.

There have also been other relevant developments in Germany. A conference on gender equality as a challenge for men was arranged in Bonn in January, introduced by minister of family affairs Claudia Nolte, with speakers including sociologist Walter Hollstein (“Demands and realities - role perceptions among men in change”) and psychologist Hans Jellouscheck (“Partnership, not patriarchy - a problem for men?”).

Studies of men - website help

For finding relevant web sites::

You’ll find almost 40 links to Nordic and international masculinity research, pro-feminist men’s web sites etc. at:


IASOM is mentioned on several other websites especially in the Nordic countries and other European countries, in Latin America and some others. So far, there is not much in countries like the US, UK and Australia.

For setting up a web site: try Terry Boyd of COMMplus Consultants, who has expressed willingness to help ventures like IASOM along. Terry writes: “I need to know about your Web server.  What kind of server is used for your website?  NT, UNIX, etc.? What kind of access do you have to the cgi-bin directory?  Will your server administrator allow you to add information to the cgi-scripting area? Once I know the answer to the above, I can give you some idea how you might go about setting up a webconferencing or chat rooms.” Terry can be contacted at



Jeff Hearn: Getting Organised? The Politics and Organisation of Critical Studies on Men

How to study men is partly about the specific researches, studies and writing that we do.  It is also about the way these studies are organised: who does them, with whom, on what basis, where, and in what institutional and disciplinary context?  The organisation of Critical Studies on Men thus itself political just as much as are the conduct, methods and findings of the detailed studies themselves.  Critical Studies on Men problematise not only the substantive content of studying men but also the very processes, politics, and epistemology of how such studies are to be done.

However, this question of the politics and organisation of these studies is not a matter of simply reproducing another separate academic discipline.  For one reason, Critical Studies on Men is working in a way that problematises the traditional separation of disciplines, and instead tends to work across the boundaries of disciplines.  Just to give one example - if one is interested in the contemporary formation and development of masculinities, it is necessary to be familiar with debates around the cultural and media representations of men, even if one is not a cultural or media studies scholar and is even theoretically antagonistic to cultural(ist) approaches to the study of men.  Like Women’s Studies and Gender Research more generally, Critical Studies on Men are both multidiscilinary and interdisciplinary, and some would say transdisciplinary.  Part of the project of Critical Studies on Men, like that of the older project of Marxism, was to transcend and perhaps abolish conventional academic boundaries and disciplines.

So what does this mean in more organisational terms?  Well, one first issue to confront is the old question of studies being done by men on our/their own.  While one route for men into studying men is through being in an anti-sexist men’s group, this is quite different from seeing studying men as simply an extended men’s group.   I have said and written quite a lot of times now that I do not see any point at all in Critical Studies on Men being developed by men alone.  There are lots of reasons for this, but three stand out.  One is that some of the best work on men has long been done and continues to be done by women.  Another prime reason is that attempts to develop (hang onto?) studies on men being the preserve of men are just another way of perpetuating male domination of academia – that we are supposed to be changing.  A third reason concerns epistemology.  If the study of men is left to men then we (whoever ‘we’ happens to be) are omitting the possibility of standpoints on knowledge other than those available to men.  This can be especially important if we are trying to gain an understanding of men at least partly through the effects that men have on others, as very obviously in the case of men’s violence to women, but also in less dramatic ways minute be minute.  Thus a crucial part of developing Critical Studies on Men is gaining a fuller appreciation of the different standpoints on knowledge about men and men’s social effects in the world.  Indeed certain aspects of men are only available for knowing by women and those who are not men.

Having said that, there may well be times in doing research that situations involve men studying men.  This could entail, say, men’s memory work or the observation of men-only groups or men interviewing men or studies that arise from the context of men’s groups of one kind or another.  While these and other examples may be part and parcel of the doing of research, this does not mean that they are to be thought of or indeed possessed as men-only property.  They need to be open to scrutiny by women and, within the limits of confidentiality, open to debate, discussion, differential interpretation, disagreement and deconstruction.

Such men-only studies should be understood as temporary stages or statuses not as the basis of a new discipline.  If at all possible they should be conducted in the context of and in relation to Women’s Studies.  Where for geographical or institutional reasons, that is not possible in the short term then some other way of building such connections can be developed, through contacts and contexts that are less close geographically, perhaps by a postal or virtual community.  

In particular teaching about men and masculinities needs to be expanded in the context of mixed-gender and, where requested, women-only rather than men-only educational environments.  While it is possible to have teaching classes on the study of men and masculinities that consist only of men, and indeed single-gender sub-groups can sometimes be an effective temporary learning device within mixed-gender teaching, educational classes for men also have to be open to women if they wish to attend.  On the other hand, I have also taught for many years a course on ‘Men and Masculinities’ on a postgraduate Women’s Studies Programme to what was basically an all-women group of students.  As such I was the only man in the room.  This was the arrangement that was appropriate in terms of the gendered power relations in that university situation; it does not mean that there is a parallel case for men-only teaching groups.

Thus a further crucial question is the ambiguous relationship of Critical studies on men to Women’s Studies and Gender Research: Critical Studies on Men are both part of and not part of Women’s Studies and Gender Research, as they have been institutionally developed by women.  Critical studies on men are part of these studies in the sense that women pursuing Women’s Studies and Gender Research may also be doing Critical Studies on Men; and also in the sense that political control of Women’s Studies and Gender Research, including Critical Studies on Men, needs to remain with women.  However, men doing Critical Studies on Men are not full members of the institution of Women’s Studies and Gender Research; in particular men doing such work should not have access to the political control of Women’s Studies.  This ambiguity of men’s relation to Women’s Studies and Gender Research can apply in all sorts of practical ways: in teaching, curriculum planning, research, publishing, and so on.  It is a mundane as well as a theoretical problem.  

The next broad question is how are Critical Studies on Men to relate to the existing academic disciplines.  Again there are contradictions here but rather different ones to those described in relation to Women’s Studies.  Different practitioners of Critical Studies on Men can be part of those existing disciplines, not least by virtue of their educational background, but also can be involved in a process of critical engagement with and transformation of the disciplines.  This can mean questioning the boundaries of disciplines, facilitating cross-disciplinary work, making colleagues more aware of women’s studies and gender research in and around those disciplines, and making men a focus of critical gender scholarship in and around those disciplines.  Accordingly, each of the major conventional disciplines deserves to be subject to a process of the critical study of men there.  This will mean rather different debates and probably disputes in the different disciplinary contexts.

This process needs to be directed at both the substantive content of disciplinary study, and moreover at the historical development of the discipline itself.  This latter imperative concerns the very social processes by which study, knowledge, theory, and the disciplines themselves come to be known as such.  Each major discipline needs to be rewritten with this in view.

It can thus be  seen that Critical Studies on Men are not a unified, singular, monolithic ‘discipline’; rather they overlap with Women’s Studies, mainstream disciplines, and interdisciplinary ways; they are also a very diverse set of activities, by women and by men, collaboratively and separately, that crically address men:  They include studying, researching, writing, reading, talking, teaching, learning, thinking, planning, adminstering, organising, and much more.  Each activity is gendered, and each activity interrelates with the others, often in contradictory ways.  

Finally, the development of Critical Studies on Men needs to be carefully monitored, by both women and men, but especially by women.  This is to avoid creating a new power for men, and a new ‘more sophisticated’ way of forgetting and ignoring women, feminist work, Women’s Studies, and gendered power relations between women and men.  This remains very important in terms of both the critical analysis of men’s relations with women, and the recognition and further elaboration of women’s scholarship on men.  This need for monitoring by and collaboration with women is especially important in the development of public ventures such as research, conferences, publications, and curriculum development.

Acknowledgment: I would like to thank Bob Pease for discussions on these and related issues.

Jeff Hearn, Manchester University, UK, and Åbo Akademi University, Finland (also recently engaged as Professor II at the University of Oslo) can be reached at jeff.hearn@helsinki.fi.

