This newsletter is published by IASOM, The International Association for Studies of Men. This is a new a new interdisciplinary organisation for studies of men and masculinities, welcoming female and male researchers who want to develop this field internationally. IASOM supports the broad effort to create equal gender status and the research focusing on men in this perspective.
In the 1993-1996 period, IASOM is lead by the Nordic Studies of Men Co-ordination Group, which also edits and distributes the Newsletter. The group represents the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian networks for studies of men.
Editor: Øystein Gullvåg Holter, The Work Research Institute, Oslo, with Lars Jalmert, the Department of Education at Stockholm University; Knut Oftung, The Equal Status Council, Oslo; Jørgen Lorenzen, The Institute for Comparative Literature, The University of Oslo, Søren Carlsen, The Danish Equal Status Council, Copenhagen, and Rudi Rusfort, Roskilde University Center.
IASOM is supported by research groups and organisations (marked *) or individuals in the countries listed below:
Australia , Brasil, Canada, Denmark* , Germany, Italy, Mexico*, Netherland, New Zealand, Norway*, Spain, Sweden*, UK, US*.
Organisations supporting the IASOM initiative include The Network for Men’s Studies, Denmark; The Network for Studies of Men, Sweden. The Network for Studies of Men, Norway. The Men’s Studies Association, US. Other contacts include: Canada - Michael Kaufman; Germany - Georg Brzoska, Stefan Beier and Willibald Walter; New Zealand - Rex McCann; UK - Jeff Hearn, Italy - Alessandro Notargiovanni, CGIL; Mexico - Eduardo Liendro, The Masculinity Studies Project, PUEG, Universidad Nacional Aut. de Mexico; Netherland - Paul van Gelder; Brasil - Socrates Alvares Nolasco.
For the moment, IASOM recieves no financial support, remaining a grassroot researchers’ own initiative. We manage to create national activities, a Nordic conference, and this newsletter only by stretching our spare time resources very thin. So we ask for your patience with this in mind. You could also contribute more directly, as some of you are doing, by mailing information you want us to refer or publish, and especially we would like more contributions in the form of research notes and short debate pieces. We know many of you are in similar situations yourself, but don’t make too much out of this, just some sentences on what you’re doing would be fine, presenting yourself etc. The questionnaire included questions on research topics and areas where you would like to contribute to IASOM activity. We ask for your own initiatives for now - we’ve had no time to organise this material as a database, though this will come in the near future.
This is written some days after the first Nordic studies of men conference, Men’s Families, that took place in Copenhagen 1-2 of October. John Gillis (US), Michael Kimmel (US), Peter West (Australia) and Victor Seidler (UK) were among the non-Nordic speakers at this highly succesful event, which also included Nordic speakers like Hanne Haavind and Karin Widerberg. Due to the usual budget limitation the arrangers weren’t able to invite more than a few foreign speakers. The IASOM co-ordination group has promised to create, or at least plan, a truly international conference before the end of 1996. We don’t know when this will become financially feasible; we’ll have to take one step at a time. But if any of you have a good contact in the Rockefeller Foundation or some other international research funding organisation please tell us, don’t be shy about it!
At the moment there seems to be a couple of hundred people around the globe who are seriously engaged in some form of men’s studies. Compared to social science generally, or even the activities going on studying women, this is a very small number, yet there is no doubt there is a growing interest and a growing realisation that our field is important - also in other fields, like peace or youth research. What strikes me, personally, as our greatest advantage is the strange silence surrounding men, as men, in traditional science – the way half the population of the world is still implicitely treated as if they were above gender, their masculinity only of peripheral interest. This is no longer the public opinion, or at least not the “enlightened” public opinion, and policy makers in the area of gender equality increasingly are including men in their proposals. In Norway, Grete Berget, minister of children and families, has recently proposed positive discrimination of men in care sector jobs in order to get a better sex balance. Universities and other research institutions are often conservate and slow-moving. Recently, however, the Institute for sociology at the University of Oslo has announced they will create an associate professor position in the area of studies of men. Possibly this is a “world’s first” as has been claimed; anyway, it is a decision we welcome.