European Union developments

During the last year, several laws and practices related to gender equality have been improved in the European Union. Wage equality law has been strengthened by including work of equal value, not just equality of content. Also, the Amsterdam treaty states that the equal treatment principle shall not hinder affirmative action or preferential treatment for the minority gender.

Backlash tendencies

Over the last ten years, the proportion of women in the parliaments of the world has decreased. In 1986, the proportion was 14.8 percent, while in 1996 it was down to 10.5 percent, according to a study by the International Parliamentary Union.

According to the ILO, the number of child workers is increasing, especially in Africa. If present trends continue, this number will soon exceed one hundred million children.

Social medicine needs masculinity research

“My main research field is alcohol problems in women. In this context it is often said that women’s issues have not been adequately investigated, as the questions formerly were modeled on males. I dispute that statement in the sense that the so called male studies may not have given any deeper thought into male issues”, writes doctor Fredrik Spak at the Vasa Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden, in a letter. Spak works for the Swedish Medical Association for Social Medicine, where there is a growing recognition of these problems.

“What I am looking for is knowledge on the theoretical constructs of males’ issues, as well as important findings of how male health is affected by male social life as well as their biological background.”

These statements are typical of a wider tendency, also in the correspondence reaching this Newsletter - a widening appreciation of men and masculinity questions especially among practically minded professionals and researchers who see that something is indeed missing in the traditional picture. Men as men are absent - and this goes for social medicine and many other fields.

Dr. Fredrik Spak kan be reached at fredrik.spak@socmed.gu.se or by fax +46 31 16 28 47.

Discrimination of men

Among the questions discussed at conferences and seminars over the last year are the touchy issues of discrimination of men especially in the sphere of reproduction. Recent research points to several forms of discrimination, ranging from involuntary fathers to stereotypes of men and ‘inverse tokenism’ in kindergarten and other women-dominated work culture. Also, biologism and the idea that men aren’t fit to work in women’s traditional areas like child care (while women are seen as qualified to work in men’s), an idea which is sometimes linked to fear of sexual abuse, are traits in this picture. Add divorce/custody conflicts and the increasing evidence of ‘boomerang’ second generation effects of female monopoly in early life socialization, and the touchy issues become quite a large and important unknown area in research. As has been discussed in earlier issues of the IASOM Newsletter, these boomerang effects seem to include ‘compensatory masculinities’ and neo-authoritarianism in men.

The Manhood Compulsion

In a recent book, Proving Manhood (University of California Press, Berkeley 1997), Timothy Beneke describes the ‘compulsive’ tendency among men to ‘prove their manhood’, with reference to US culture especially. In Beneke’s view, based mainly on Chodorowian socialization theory, most masculinity is compulsive, and most of the compulsiveness stems from compensatory needs. Father absence and mother presence prevails in early childhood and as framework of care and socialization. The classic text in this tradition is Nancy Chodorow’s The Reproduction of Mothering (1978), but Beneke also makes use of her attempted anti-essentialist nuancing in Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities (1994). Most of the discussions in the book are experience-based rather than research-based, but Beneke has a lot of it and makes good use of it. For example, he argues that “if straight men no longer enact homophobic oppression, fathers will inflict fewer wounds on their gay sons and gay boys will feel less desperately competitive toward their mothers”. We don’t know this for sure from the state of current research, but it seems likely, especially the first parts of the argument, while the desperate competition idea (presuming that gay = feminine) may be more misleading. Although I sometimes find the book too closed off from other social issues, including sociological perspectives and even male dominance and patriarchy theory, I accept the author’s intent to diagnose and map the state of masculinity, creating a text that ‘works for men’, even using essentialist concepts without being accused of essentialism.

Some of it succeeds also, as straight talk and clear writing. Beneke’s best observations include his own childhood experience of homophobia, victimization and fears of ‘the hidden enemy’ in the US south.

Øystein Gullvåg Holter

Men and peace

As mentioned above, the United Nations education, science and culture organization UNESCO arranged an expert group meeting in Oslo in September 1997 on male roles and masculinities in the perspective of a culture of peace. The report from the meeting, written by Robert Connell with Constantina Safilios-Rotschild, Marysia Zalewski and Robert Morrell, includes an overview section connecting issues of men and questions of peace, and abstracts of the papers. There is also a noteworthy section on policy recommendations, which is fairly concrete and tackles questions of method (‘How is change accomplished?’) as well as needs (‘What kind of changes are needed?’). UNESCO will also publish the papers in a separate publication. These publications can be obtained from UNESCO, 7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France.

You will also find information at the Culture of Peace web site:


Jobs ‘work’ at home too

According to a recent large-scale interview study by Mogens Nygaard Christoffersen and colleagues at the Social Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, working women are better mothers than non-employed women. “Women who tackles their jobs well have more energy, are more optimistic and nurse their children longer than other women”. The results do not confirm the traditional view that the women who chose to stay at home with their children are better mothers than the rest. Also, nursing emerges as a “sensitive indicator of the well-being of mother and child. Women with education and jobs are among those who nurse their children longest, while among teen mothers, unemployed mothers and state supported mothers the nursing often ends after only a month.

US: Pro-Feminist Men 2000

Commitment to justice and ways to work for change are the main of this summer’s Men and Masculinity conference. You can download a conference brochure from the web: www.nomas.org. The arranger, NOMAS (The National Organization for Men Against Sexism) now has a well-organised website, inviting to the 23rd annual Men & Masculinity Conference August 6 - 9, 1998 at State University of New York at Stony Brook. They write:

“The National Organization for Men Against Sexism is an activist organization of men and women supporting positive changes for men. NOMAS advocates a perspective that is pro-feminist, gay affirmative, anti-racist, and committed to justice on a broad range of social issues including class, age, religion, and physical abilities. We affirm that working to make this nation’s ideals of equality substantive is the finest expression of what it means to be men.

For more than two decades the organization has sponsored a conference dealing with some of the major issues of Men and Masculinity.

We look forward to having you join us in August at the State University of New York-Stony Brook for Men and Masculinity 23."

There is also a special announcement for August 6th:

The 1998 Interdisciplinary Men’s Studies Conference

Ending Men’s Violence Network

Uprooting the isms: Focusing on Racism, Sexism and Heterosexism

Speakers include:

Gloria Steinem - Keynote Address (Opening Session, Thursday 6:30pm—Open to the public; included in conference registration); Jill Nelson Keynote Address (Friday Afternoon, 2pm—Open to the public; included in conference registration); Martin Duberman Keynote Address (Saturday Morning, 11am—Open to the public; included in conference).

Us: Men and masculinities

A Renewed Masculinities journal

The masculinities journal, which closed down in 1997, is now being relaunched by Michael Kimmel and coworkers, backed by Sage as a wider project under the heading Men and Masculinities. The journal’s information brochure says:

“Men and Masculinties is a new journal committed to publishin high-quality, interdisciplinary research in the emerging field of men and masculinities studies.

Men and Masculinities presents peer-reviewed empirical and theoretica scholarship grounded in the most current theoretical perspective within gender studies, including feminism, queer theory, an multiculturalism. Using diverse methodologies, M&M’s articles explor the evolving roles and perceptions of men across society.

Edited by Michael Kimmel, a pioneer in the gender studies field, and published by Sage Publications, Inc., Men and Masculinities will begin quarterly publication in August 1998.  The journal’s international editorial advisory board includes many of the key scholars and thinkers in the gender and masculinities studies fields, including such figures as  Michael Awkward, Susan Bordo,Robert Connell, Martin Duberman,  Jeff Hearn, Gilbert Herdt, Arlie Hochschild,  Oystein Holter,  Michael Kaufman, Jean O’Barr, Joseph Pleck, Lillian Rubin, Alberto Sandoval Sanchez,Vic Seidler, Barrie Thorne, and Jeffrey Weeks.

Complementing existing publications on women’s studies and gay/lesbian studies, Men and Masculinities helps complete the spectrum of research on gender. M&M gives scholars interested in gender vital, balanced information on the burgeoning — and often misunderstood — field of masculinities studies.  M&M’s research articles, review essays, and book reviews keep you up-to-date on one of the most exciting and important fields of human inquiry today.

Also, “Men and Masculinities seeks to publish groundbreaking empirical research and theoretical articles that look at all aspects of men and masculinity in society including male-female relationships, media representations of masculinity, work and family issues, male sexualities, race and ethnic diversity, f atherhood, violence, sports, men’s movements such as Promise Keepers and mythopoetic approaches, etc.”

The journal offers a diverse, multidisciplinary approach. “As gender informs so many different areas of our lives, the study of men must be approached by many perspectives.  Men and Masculinities provides a comprehensive, inclusive view on men’s studies by maintaining international contributions from a wide range of relevant fields, including sociology, psychology, media/communication studies, history, criminology/criminal justice, literature, anthropology and ethnic studies.”

The first issue of the journal will include:

Masculinities and Globalization by R. W. Connell

What is Problematic About Masculinities? by  Kenneth Clatterbaugh

Mama’s Boy by Jonathan Holden;

In an Imperfect World Men with Small Penises Are Unforgiven: The Representation of the Penis/Phallus in American Films of the Nineties by Peter Lehman

Men Don’t do this Sort of Thing: A Study of the Social Isolation of House Husbands by Calvin D. Smith

Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and (Male) Hysteria Over John Bobbitt’s Missing Manhood by Laura Grindstaff and Martha McCaughey

American Psychiatrists and the Modern Man, 1900-1920 by Elizabeth Lubeck. Review essays include The Role of the Men’s Movement at the All-Male College: Challenge and Opportunity by C. Peter Bankart. Book reviews include Our Guys: The Glen Ridge Rape and the Secret Life of the Perfect Suburb, by Bernard Lefkowitz; Peter F. Murphy Search and Destroy: African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System, by Jerome G. Miller; Terry A. Kupers The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy, by Allan G. Johnson; John Stoltenberg Hombres y Machos: Masculinity and Latino Culture, by Alfredo Mirande J. Michael Cruz Sex and Conquest: Gendered Violence, Political Order, and the European Conquest of the Americas, by Richard C. Trexle, and Manuel Fernandez Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest, by Will Fellow David Knapp Whittie.

To place your subscription, please contact:

In North and South America, and Asia-Pacific Region: Sage Publications, Inc. P.O. Box 5084 Thousand Oaks, CA 91359 USA Phone: (805) 499-9774 Fax: (805) 499-0871 Email: order@sagepub.com

In Europe, Africa, and the Middle East: Sage Publications Ltd 6 Bonhill Street London EC2A 4PU UNITED KINGDOM Phone: 44 171 374-0645 Fax: 44 171 374-8741

Annual subscription rates: North America: $58 Individuals, $160 Institutions Outside North America: $74 Indviduals, $176 Institutions (includes air mail postage).

Manuscript should be sent to: Michael S. Kimmel, Editor, Men and Masculinities, Department of Sociology, S-406 Social and Behavioral Sciences, SUNY Stony Brook   Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.

US: The Journal of Men’s Studies

The spring issue of The Journal of Men’s Studies (v 6 n 3) has a table of contents that includes:

Negotiating the Male Body: Men, Masculinity, and Cultural Ideals ( Chris Wienke); Absent Fathers: Effects on Abandoned Sons ( Dennis A. Balcom); Gender Differences in Heterosexual Dating: A Content Analysis of Personal Ads (Larry M. Lance), and “Even a Woman Can Do This Job Now”: Reflections on Technological Change and Male Subcultures in the Modern Factory ( Daniel Glenday). Among book reviews: Hombres y Machos: Masculinity and Latino Culture by Alfredo Mirande (Alex Tuss), and Bachelors: The Psychology of Men Who Haven’t Married by Charles A. Waehler (Jeffrey L. Helms).

The Journal of Men’s Studies also plans the publication of a special issue focusing on “Fathering, Faith, and Spirituality” (v 7 n 1, fall 1998). David Dollahite (Brigham Young University, Provo, UT) is the guest editor for this issue. The table of contents for the special issue includes: The Ideal Father: Religious Narratives and the Role of Fatherhood ( James L. Furrow); Faithful Fathering in Trying Times: Religious Beliefs and Practices in Fathering Children with Special Needs ( David C. Dollahite, Loren D. Marks, and Michael M. Olson); A Conceptual Ethic of Generative Fathering ( David C. Dollahite and Alan J. Hawkins), and Exploring Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory of Development: Generativity and Its Relationship to Paternal Identity, Intimacy, and Involvement in Childcare ( Shawn L. Christiansen and Rob Palkovitz).

For more information contact

James Doyle, General Editor, The Journal of Men’s Studies


The Men’s Studies Press web site:


Europe: New overviews of research

Hilka Pietilä (hilkka.pietila@pp.inet.fi) has written an informative report on four recent European conferences on men and masculinities. This is available in English.

In Sweden and Norway, there are similar efforts to outline main results and research trends.

Per Folkesson, at the Karlstad district university, is engaged in an overview study of Nordic research on men, masculinities and gender equal status issues.

In Norway, Sissel Frøberg has written a report on Norwegian research with an extensive bibliography and a discussion of the status of the field. Nothing is available in English yet from these projects.The Norwegian report documents that interest in studies of men and masculinities have been high among students and young researchers, although further work and financing possibilities in this field have been limited.

Sweden: masculinity as a historical process

‘Manly and unmanly in a historical perspective’ - does it shift our views of what masculinity is about?

The Swedish Research Council (FRN) will arrange a conference on this theme August 21-23 in Stockholm.

The invitation outlines ‘men’s history’ as a new research field. The arrangers write:

“It is a paradox that the history that has been criticized [by feminists] for having been written by men, about men and for men, has ignored precisely the study of men as men. (..) The growing women’s history field as well as gender research has created growing interest in studies of masculinity”.

Further, different masculine identities are outlined, with a special focus on the role of the state. “The state contributes to the formation of masculinity”.  Also, male authority in the household is outlined as a promising starting point for historical research.

Turkey: European Council conference

On November 13-14 1997, the Council of Europe arranged a government minister conference termed “The 4th European Ministerial Conference on Equality Between Women and Men”. The Council, which originally was a West European organization, now has 47 members, and has been engaged in a variety of social issues including human rights questions and gender equality.

The conference, held in Istanbul, was introduced by the Turkish prime minister, and attended mainly by social and family affairs ministers or their advisors or state secretaries. One full day was scheduled for presentations regarding masculinities and male roles, titled “Promoting equality in a democratic society: the role of men”, with a main presentation by a representative of the Swedish minister of labor, followed by about a dozen other presentations.

Of these, however, only two or three clearly focused on men - the rest focused on women. The Albanian social affairs minister, for example, discussed women’s representation in parliament and political organizations, yet said nothing about men.

According to IASOM observer Jørgen Lorentzen, the conference thereby illustrated both the dramatic need for knowledge and research on men, and the reluctance of some countries to address this issue at all.

Further information:

Amanda Raif or Olof Olafsdottir, Gender Equality Section, Council of Europe, Strassbourg.

Women: 35, men: 0

The marginalisation of men, also in gender studies, is a topic of concern for everyone who believes that gender equality is a matter of both genders. Regardless of whether one thinks that studies of men should be pursued as a separate field, or as part of a dialogue development in the gender studies field, the current state of affairs is one of underrepresentation.

The Nordic situation is illustrated by the following figures (based on the bulletin from the Nordic Institute for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, no 2/97):

Coming arrangements involving women: 35

Coming arrangements explicitly involving men: 0

Norwegian institutions promoting research on women: 9

Norwegian institutions explicitly promoting research on men: 0

Swedish institutions promoting research on women: 14

Swedish institutions explicitly promoting research on men: 0

In fairness, it should be noted that some of these arrangements and institutions do promote research on men, as part of a “gender” heading. Yet the overview does reflect the lack of substantial effort and financing in this area. Indeed, the average reader might draw the conclusion that as far as gender goes, there’s one of them - women.