R.W.Connell has argued that studies of men are “doubly marginalised” – in traditional academic terms as well as in feminist terms. There are signs that the latter situation is changing also. One example is the gender studies conference arranged by the Women’s Research Centre at the University of Bielefeld in Germany in July this year, a very encouraging event which is further described below. Also, “user groups” are becoming more aware of this area. So, for example, last week the Norwegian network were contacted by a Japanese TV station wanting to do a program on men and by a Norwegian oil production site manager who wondered if we could help do something with the safety hazards among the men working at the site. We get all kinds of requests. So the interest is there, even in a field which still recieves very little in the way of financial support.
We know many of you would like a more active and visible international organisation, and this is what we are trying to create. We’ll try to present the questionnaire responses in the next issue, so you’ll be better able to contact others who share your fields of interest. In the meanwhile we hope you’ll continue to support the IASOM initiative. Write to the newsletter and help distribute it. We also hope you subscribe to the new journal masculinites, described later in this newsletter.
Some men’s groups in Norway are attempting to make the seventh of October into a “national men’s day”. This year “The Men’s Committee of -88" led by psychologist Bjørn Blumenthal, artist Arne Bendik Sjur, and others, will arrange a celebration at a cafe in Oslo, under the somewhat untranslable motto ”Mann er mann best" - meaning, roughly, men are best for men, a spinaround of the old saying that women are worst for woman (“kvinne er kvinne verst”).
Men best for men?
Men are best for men? Support from other men? Well, yes, sometimes. But why do we always have to have these associations - “best”, “better”? In order to help men who has experienced a lot of adversity, which seems a main content of the evening’s programme, per se highly applaudable?
Does he have to be higher than the rest, socially speaking, this man of ours, in order to stand on his two good feet? For this “motto of the day” is not a slip of the pen, or an insignificant detail, rather I think it illustrates the that we’re still in the lower hills of a long climb. And in that perspective, whatever we think of the successes or failures of men’s groups seems less significant than the fact that for each man who openly tries to do something about being a man, there are quite a crowd who do not. Perhaps, for all men, we need a discussion of the “coming out process” which the gays, especially, have had. “Learn to come out as a man”. Yet not in the sense of being better or best. There is a tendency, in Norway as elsewhere, to put in a dose of male mysticism when men’s group are organised, and I think we would do better without it.
Disney’s Duckburg has been noted for its lack of parental relation
ships. Donald is an uncle and a nephew, and generally people are “familiarised” in this roundabout way; direct links to fathers, mothers and children have been missing.
It is somewhat symbolic, therefore, that the Disney company has now introduced a series with explicit parental focus, with the figure of the “participating father” in the centre. It is also symbolic that this role is given to that incarnate character of the people, Goofy, Mickey’s companion, who in the thirties represented the proletarian tramp, and was later put in a variety of half-naive and half would-be-superman roles. The new Goofy has a son, called no less than Max, the two living on their own; they are contrasted with an updated version of Black Pete, now also with a son, yet as tyrannical and aggressive as always (only now he has got “the nerves” also). So while the fatherhoods are compared and the fathers quarrel, the sons become friends.
Juan Impallari at the Kinsey Instituto de Sexologica in Rosario, Argentina, writes:
“In our institution, there are two men’s groups. The first is 3 years old. We wish to continue to continue to stay in contact with you. As for the newsletter name, we propose Gender Alliance News.
We are in contact with other men’s groups in Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia. Yet we are working on other matters with women’s groups, for example relating to the reform of the constitution of Argentina. So long - a hug."
Thank you! We apologize for not responding more quickly. I am sure other readers of our newsletter would be interesting in hearing more of the situation in Argentina, and also from the other men’s groups you mentioned. As for “Gender Alliance News” I am not quite sure, it seems a bit too unspecific, even if I wholly support the idea
IASOM now also has a Brasilian member - the psychologist Socrates Alvares Nolasco, who has written several books on masculinity, like Omito da masculinidade, published in Rio de Janeiro in 1993.
Nolasco, like several others, are interested in English language publication possibilities. This is something I think IASOM should look into especially, and all proposals in this respect are welcomed. Personally I am quite sure much of what is written in other languages - and perhaps especially from southern countries - would be more interesting reading than the usual north-western stuff we read.
“I would like to work with men in Russia”
The American psychologist Ken Byers has joined IASOM. Ken describes himself as a social psycholgist and behaviorist; he has written the books Men in Transition (1990) and Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? (1993). He also writes that he has a “very strong interest in working with men in Russia. I have done some work there and would like to do more." This is certainly an important area; the present situation is very difficult for many men and women in Russia, and we all know there are some alarming political tendencies there. At the moment, however, IASOM has no Russian contacts. We hope readers will help us with names and adresses!