A new European profeminist network

A European profeminist men’s newsletter has published its first (bilingual French/English) issue in Toulouse, France (autumn 1997). Daniel Welzer-Lang at the Equipe Simone Université Le Mirail in Toulouse is coordinator (dwl@cict.fr). The newsletter argues that “profeminism” is “useful to use as a federative term” for men giving “support to feminist struggles and reflections by women”, who want to end “male domination”, and who want “to be able to live in relations in which ‘gender’ (the social sex, the fact to be educated as a man or as a woman) won’t be a hierarchic and discriminating variable any longer.” To avoid confusion (?) and a possible male takeover of feminist theory, however, the term should be “profeminist”, not simply “feminist”.

“Like feminism, profeminism is a plural movement. We don’t aim at achieving a single thinking”, the Newsletter argues - but rather “multiplicity of colours and points of view”.

“Many men state that they are ‘allies’ of women fighting for equality, the sharing of household chores, etc. Among these, many actually behave thus, in various ways: at an interpersonal level in private life, by favouring the passing of egalitarian laws, backing support networks for women who undergo violence...Schematically, and without any pejorative connotation, these men can in fact be described as ‘allies of women and feminism’. Profeminist men also belong to this group. But they want to go further: to deconstruct male gender as a dominant, hegemonic and prevailing gender. Male domination is structured by the opaqueness of the dominants’ mores. We want to ‘unveil’ the ways sexism and homophobia are expressed - and cultivated - among men. We reject male complicity when women are its main victims.”

IASOM welcomes this initiative. The emerging European profeminist movement is important also from a research point of view, and research is important for diminishing the barriers against change. Compared to the European Profeminist Men’s Network, IASOM is a research organisation, and although it supports profeminist research, it also supports broader egalitarian-oriented research.

While the profeminist men’s Newsletter usefully outlines the dangers of ‘in principle’ egalitarianism, the text also raises some questions. Is there a tendency in “profeminism” towards overmuch politico-correctism and an upkeep of precisely the gender divide that was supposedly the problem in the first place? Should one organise separatly, and then declare oneself as ‘pro’ the other, separate part, or is it better to work together and then perhaps afford a broader view also? IASOM is based on female as well as male researchers’ support, and recognises egalitarian research as well as profeminist research, critical studies as well as other traditions and different terms for similar tendencies. We are an international organisation, and recognise that these terms vary with local context. In the Nordic countries, for example, ‘feminists’ are often seen as those agreeing with feminist views, whether men or women.

Is there a danger of men taking over feminism? According to a large social science database (Sociofile), about 60 percent of the researchers publishing papers on gender were women in 1997.  This has not changed much over the last ten years (1987: 58 percent. N=500.000 papers. Source: Sociofile). The main feminist works over the last decade (eg. Butler, Walby) have been written by women, like the decade before.

The problem image of men often rests on a confusion of gender and power, a shortcut from men as gendered to the causes of violence and oppression of women, as if no other social force than masculinity could be involved at those points. On the other hand, some deconstructive and other feminist theorists have argued for a kind of ‘tactical’ counter-genderisation as a way to tackle the problems so to speak in their own field. Men and women may both feel less endangered - as ‘social sexes’, as the Newsletter nicely puts it - if there is a terminological and organisational divide.

The editor

A CD ROM on men

In another announcement, the profeminist men’s European network writes:

“We would like to inform you about the research/action sponsored by the European Commission on which we are working. We would like also to solicit your possible participation IN THE SETTING UP OF THE PROFEMINIST MEN’S EUROPEAN NETWORK. We are expecting documents and contacts all around the world.

We plan to organise an international conference in year 2000 and to create a CD Rom on the topic “violence and gender issues”.

These are the Free CD contents: After the CD-Rom “City, Citizenship and Gender” (available now end of February which content 50Mb, and over 300 files of texts), we would like to inform you about a new CALL FOR PAPERS  for the next “Free Shared CD-Rom” (ready in Summer 98). Thanks for helping share information  with your networks (mailing lists, publications, newsletters) and improve these tools with your contribution, your contacts, your suggestions. We are looking also for partners, correspondents (Men and Women organisations) and funding to increase the dissemination of the CD-Roms (from 1000 to 5000 copies).

This next CD-Rom will be on:

1. Men Profeminist: Key words:  activist men’s, women and child abuse, anti-pornography, against sexual harassment, anti-sexist, domestic violence, violence (in prison, sport, school), men’s issues, stereotypes, men against rape, sexism, identity

2. City, Citizenship and Gender = updated information: Key words: gender issues, equal opportunities, decision-making, training, process, best practice, empowerment of women, urban violence, safety, everyday life, cities, sustainable development, urban planning, transport, mobility, housing, appropriate technologies eco-village, co-housing, coops, utopia, microcredit, finance systems of solidarity.

Looking forward to hearing from you!”

Roland and Daniela -

The Profeminist men’s European network is first of all :

- A documentation center located in Le Mirail Toulouse University .

- A database of contacts and resources and a bibliography.

- A quarterly newsletter.

- A web site:  

- A first “free and shared” CD-ROM available by summer 98.

Coordinating committee :

Université de Toulouse le Mirail - Equipe Simone

Daniel Welzer-Lang

Correspondence : THE SETTING UP OF THE PROFEMINIST MEN’S EUROPEAN NETWORK, Les Traboules, 12 rue Agathoise, F-31000 Toulouse  FRANCE. Tel: +33 (0)5 61 63 88 48; Fax: +33 (0)5 61 63 88 51. Daniel Welzer-Lang , Thierry Campanati. E.mail:dwl@cict.fr

Partner : Site and CD-Rom management: City & Shelter 40 rue d’Espagne B-1060 Bruxelles. Belgique Tel/Fax: +32 2 534 77 35. E.mail:rmayerl@compuserve.com. Http://users.skynet.be/sky37994.

CITY & SHELTER is a non-profit organisation based in Brussels/Belgium and focusing especially on gender issues in urban and housing topics, violence, micro-credits, development, appropriate technologies. We have coordinated an European Research/Action “The Charter For Women in the City” and now we produce “Free Shared CD-Roms” to share all information we collect on the topic.

Womens World 1998

7th International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women

Tromsö, Norway, June 20-26, 1999

For the first time the organizing committee of the Women’s World congress has invited men and women doing studies on men to participate in WW.

Under the heading “Gendering men”, four themes will be discussed:

Men supporting women’s rights (responsible: Jeff Hearn)

Men and violence (responsible: Michael Kaufman)

Men in families (responsible: Øystein Gullvåg Holter)  

History of masculinities (responsible: Jorgen Lorentzen).

If you are interested, please register to Women’s World 99

University of Tromsö

9037 Tromsö


E-mail: womens.worlds.99@skk.uit.no

Hilkka Pietilä: Some main issues in current research

There are two fields, which were mostly only passingly referred to in the papers presented in Oslo and which I wish to be taken up in relation to men and violence.

These are:

a) the role and impact of military training by way of crashing identity and personality of men and inducing a certain image of masculinity and honor in their minds as well as creating virtue of self-subjucation vis-a-vis the superiors/ patriarchs. The shame and humiliation seems to be the cruel means of achieving this.

b) the competitive sports as innocent, ‘healthy’ hobbies to bring about ‘real’ masculinities, in other words to create and maintain constantly the atmosphere of competition as the virtue in the society and culture in general and particularly as a masculine virtue for ‘real’ men. How much is this atmosphere created for training men to live in constant competition against each other, against another company, nation or for the sake of competition as an aim on its own merits?

c) related to these above is the need of initiating peace related studies within the men research, though in my view all the work done around male violence is in a way ‘peace research’ - that is one reason why I am so enthusiastic about this branch of men studies!

With greetings, Hilkka

(You can reach the author at hilkka.pietila@pp.inet.fi).

Øystein Gullvåg Holter: A feminist economy reading list

Masculinity, many argue, is about power.  

Yet why does this power persist? If the framework is diffuse, the phenomenon may be unduly exaggerated. Is masculinity only about power? ‘Attribution to the figure’ while the ‘ground’ is hidden is a phenomenon known from many fields, and noticeable also in studies of men. Economy is part of the background - yet even the best recent books on men and masculinities lack an economic analysis of men’s power.

Recent advances in gender equality studies and feminist theory is a place to start.


Folbre, Nancy 1993: Socialism, Feminist and Scientific. In Ferber, Marianne; Nelson, Julie, eds.: Beyond Economic Man. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

A brief and clear overview of some main issues and obstructions feminists have meet in their attempts to transform leftish economic analysis. Good analysis also.

The anthology has some other good essays also, yet this is also a ‘beginnings’ collection with attempts to connect feminist issues and institutional  economic approaches.

Gibson-Graham, J. K. 1996: The End of Capitalism (as we knew it): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. Blackwell: Cambridge, Ma.

This is highly recommended: mature, funny, a celebration showing the potential of the new field. It mainly deals with mid-level and midrange issues, rather than long-range questions of dual sphere theory or the economics of gender and patriarchy, yet it shows promising consistency throughout.  

Mutari, Ellen; Boushey, Ellen; Fraher,William IV 1997: Gender and Political Economy - Incorporating Diversity into Theory and Policy. Sharpe, Armonk, New York

This is also a place to start browsing, showing the advances in the field, with a view to application especially.

Kuiper, Edith; Sap, Jolande, eds 1995: Out of the Margin: Feminist Perspectives on Economics. Routledge: London and New York

Another collection of diversity and opening-up texts. Again some essays are very good (e.g. Amartya Sen).

Getting involved...

Henwood, Doug 1997: Wall Street. How It Works and for Whom. Verso, London

A critical update on turbocapitalism, written with irony and clarity. Lots of implications for studies of masculinity, although one must often read between the lines. Very useful combined with things like Collinson & Hearn 1996 (see below). Recommended.

Further places...

Beasly, Chris 1994: Sexual Economyths - Conceiving a feminist economics. St Martin’s Press, New York

This looks interesting. I agree with Nancy Hartsock quoted at the back - it is a significant contribution. I am not yet sure of the implications of its central thesis that household labor or ‘the sphere of reproduction’ is misconceived in research - even in household studies. Yet Beasly (a lecturer at the University of Adelaide, South Australia)  is mostly right (his thesis works for Nordic research also). The text seems very thorough and Beasly clarifies various main traditions in the household debate, yet the style does require some concentration on the part of the reader.

Sayer, Andrew; Walker, Richard 1992: The New Social Economy - Reworking the Division of Labour. Blackwell, Oxford.

Although it says something of gender, the perspective is mostly the old neutral one. Interesting on other topics, though.

Power revisited....

Masculinity becomes a more fruitful concept when power, economy and culture are connected in the analysis. Works like these are of help:

Collinson, David L.; Hearn, Jeff 1996: Men as Managers, Managers as Men - Critical Perspectives on Men, Masculinities and Managements. Sage, London

Gherardi, Silvia 1995: Gender, Symbolism and Organizational Cultures. Sage, London.

Pyke, Karen D. 1996: Class-Based Masculinities: The Interdependence of Gender, Class, and Interpersonal Power. Gender and Society 10, 5, 527-549

Beneke, Timothy 1997: Proving Manhood. Reflections on Men and Sexism. University of California Press, Berkeley

One should also note Max Weber’s notions of Herrschaft - surely a ripe case for gender reinterpretation and masculinity reconnection. These can be found mainly in Weber’ economic-historical manuscript (which are best read directly, not through Talcott Parson’s interpretations/translations).

Debate: A first world conference?

One main IASOM task is to help create international conferences and cooperation. So far, there has been no global conference on studies of men. Should IASOM aim for such an arrangement within the next years? What should be the framework and topics of the conference?

These questions were emailed to several central researchers in the field (in winter 1998). Generally, the answers were positive. However, planning such an arrangement requires time, and we should be careful that it does not collide with other conferences, like the Tromsø Women’s World conference which will include a section on studies of men.

Here are some of the answers:

“For the proposed world conference: perhaps the key issues to propose are

(a) what to make of gender diversity or plurality on a world scale,

(b) what to make of gendered power, on any scale.  

Maybe “plurality and power”would make a kind of conference title.”

Bob Connell

“As to the conference, I completely agree.  Perhaps one way to frame it would be to assume that there is now a sufficient body of knowledge in critical men’s studies to create dialogue with others in adjacent and related fields.  So we could invite peace researchers, feminist scholars, sexuality researchers, education researchers etc. and begin some panel-like dialogues.  I agree that it should be the first major even of its kind for researchers and it should be done right. We will, of course, announce it in the Masculinities journal...”

Michael Kimmel

“A IASOM conference sounds like a good idea.  As much as I would personally love to come to Norway two years in a row, it’s hard to imagine having the money to do so.  I assume that others would have a similar difficulty.  (And men coming from farther away would have the added problem of time and physical difficulty.) As long as it didn’t detract or take attention away from Tromso, I think it would be fine to tie-in with that.  It should increase our numbers and help us draw in new men.  I would suggest doing it afterwards because that way we can draw on the momentum and ideas from Tromso.  As well, those of us who have been at Tromso will have gotten well into our socializing so we won’t be quite as distracted when IASOM meets.   And finally, I think there is less chance of taking attention away from Tromso — rather, we can say that we are doing it afterwards so that our meeting can draw on, and learn from, the Tromso deliberations.

One question is how broad a net you will cast.  I assume that it will continue the approach you’ve already taken and draw on men and women who are not academically based, but are practitioners and activists who are interested in intellectual issues.  It will be important to have this (or whatever) clear on the publicity.

Will it be possible to get names of men registering for Tromso so you can invite them? As always, thanks for your ongoing work on this.”

Michael Kaufman

We are currently investigating possibilities for creating a conference in 2000 or 2001 as a cooperative arrangement between IASOM and other organisations. The UNESCO Culture of Peace program is one possible partner, with ‘Men and Peace’ as a headline for the conference.

The editor

Vic Seidler: Man Enough

This is just a quick announcement to say that

MAN ENOUGH: Embodying Masculinities

has just been published by Sage.

In part it is a response to Robert Bly’s work it also attempts to set out a new direction for thinking critically in relation to men and masculinities. You could contact Sage for a review copy and I would very much appreciate if you could let people know that the book is now out.

Victor J. Seidler, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Some gender wonderings...

Gender peace zones...at the edge of life?

In a US study by Evelyn Whitlock and coworkers of a smoking-intervention program it is shown that “males and females were equally likely to participate in the main components of the intervention and equally likely to quit or relapse. It is concluded that such smoking cessation programs appear to be gender neutral in success rates”.

Whitlock, Evelyn P.; Vogt, Thomas M.; Hollis, Jack F.; Lichtenstein, Edward 1997: Does Gender Affect Response to a Brief Clinic-Based Smoking Intervention? American Journal of Preventive Medicine 13, 3, May-June, 159-166

Gender as ‘bodification’ - a Western constraint?

“Among American Indians, gender has always been viewed as a spiritual calling and not determined by a person’s anatomy”, argues Lester B. Brown in a recent paper on not-men and not-woman roles in US tribes including the Santee Dakota and Lakota.