Byers thinks there are 20 to 30.000 people interested or part-time engaged in our field in the US, “if one counts seminars, workshops, etc.”
Tim Rohrmann, a Germany (Braunschweig) psychologist, was in Norway this summer, meeting some of the Network people here. Rohrmann writes that he will not join IASOM as a personal member but rather wait till the German Network for studies of men has been started, which will be a member of IASOM. Tim also, very helpfully, has included a list of other people in Germany who may be interested.
I think I can speak for all the three Nordic networks saying that a German network or organisation is very important, so I hope you get it going. Even if there are differences of opinion (as should be!), it should be possible to find a broad common platform. “I support the way you present IASOM as an open platform”, he writes, “I totally agree with you that disagreements about labels should not split our efforts”. Tim also writes of a new German men’s issues journal, Moritz, coming in October. We wish you all luck with your work.
The male “I”
Also from Germany, Stefanie v. Schnurbein (The Scandinavian Seminar at the University of Göttingen, D-37073 Göttingen) writes that she wants to know more of IASOM. Stefanie is doing a thesis (in literary science) on “Literature and male identity - conceptions of masculinity in Scandinavian I-novels (Ich-Roman) since the turn of the century”, inspired by men’s studies as well as feminist theory, and she also very much wants to get in contact with others interested in this field. She has also written on religion as cultural critique, on secret cultic male societies in Germanic traditions, and other themes. - We do have other members who may share these interests; as mentioned we’ll try to publish a members adresses and interests list in the next newsletter. (In the meanwhile you can contact Stephanie directly.)
Michael Flood, Australia, has joined IASOM; Michael is the coordinating editor of the quarterly journal XY: men, sex, politics. XY “affirms a healthy, life-loving and non-oppressive masculinity and supports men’s networks in Austalia”; it is “male-positive, pro-feminist and gay-affirmative”. I find this a very interesting magasine, not least for its grassroot contacts and reports. It is available for 28 Australian dollars (seamail, 40 by air) yearly from POB 26, Ainslie ACT 2602 Australia (fax -06-247-9501). Michael is doing a Ph.D. on masculine sexuality and HIV/AIDS, and has also compiled a listing of relevant publications in our field with no less than 2000 titles! We welcome Michael as a member, and yes, we would like to see the “short version” Australian publications list (if possibly on a diskette) to be included in this Newsletter. (This goes for other countries also).
Psychoterapist G. N. During, Burnum, Netherlands, wants to get in contact with IASOM; During describes himself as a family therapist who is very active on gender issues, now starting a permanent work-group with male and female colleagues on this theme.
Luis Bonino, a psychiatrist working in Madrid, has joined IASOM as our first Spanish member. Luis wants to explore “strategies for increasing men’s parental and domestic responsibility” as well as the construction of men’s subjectivity and men’s use of power in everyday life. He also writes, considering the situation in his own country, of “machismo in everyday life” as a focal area. At this point I have a small digression. As a Norwegian, I am a bit confused about the use of the terms “macho” and “machismo”. These terms are often used negatively in the current debate, but I have also heard Latin people argue that this negative meaning is an attribution made by dominant white culture (this was said, for example, by a Latin US speaker at the M&M conference in San Fransisco last year). Perhaps some of you who are better oriented would care to clear up this confusion, with a short note in the newsletter?
Some short ones: David Whittier, Atlanta, US, wants to be on our mailing list; so does Blye W. Frank at the Mount Saint Vincent University, also in the US.
Mikael Carleheden who is doing a Ph. D. at the Sociology institute at the University of Lund, Sweden, has also joined. Carleheden is interested in social theory and has written on the forms of freedom and on the relationship between Marx and Habermas. As regards IASOM’s field, he is interested in male gender identity.
Associate professor Nils Mortenssen at the department of political science at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, wants to be on our contacts list, and would like to participate in an international study “comparing masculinities in different cultures”.
Last but not least we even got at new NORWEGIAN member through the mail (in Bergen, that is, which is sometimes conceived as a separate state) – Petter Ingebrigtsen, psychologist, who wants to join a therapeutic issues group. It must be admitted that we know Petter from before (this is a small country); he has worked, among other things, with the “toughness syndrome” of the divers in North Sea oil production.