See Brown, Lester B. 1997: Women and Men, Not-Men and Not-Women, Lesbians and Gays: American Indian Gender Style Alternatives. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services 6, 2, 5-20. For a similar critique of modern gender conceptions regarding Aztec culture, cf. Clendinnen, Inga 1995: Aztecs: An Interpretation. Canto, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Norway: Racism and sexism together

In a coming book (Fremmed i det norske hus), professor Asle Høgmo documents "daily life racism in Norway". In an interview, the author says:

"Every day racism ... is usually not visible in the Norwegian eye, yet those who are victimized by it are hit in all kinds of contexts and when they least expect it. (..) Racism is usually gendered. The person who voices racist notions is usually a man who feels like a loser on the gender market - the sore loser who lets his inner aggression and feeling of inferiority hit a weaker party." Also, every day racism is accompanied by myths. Høgmo finds these tendencies studying the treatment of Filipino women in Norway. "Most Asian women who come here are well educated, resourceful women. They have met their Norwegian men in their home countries, fallen in love, and eventually married - just like American wives in Norway." Yet the Asiatic women are hit by a "prostitute/mail order wife myth", while American women are not. Even well-meaning Norwegians "conjure up an image of the poor, dominated Asian woman who has been bought and paid for, which is not only wrong, but experienced as discriminating by the women hit by it.”

Australia: Male violence against immigrant women

Recent research supports Høgmo’s contention that every day racism, though usually in visible, hit its victims “ in all kinds of contexts and when they least expect it.” An example: “Domestic violence against women in immigrant communities in Australia is examined based on data drawn from surveys of foreign- & Australian-born female survivors of domestic violence (N = 804) & of legal & welfare practitioners (N = 400). Results indicate that victims and abusers are most often from the same ethnic group; Asian women sponsored for immigration by non-Asian partners are the most notable exception.” (our emphasis).

See Easteal, Patricia 1996: Double Jeopardy: Violence against Immigrant Women in the Home. Family Matters 45, 26-30

Some recent dissertations


Øystein Gullvåg Holter: Gender, Patriarchy and Capitalism - A Social Forms Analysis. Dr. philos dissertation, University of Oslo 1997. Published by The Work Research Institute, Oslo (in English). Opponents at disputation: Craig Calhoun, Rita Liljestrøm. Outlines a social forms perspective as antidote to gender reification and explores possibilities for independent theoretization of patriarchal social structures by combining men and masculinity studies, sociohistorical perspectives, critical and institutional approaches and feminist reinterpretations of political economy.

Also, Jørgen Lorentzen’s 1996 dr. polit. dissertation: The Possibilities of Manhood. On Masculine Wo nder, Experience and Ethics in the Literature of the Breakthrough of the Modern (in Norwegian) has been published by Aschehoug, Oslo 1998.


Helena Eriksson: Husband, Lovers and Dreamlovers. Masculinity and Female Desire in Women’s Novels of the 1970s (in English). Dept. Of English, Uppsala University. Explores women’s contributions to creating masculinities through masculine images, arguing that whereas the husband image is constructed as limiting and restrictive, with the image of the lover as “an opening outwards”, it is the dreamlover image which is given the real weight - here, “feminist authors create a new image of men”.

Ingólfur V. Gíslason: Changes among Icelandic men

Last year I published a book that is mainly based on semi-open interviews that I conducted with 25 young (20-35) Icelandic men. The men were randomlychosen from the membership files of a number of unions ranging from thoserepresenting manual labourers to university educated.   Among the topics discussed were their views on gender equality and the changes that have taken place over the last few decades, their relationshipand involvement with their children, participation in the daily householdchores, relations with their father, friendship with other men,relationship with the larger family and their views on what characterisesmasculinity.

 I found that all the men were in favour of gender equality, regarded the participation of women on the labour market, in politics and education as something quite natural and condemned the discrimination that most of them knew still existed (many spontaneously told me about instances that they knew about where women had been discriminated, particularly in the labour market). Of course I was afraid that the men were not representative on this point but two things make me think that this is not something that I have to worry about. On the one hand the men were critical on some points. They thought that the equality struggle had been conducted on “too negative terms.” And they were very negative regarding what has been termed “positive discrimination.” And on the other hand, more comprehensive surveys show similar views.

For example, a survey by Gallup showed that 98% thought that men and women should have the same opportunities on the labour market but 77% thought that this was not the case today. All the men wanted close relationship with their children and were of the opinion that their duty was not only as providers in the family, they also had emotional duties. No relationship could be seen between this view and their own relationship with their fathers. Those who had been blessed with fathers that were close and involved in their upbringing regarded that as an example to follow while the majority, who had experienced distant fathers, regarded that as something to be avoided.

 They all believed that they were more involved than had been the case with the last generation. The interviews also revealed that men are more involved than the official statistic shows. Even though almost no Icelandic male receives compensation for leave following the birth of a child, almost all do in fact leave the labour market for a period after the child is borne. The length of the leave varies from a few days to a month, two weeks seems to be the norm. But the reason why the do not appear in the official statistics is that they either use their summer holiday for this purpose or take unpaid leave. The general view is that the six months [birth-leave] is too short to be split up; the mother should have that period undivided.

 But in spite of their willingness for greater participation it emerges that the mother is still the main caregiver. The main obstacles for greater involvement among the men seem to be the gender based wage differences, attitudes among employers and the shadow of the past, meaning that women apparently still regard the home and the children as their domain and their responsibility. This also showed when we discussed their involvement in domestic chores. They all said that the division of labour in the home was about equal. But it was also obvious that their women were in control. They were the ones who decided what needed to be done, when it should be done and how it should be done. But the men participated and did their part. In particular they cook and clean. They do not wash the clothes (and it appears that the main reason for that is that the women do not trust them to do that properly), they do not decorate the home and they do not choose clothes for the children (though they often dress them).

  Regarding friendship with other males and relationship with the extended family it is obvious that both diminish as the years go by. The men obviously have fewer friends than the women and those friends are not as close (“you don’t tell everything, though I know that she does”) and the women see to it that birthdays are remembered, relatives visited and invited to the home. This state of affairs is course for concern as other surveys have showed that men experience acute social isolation following divorce or the death of their spouse.

  Lastly I want to mention that the men in question found it very difficult to pinpoint anything particular connected to the word masculinity. The majority gave up after some reflection. The few that mentioned something mainly talked about strength (physical and/or mental).

I believe that the interviews show that there have been deep changes in the Icelandic gender structure and that these changes are mainly due to the great changes in the position of women in Iceland in particular to their increased participation in the labour market, but also a revolution in their educational level and political participation. I also believe that these changes will continue but that it is possible to make changes in the social arrangements that would greatly facilitate these changes. In particular this applies to increased involvement in family life during pregnancy and the possibility of paternal leave during the first months after birth. And the last year has seen some changes in those areas. All in all I believe that the development in the position of women in Iceland and the results of my study show that we are moving fast towards a much more egalitarian society.

Ingólfur V. Gíslason: No masculinity in Icelandic men?

A large survey by Gallup asking about views regarding gender equality and aspects of family policy showed that Icelanders generally found it difficult to name a characteristic that applied better to males than females.

In the survey people were asked to say if a certain characteristic applied better to males or females or was equally applicable to them. The ten characteristics were: Determination, emotionality, talkative, intelligence, bravery, patience, creativity, ambition, calm and considerate. The main result can be said to be that over half of those asked regarded seven of the characteristics as equally applicable to men and women. The three characteristics that over 50% of the respondents thought applied better to one that the other were emotionality, patience and consideration. And there are no prizes for guessing that the majority thought that this applied better to women than men.  The only two characteristics which over one third of the respondents thought applied better to men were bravery (applies better to men 31.3%, better to women 13.9% and applies equally 54.8%) and ambition (applies better to men 37.8%, better to women 13.6% and applies equally 48.6%).

This was an international survey and when comparing the proportion of men and women regarding the characteristics as applying equally to men and women we get the following result:

Nation Men Women

Iceland 47.9% 48.0%

Canada 35.3% 37.8%

England 34.9% 36.2%

Germany 32.5% 35.0%

USA 22.8% 22.5%

France 16.4% 18.4%

This is open to a number of interpretations but I think that it shows that the increased participation of women on the labour market (in 1996, 77% of women were active in the Iceland labour market, compared to 86% of men), increased education (more women than men now graduate both as students and from the universities) and a number of more symbolic gains (a woman as president for sixteen years and a woman as mayor in the capital for the last four years and every indication of a re-election) have made it more or less impossible to regard a job or a characteristic as something that does not fit a woman. It would simply be regarded as ridiculous.  The same can not be said about men. There has been very little movement of men into areas traditionally regarded as more fitting for women.