On behalf of the IASOM coordination committee, I want to welcome to you all, and I hope IASOM will turn out to be of real help for you.
Finnish network planned
According to a representative of Finland’s equal status authorities, a network for research on men similar to the ones in Denmark, Norway and Sweden is now being planned in Finland. We applaud this initiative and hope to return with more news in the next newsletter issue.
“Labour of Love”
An anthology of Norwegian work life and family studies called Labour of Love, edited by Tordis Borchgrevink and Øystein Gullvåg Holter, will be published shortly by the UK publisher Avebury. The five contributions in the book are primarily theoretical essays venturing into the symbolic landscape of gender, with four social anthropologists and one sociologist writing. They are based on the tradition of participative and action-oriented studies of work and family interconnections carried out by the Work Research Institute in Oslo.
More on the UN conference on men proposal
In the last issue we told of a recent initiative in the Nordic countries to discuss and plan a future UN conference on men’s roles, an initiative stemming from women in the peace movement here. This initiative has now been taken some steps further. At the huge Nordic women’s conference in Åbo, Finland, this summer, Eva Moberg and Berit Ås convened 250 people to discuss the project “UN conference - the changing male role”. The Swedish minister Bengt Westerberg argued in favour of the plan at a press conference the same day, and it has been decided that one of the two priority areas for the Nordic Council of Ministers regarding gender equality work in 1995 should be the male role.
It seems things are now changing fairly rapidly in this area. For example, as UNESCO is announcing a conference in the spring with the title WOMEN AND THE CULTURE OF PEACE, quite a lot of people are asking if it isn’t high time we started discussing MEN and the culture of peace. This is where we really need the effort!
IASOM has already stated its support for the plan for a UN conference. However, to realise it, the initiators need all the practical support they can get - and not just in the Nordic countries. We therefore ask IASOM members to take contact directly, so as to create planning groups or similar in their own countries. You can contact Trine Eklund, Munkengveien 1, 0376 Oslo, Norway (-47-22-14-30-62), or Eva Moberg, Heleneborgsgatan 5a, 11731 Stockholm (-46-8-84-99-89). In this forum, I don’t think I need remind you readers about the importance of this project, also regarding our field of research.
New Norwegian gender equal status survey
A mini-survey comprising 18 questions posted on one of the main opinion poll institutes’ “omnibuses” in April this year disclosed some new, some interesting, and also some alarming tendencies. More people than ever believe equal status has been achieved in this country, and 63 percent now agree “gender equality politics has now gone far enough”. 31 percent disagree, only 12 percent strongly (7 don’t know). The 63 percent agreement is up 1 percent from 1989. Some figures imply a similar standstill. A backlash tendency seems to appear also - on some of the more specific questions, like agreeing to the statement “Women are more fit than men to care for children”, which got 55 percent yes, 43 no, as against 44 yes and 53 no in 1989.
In Norwegian homes, the attempt to balance the workload seems, at best, at a standstill; in actual numbers the percentage of equal households has gone down from 32 to 24 as measured by meal preparation (women’s reports; she does 50 percent or less). The tendency seems similar, though less marked, in carework.
Back to the kitchen –or rising standards?
We don’t know, yet, the influence of real setbacks and rising standards in these figures. Rising standards would tend to diminish the perceived male contribution, or make a contribution that actually has increased, look as small as before. Women, in this view, is becoming less willing to put men in anything more than the “helper role” unless they really are.
Similarily, there are alternative explanations for the “women better fit” question, relating to the portrait of men and children in the media focusing on some large abuse cases especially. This seems relevant since both women and men are clearly more positive towards men as judged concretely, themselves or the other, than as judged abstractedly, through media etc. filtering. So while a woman may say men in the abstract are less well fit than women for children, she would still want him more around to care for her children. There is now a tiny majority for equal custody for children as a principle - the children should live with both mam and dad fairly equally. Even among women, who stand to “lose” here, more than one third supported this alternative. Among the 80 percent making up their mind on this hypothetical question, where should the children live if you had children and were divorced, 51 pct supported equal curstody. These 51 were composed of a 37 percent support among the women, the rest from men; among women the main alternative is still “they should live with me”, but it is down to 62 percent.
Gender equality is fine - as long as it relates to care. If it doesn’t, it isn’t.
The real morale of the survey seems more like a reorientation than a backlash. There is an amazing support for any care-related question. Gender equality is fine - as long as it has to do with care. If it hasn’t, it isn’t. This seems a fair summary, and it makes a massive majority of women, and also a fair part of the men, agree in various proposals that, for many men at least, would not gain their individual self-interest in the short run. Wage earners agree non-wage care work should count for more in selection for wage jobs. Non-carers agree carework should count as of major importance in child custody cases. It is as if just saying “care” brings the magic wand.
Some numbers: Only 5 percent of men in relationships say their partner’s job affects their relationship negatively, and only 6 among women. Talking about jobs is important, we know from other studies. 11 percent say the economy affects it negatively, men slightly more often than women. Even in the low-income (below 160.000 NOK, ca. $ 22.000 yearly wage) group no more than 19 percent will admit to a partial or very negative influence - discerning, perhaps, some of the corporate spirit of the Scandinavian “folk-hem’s”, the cap in the hand attitude. Certainly you’re worse-off in this category in Norway today, but then again, one shouldn’t be materialistic.
On a question about the balance of jobs in the marriage or (cohabitational) relationship, a similar small percentage, 14, were willing to say their partner’s job took most of the attention, 8 percent men and 20 women. These figures reflect the white noise which is the result of the “quick structured interview” approach of most surveys, low qualifications of interviewers, partners listening in, etc., we know perfectly well this percentage is higher if you sit down to talk to people. Yet there is a trend, I think, in this survey towards greater job balance, at least a greater perceived balance, but some reality also. This concords with wage statistics showing how women’s household budget contribution has gradually risen.
A question on power in the relationship showed only 5 percent of women and 7 percent of the men “often” felt the other was the one who decided - while 27 percent women and 31 percent men felt so “sometimes”. Not a too telling fact, perhaps; rather this shows the troubles with going off measuring power as if it walked around with a sign telling what it is. It is like asking “Do you stand by peace, truth and justice”, “yes, no, maybe?” So answering negatively to a question of power in the relatio ship may belong to the same class of honourable statements. Why of course we’re not into domination, one-sided decision-making, we’re equal, or close to it, ever trying!
According to a new study of wage development made by researchers Marit Hoel and Nille Lauvås, the gender gap in wages has not decreased during the last couple of years. Instead “leaders are receiving more, while ordinary employees recieve less, and women get less than men”. While women in the top and middle job categories have had a positive development, men are favoured in the lower category. Also, the technical sector with a majority of men “generally get much from the wage negotiations while the service sector where the women are in the majority gets less”. Hoel and Lauvaas also find that men’s wage increases are often legitimised as individual bonuses etc., while women more often get theirs as an undefined group. (Likelønn 7,1994:8).
Backlash or new horizons?
In July, the Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Centre at the University of Bielefeld, Germany, sponsored an international conference on the future of feminist theory and gender studies and the current backlash tendencies. This was a highly successful conference showing a broad variety of approaches as well as common issues and concerns. From a studies of men point of view, the interest in this field, the attempts to nuance feminist theorising of men, and the emphasis on dialogue and communication were especially encouraging.
Some main themes emerged. Allthough postmodernism has been useful as a way of extending the critique of “metanarratives” and power relations in society and in social science itself, there is an increasing scepsis towards some aspects of postmodernism, including depolitisation and the ‘flight into text’. This went hand in hand with an increasing emphasis on ‘modernist’ research in the old-fashioned sense of empirical studies as well as middle range and broad range (even “grand”) theorising. Among many contributions in this direction, R. W. Connell’s model of patriarchal development and Sylvia Walby’s proposal for comparative international studies of patriarchy may be mentioned.
If sociology in the eighties has been in danger of loosing its social consciousness, the contributions at this conference reflected a growing concern about regaining and redefining it. In one sense or the other, all contributions - ranging from Trude Knijn’s study of Netherlands family development to Jeff Hearn’s study of private relationship violence - focused on how to identify and change patriarchal structures, and create more egalitarian relationships. Personally I was impressed by the openness and self-critical attitude combined with a clear focus. Does an engaged and socially aware social science mean less internal nuancing and examination? Not at all, judging from these contributions; it is precisely the openly recognised link to social change that heightens the awareness of such issues.