Specifically this applies to care and particularly to care for children. It is still possible to claim that women are in some sense ?"better" caregivers than men or that there is something ?un-manly" about changing diapers. And when someone objects all you have to do is point to facts. Who works in kindergartens and elementary schools and who (mostly) takes care of the children in the homes? The research shows that a major task in the near future is to change those structures in society that put obstacles in the way of men who want to shoulder un-traditional work in the labour market as well as in the homes.

Øystein Gullvåg Holter: On men’s freedom of positive choice

New research directions

“Care is the opposite of violence”, argues psychologist Per Isdal, leader of the Alternatives to Violence center in Oslo, which helps male batterers change their behavior. Lack of caring, mistrusting their partner, jealousy and related phenomena are typical among men who use violence against women.

According to recent studies, men’s potential for caring is marginalised and ignored in today’s society. However, new research in the field also shows how men’s care potential can be better realised helped through institutional and cultural measures, with the probable effect of reducing one main basis of male violence.

Institutional change - does it work?

Although gender arrangements often seem static or only slowly changing, there have been large long-term transitions over the last hundred years, and rapid changes in some periods. In World War II, the gender division of labor was significantly changed in several countries over a couple of years (US, UK, etc.), with a positive impact for industry and a noticeable improvement of women’s status in the first postwar years. Later, gender equality and male dominance issues have been shown to be significantly impacted by a changing societal context. There has been a pattern of development of gender equality connected to democratic development in society in general. Institutional contexts and reform policies have been important for development, and many differences between gender arrangements in different regions today can be accounted for through analysing these.

Through the 20th century, gender equality issues have often been characterised by globalism, similar developments in different forms in different regions. Yet the welfare state model in various forms has clearly been important for developing gender equality, even if this has been a ‘relative’ development within a system still characterised by gender inequality. Although other elements of the welfare model has increasingly been criticized, its contribution to gender equal status is usually acknowledged also by market-oriented analysts.

Gender, politics and choice

Gender is not a political matter in the narrow sense, and gender politics are more dependent on what people want and do for themselves than most other forms of politics. Gender is ‘individuating’ compared for example to class relations, since it has a dyad rather than a category or collective at its centre. Studies of 20th century gender developments - in the family sphere especially - usually emphasise their democratic attachment, linked to the individual character of the gender dyad and the ‘nuclear’ family or at least implicates this character, even when they attack male dominance. Paradoxically, democracy and personalized dominance are connected.

Although the modern gender system is still characterised by imbalance and by more or less dominant and attractive forms of masculinity and femininity, this ‘self-chosen’ gendered system is generally seen as preferable, in terms of reducing the overall amount of discrimination, to more traditional and open forms of patriarchal dominance and sex segregation. Compared to the earlier patriarchal relations between and within the sexes, modern gender brings in more choice, and even if this choice is often distorted by continued dominance in new and more economic forms, creating the basis for essentialist and biologistic views, it still creates larger possibilities for change.

In most or all gender-inegalitarian or patriarchal societies, social organisation related to sex is influenced by patriarchal principles (mainly two sorts of principles, dominance between and within the sexes, especially ranking between men). The sex-related organisation is brought within the influence of a power relationship. From that point on, however, conditions have varied historically and still do in different parts of the world. Some forms of patriarchy do not interfere much with sex organisation, but rather exploits what is there already - while in others, it is bound and restricted by patriarchal premises, and in still others, sex-related organisation becomes a main means of patriarchy, the older and more open parts of patriarchy withering away. The latter is typical of modern forms. Patriarchy, then, halfway disappears, and halfway exists in a new form, as a gendered patriarchy. Here, gender has a double level, not only the male/female relation, but also a context of the ‘gendered’ (mainly feminine) on the one hand, and the ‘neutral’ on the other (‘abstract masculinity’). Patriarchy, in this more liberal and embodied gender version, becomes an ongoing affair due to the imbalance between production and reproduction and other factors, re-creating male-centred culture, politics, economy etc The system tends to hide part of what gender is about and distort or mystify the rest.

Studies of gender relations require interdisciplinary cooperation since these relations are psychological, political, economic, historical, cultural - multilayered and many-faceted. In the gender system, institutional and cultural change are mixed together in ways that are still not very well understood.

Relational choice

Can gender equal status policies be in men’s interest? According to one common definition of interest: yes, if they increase men’s freedom of choice. Further, if they increase men’s possibilities for learning and development.

Positive choice in this context means choice that increases gender equal status, diminishing discrimination of women and the related ranking and discrimination between and within men. Positive choice is choice that helps integration and balance between feminity and masculinity, women and men. In sociological terms, it widens the possibilities for expressive value-related action, diminishing the dominance of instrumental values.

In the 1970s and 80s, the new literature on men argued that men, also, stood to gain from leaving aspects of the breadwinner role behind, together with other male dominance-related institutions and behaviours. The framework was partly functionalist: instrumentalism had become ‘dysfunctional’ for men themselves, especially in psychological terms. Instead of construing renewed visions of ‘the home as the haven’ of an alienated society, the new men’s studies discussed changes in men’s life contexts across the public/private divide.

In a relational feminist perspective, ‘choice over’ should be changed to ‘choice towards’. We should be more open towards what we chose, recognising more of the consequences of our actions for others, according to this view. Feminist political scientists as well as psychologists and anthropologists have argued that social action should become more open or ‘porous’ especially as regards daily life relations and women and the reproduction sphere, creating more democratic social relations with improved sensing of others, more cognitive and emotional relationality (not just ‘reflexivity’) and generally increase individuals’ ability to relate to their fellow human beings.

Principles of institutional change

Institutional change is a very broad concept. An institution includes culture, psychology, economy, politics etc., even if institutions may be specialised within each of these fields. Institutions change due to actors’ new actions and choices, which in turn rest on past changes, traditions and constraints. Institutional change, in our context, therefore does not only mean policies designed to increase positive choice, but economies able to sustain these policies, cultural inovation, psychological changes, new forms of institutionalisation, and so on.

The analysis presented above can be translated into action terms. We simplify, yet attain a useful starting point, if we distinguish between two kinds of barriers against change - cultural and informal on the one hand, institutional and political on the other hand. Economic barriers are a third factor. From recent men’s studies, it appears that cultural gender change does not make it on its own, nor does institutional measures. When the two are brought together, however, more ‘sustainable’ developments of gender equality and positive choice may appear, especially if economic aspects are addressed also.

The following ‘preliminary but useful’ list of action perspectives and measures can be used to combine these change paths.

Organisation is a way to the institution. Institutional change means organisational change, a rule that applies both in public and private life. Yet organisations may change while the institution remains (male dominance is the famous relevant example). We know that thinking in terms of organisations easily restricts us in gendered ways (predominance of production, predominance of instrumental values, formal organisation, etc.), but organisational change remains important.

Starting from existing tendencies. The organisation is usually not a gender-egalitarian place, yet there are many tendencies towards equality, usually among all ‘parties’ in an organisation. For creating a space and basis for action, this is the place to start. Often, men’s change policies depend on women and sympathetic men in power positions who are both broadminded and patient enough to recognise the importance of changes among men.

Connecting to the on-going processes among men The organisational approach - as currently theorised by e.g. action research - means one has to start with the problems experienced in the organisation, and build from the on-going processes of attempted solutions to these. In the gender context, gender-egalitarian processes among both genders become important, and in the men’s studies context, especially what goes on among men. That men’s choices (and the gender processes associated with different masculinity forms) do indeed vary according to context, has been amply shown by research. The frequency of rape, for example, or the rape-prone proportion among men, is massively impacted by social and cultural context (cf. men in war-like vs. peaceful contexts).