Another encouraging tendency was an increased focus on men and masculinities research, not isolated but as part of a wider agenda. So, for example, the varied and contradictory character of men’s movements was discussed by many speakers, and there seemed to be an almost unanimous agreement that this field is of major importance to everyone concerned with greater gender equality. As is often the case in dialogue contexts, we witnessed a breakdown of preconceived and stereotyped positions, for example between “women’s” and “men’s” researchers - or simply between female and male participants - in favour of less predictable, less genderised and more fruitful discussions.
For IASOM members and contacts the conference gave a chance to meet informally as well as seminar and plenary discussions. For an organisation with limited means and opportunities to maintain international contacts, this was important, and on behalf of IASOM I want to thank the organisers for this support.
Some of the papers from the conference will probably be published in book form. If you want papers or other information you may contact Cristoph Armbruster or Ursula Müller at the Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Centre (Interdisziplinares FrauenforschungsZentrum), Universität Bielefeld, Pb. 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany (tel. +49 521 106 46 12, fax +502 106 5844).
All along the watchtower
Fat sucking - an easy way to the dream body? is how I translate a cover title on one of Norway’s ladies weeklies, Women and Clothes. A truly great question! So this is what we’ve come to, is it, after twenty years of women’s liberation?
As I browse through the magazine, it seems that ninety percent of its other stuff also talks about and advocates this kind of dreaminess, the dream body and the dream soul, the super woman who has it all. This is too much, I think. Take a look at the women’s magasines at your nearest newsstand. What do they propagate? Super woman, yet curiously asleep, a dream figure only?
The dream body is portrayed appropriatedly, a proprietary body, a body in a kind of shut-down but also perhaps please-come-home-open-me-up state, it is all very weird, I know these words don’t fit it, yet the sense of it does.
Why, with so much presumed equality, doesn’t this commodified state go away? Why is it even in getting stronger?
In the seventies, radical German sociologists wrote of “pre-lust” and how we wander about in the pre-grip of most things, since most things are in some way merchandisable, sellable. As market objects they are in principle shut off from use and active intervention, in a wait state before entering into a new property relationship where the object at last comes into its own. Since this aspect is gradually becoming more important, the psychic organisation of society was seen as changing also. The commodity which is “perceptually unperceivable”, there in a strange not-there sense, becomes the nexus of lusts also, a pre-sensation of everything. Yet these lusts relate to freedom also; they aren’t only something one “lives under” as the system critics of the seventies used to say.
We have no reification, we only sell dream bodies here
Some people seem to think gender and families shouldn’t be soiled by vile reification analysis, since that line of thinking is masculinistic in the bad sense, economistic, or simply too difficult. I don’t know. The way I hear it, is more like “We have no reification, we only sell dream bodies here”.
So what is this year’s shape?
In Women and Clothes, besides the question if fat sucking will create the dream body, there is also a generous picturing of dream bodies stanced this way and that. monetary gestures, since whatever the point it should be a selling point. This is the curious restless emptiness of it. To me, the woman on the cover looks like a curious mixture of a mother and a doll, yet she is obviously posed as the ideal 24 year woman, and this is what she is, also, just a young, healthy-looking woman, but this is the place of the nonplaced, attraction politics, something entirely distinct from the woman as a person, yet using her and making her into feminine value incarnate. In our innocence, as public, we witness the beauty smiling, a new version each week, this week holding flowers; to me she seems a bit Scottish almost, like holding on to your money, tweed is in, yet she has her legs spread, wide, motherly — reproductionism incarnate? Beget, so as not to be forgotten? As in men’s magazines, there is so much fuss about being “gender” and being “self” that it makes one wonder if the two are in fact incompatible or nearly so.
So what, in men’s world, does this trend of the women’s reflect? In other contexts I have written on how the value of the one is reflected in the use value of the other, men’s world expressed in women’s bodies, women’s work in men’s selfhoods, the ego problem as they say — yet this remains a hazy area, for we are also in some senses “other” to ourselves. What is clear is how the magasines are out hunting for better selves, improved selves, newer, brighter, more truly personal, extending into dreamselves and dreambodies, with the implicit message of how the nobody can aspire to be a somebody.