A focus on men as more/other than a dominant gender, while keeping this framework in mind. ‘Process work’ in this context means a new and more gender-egalitarian communication, more integrative dialogue between men and women and more self-consciousness between men. Its goals include culture and institutional change together with psychological change . Process work often starts psychological, widens to the cultural, and today should also include the organisational and institutional. For example, promoting a culture of peace among men means that some old formal or informal organisational practices must now be abandoned.

Changing the economic parameters.The economy may not slap the door in your face, like patriarchal politics, yet it will surely squash your “Positive Men’s Course” or “Network for Profeminist Men” unless analysed and at least neutralised, or better, connected to in a positive manner. For example, the organisation will tell you that they can no longer afford these measures, unless you’ve brought to bear some new economic thinking of how these seeming costs actually help things along and are in fact key investments. Words, however, won’t get you there. Economy requires a practice approach, a look at task interdependencies, processes and value chains, securing that things work out in practice, that the organization gets something back for its outlays.

Recognise ongoing change. Optimalisation of economic parameters unhindered by male dominance or patriarchal restrictions requires a broad shift of thinking and behaviour, a ‘turnover’ of economic dogma. Yet this is a an on-going process in the economy of the world today, if often only in latent form. It does not resemble the ‘critical’ male positions associated with class struggle, at this point. Economic units can no longer use the methods of yesterday; increasingly, business can no longer afford to neglect women and gender equality issues. Tactical patriarchalisms are slowly becoming more dubious as long-term capitalisms or socialisms or mixed-somethings. The economy is bound for change, yet there are also short-term ‘reactive’ movements.

Help positive economic processes. On its side, the institutional approach must develop measures that helps on-going positive market processes along, including trends towards quality and flexibility, for example by creating bonus systems like the Kyoto arrangement to grant new egalitarian ventures a fair chance. We know they’re up against a mixture of patriarchy and capitalism, not capitalism alone, so if the latter is to play fair, some help is needed.

Some stick, but mainly carrot. Consider the taxation system, one means of institutional change. Here as elsewhere, one cannot create positive choice without any negativeness. Something has to be scrapped. There has to be a stick, like greater tax for some than for others. Yet the stick works best if limited to mean an absence of carrot effects. A gender-egalitarian taxation system could build on the principle that those who arrange themselves more equally, in the private or public sphere (families or businesses), should get a premium, while those who do not, don’t. Couples with balanced incomes should be taxed a bit more favourably than those with unequal incomes, perhaps excepting care need situations (young child, sick elderly etc.). Firms that document gender equality standards as part of product information could similarly be saved some tax points. Similar standards could be introduced as part of insurance and banking. - As soon as we combine organisational and institutional change, many possibilities appear.

An example: Changing fathers’ behaviour

In Norway, ‘the daddy’s month’ family reform was introduced in 1993. In this country as elsewhere the late 1970s had seen an emerging debate on men as part of gender equality. In the mid 1980s, the government created a Male Role Committee based on a Swedish model in order to help the discussion along. This was soon successful, although committee members may have been frustrated over the pluralistic approach taken. Although broadly proegalitarian, the committee was not profeminist in a narrow sense. Within a year or so, almost one half of Norwegian men had heard about the committee, according to a survey, and in the following years there was a perceptible change of climate regarding the father role especially, a main theme of the committee. These developments contributed to the increasing emphasis on care and care-related issues documented by surveys in 1990s. The gradual cultural change and debate initiative was important for the reform’s success.

The 1993 daddy’s month reform stated that the family would only get the full premium of paid leave (which Norway had been able to extend to 12 months) if the father took the last 8 percent (1 month) of the leave. If the woman, only, stayed at home, the leave would not be extended from 11 to 12 months. Though the reform was kept small (8 percent) due to expected opposition, which did not appear.

Among men and women, the reform soon became popular, since the extra 8 percent came as a premium over the old arrangement. Also, the model was fairly simple and understandable. Perhaps the couple hadn’t thought about it, but why not? Although fathers sometimes felt they needed help having sole responsibility for a workday period for an almost one-year-old child and sometimes tried to place the dad’s month in the couple’s holiday or looked towards other women (mother, mother-in-law, the wife herself, etc.) for help, there has in fact been a ‘change’ in the sense discussed above. Moreover, this has been a voluntary change. Over the last years, the proportion of parents that use the dad’s month opportunity has grown to over 70 percent.

Recently, at study by Elin Kvande and co-workers has shown strong positive attitudes among the fathers using the leave month. Very few men regard the dad’s month as either negative or non-voluntary. Instead, the study shows that a majority of the men want more time with their child, 2 to 3 months.

Psychologically, there is no doubt that the attachment period in early life is important for what happens later. According to international experts, these changes in men’s behaviour and attitudes over a comparably brief period of time are of major significance. Even if the proportion of the leave time is small and even if used half-supportedly by women at first, it creates a space for change in men’s relation to children.

As the dad’s month took root, it no longer became unusual to see men with child carriages or fathers discussing, caring for, or nurturing their children in public. The public scenery in a city like Oslo has subtly shifted. Fathers of older children also increasingly show up at health controls, kindergartens and school meetings.

The fact that these changes have been achieved through a fairly small institutional reform, in an interplay with cultural and social trends, has created international attention. The principles of the reform have important implications for applied programmes and action research involving men.

To reiterate: The starting point of the reform was an on-going process among men (rather than a ‘political correctness’ agenda); men’s  increasing wish to ‘be’ a family man rather than the old model where a man ‘has’ a family. The focus of the reform is also the focus of this process. Men’s increasing willingness to participate is due also to the use of the ‘carrot principle’ rather than the ‘whip principle’ or the moralising attitude towards men’s change.

From ‘who ought to...’ to ‘who wants to...’

Most important, perhaps, in the longer run is the improvement of children’s status as a consequence of the reform. The reform has transformed a debate about ‘who ought to’ into a debate about ‘who wants to’. Instead of oughts, it has achieved change through wants. Thereby, the dad’s month illustrates how change can become real and sustainable.

Similar processes can be identified among men in all parts of the world at all levels. The difference in the Norwegian case is that it was helped along by a significant, if minor, institutional reform policy, achieving more impact.

Care can be substituted by peace and other issues or occupations of men beyond the realm of gender-dominant masculinity. The concrete methods may vary, yet the general principles of starting organised, building on positive tendencies, focusing on men’s processes and rewarding positive choice are generally relevant.



Institutional politics are usually associated with equal status and/or state intervention. Today, however, they can also be put forward more broadly as a matter of increasing men’s freedom of choice.

Recently, the daddy’s month reform has been overshadowed by a new proposed cash support reform for parents with infants. Although couched in terms of choice, the reform will probably decrease couples’ choice, especially men’s, due to the still very imbalanced distribution of income in most families. The cash support can substitute for the woman’s one third of the household budget, not for the man’s two thirds. There is a broad concern that the reform will hinder, or stop, more or less temporarily, men’s gradual movement towards a more equal sharing of tasks in the family sphere. A policy that in effect restricts men’s choice to ‘be’ family and pushes them back to the terrain of breadwinners and absent fathers is hardly a policy of increased choice.

Men’s opportunities for family and care participation and for creating a culture of peace are related. Although the daddy’s month model of institutional change puts ‘care’ in the center of attention, it may be relevant for peace issues also, for example to create alternatives to ‘siege mentality’, to help popular processes of delegitimisation of aggressive nationalism, or to reduce possibilities for ‘random’ male violence. In general, this model opens for different forms of organisation, connecting to positive tendencies or possibilities among men, putting men’s own concerns in the middle. Today, men’s studies and gender research need to clarify other main issues besides care, violence and peace, connecting to health, politics, economy, etc., and identify different perspectives, models and development possibilities connected to each of them. Combined, these approaches can help create real choice and changes among men that are no longer, as Bob Connell says in Masculinities, only minority events, individual revolts or private protests against the ruling masculinity order, but participatory changes supported by and involving the majority of men as well as women.

For further information on the background of the daddy’s month reform, see Knut Oftung: Men and gender equality in the Nordic Countries, available in the coming UNESCO report from the Oslo Expert Meeting (Sept. 1997).

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