We cannot just say men’s view of women is reactionary, while women constantly fill femininity with a potentially more progressive content
So here we have “gender”, gender applied, as it were, to the objective, the material, muscles or not muscles, fat or not fat, getting the right forms and shapes. Who makes this world? Women? Men? Sometimes it seems as if the form of gender in women relates to hidden contents in men’s lives, the backyards, the unstated terrain - while the contents of it seems more straightaway connected to women’s own lives, like rising employment and related self-assertiveness. Men seem to pre-select traditional feminity in the gender market, but this remains under-studied. Probably tendencies among men like a greater need for a more egalitarian partner have helped engender a relative “masculinisation”of women, compared to fifties ideals. So we cannot just say men’s view of women is reactionary, while women constantly fill femininity with a potentially more progressive content, even if there may be some truth to it. Too much, to my mind, is made of the so-called “immediate lived experience” It sometimes reminds me of the presumed jungle experience leading to blacks being so naturally rythmic and musical - as was thought by many enlightened liberals in the early part of our century. The masters through history have had their ways of overcoming this kind of “immediate” determination. Whites can’t dance, no, and this is their great pre, they aren’t concretely determined. Woman is specific, man is abstract. Reify and you no longer need the overt rule.
Through history men and women have contributed into making each other’s identities, including their gender-related aspects. Yet to my mind the “gender identification” of modern society is in many ways a special case, primarily because it is entangled with economic relations, notions of individuality, privacy, adulthood and so on that are specific to our age. Value does weird things to “gender” as well as any other specific trait, since it puts the specific or particular across not on its own but as the form of itself. So earch man becomes a more or less succesful carrier of The Man, the ideal, and each woman of The Woman. The mysterious character of this transformation was described by Marx in terms of the generic Animal, as if this animal itself appeared, telling all the animals - you, in your concreteness, are just subcases of me, the abstract Animal, the Animal of rule (cf. Lucien Colletti, Hegel and Marx). This seems like a basic case of what Dorothy Smith calls a “conceptual practice of power”, and the gender system is impregnated with it.
One last note. – In the magazine, the mother-child-woman portrayed is thin as women, once more, should be. We are now witnessing a shift from the “O” accumulative body to the “X” consumptive body, from the wide trousers and generously huge clothes back to the tightfitting early seventies style - or this shift has been attempted for some years now. What does it signify? There is the old story of the stock market index and the ladies’ naked leg length. The better the former, the higher the latter. The last time we saw the “X” body fashion was in the late sixties and early seventies, when it was connected to radical liberalism as well as extended consumerism. At the end of the seventies, the “O” form took over, associated with economic stagnation and the need for restructuring and new accumulation. Certainly this is a speculation, but to my knowledge we don’t have much in the way of alternative theories in this area. And the accumulation/consumption cyclus seems to hold true just like the leg lenght/stock index correlation. It seems, therefore, that major trends in production, technology and economy - or broadly speaking in ‘men’s world’ - do in fact appear not where we would straightaway expect them, as traits of men, but rather as traits of women. There is a cross-over process.
This gives food for thought. We’re so used to thinking of gender as “our own” that we tend to dismiss this kind of evidence. So what if this gender isn’t primarily “my own”? What if my masculinity primarily is a product of women, or a reflection of women’s lives - while vice versa femininities express conditions in men’s world? Such cross-over processes are probably not parallell. Whatever we think of this, it becomes fairly obvious that “studies of men” or “women’s studies” cannot be seen as isolated fields of research, even if the focus is different; creating gender is a mutual project and so is the process of changing it.
Øystein Gullvåg Holter
The name of the child...
In Norway as elsewhere there is currently a discussion about the name of the research field(s) related to gender equality. Especially, there is a split between those who want to retain the name “women’s studies” and those who prefer “gender studies”. There is also a question whether studies of men should be organised as part of the “gender” umbrella or as a subject on its own. Judging from recent developments in Norway and elsewhere, “gender studies” seems to be the designation with the best potential in terms of funding.
As an organisation, IASOM has no particular policy on these naming issues. The research and funding contexts differ in different countries. IASOM advocates studies of men with egalitarian, pro-feminist, critical or anti-patriarchal perspectives.
Masculinity as spontaneous amnesia
The terms used for this perspective also differs between different traditions, even if the broad meaning is the same. This research may be organised in various ways, and we do not believe the naming of the field is the decisive factor, even if it may be important as a signal of the current political climate.
What we do know, is that the subject of men as men in various ways tend to disappear from the research agenda, in a kind of spontaneous amnesia regarding men’s gender, while on the other hand there is a broad agreement that women should be given the gender treatment almost whereever they are. In practice, “gender” still is mostly seen as a women’s question and a women’s problem. This is one major background reason why separate organisations like IASOM, focusing specifically on men, are important.