Male students on campus
Masculinity articles this month have been Trump, Trump, Trump. As a reminder, when cataloguing masculinity by stage in these news round-ups, the general principle has been not to include articles that are in large part the same as articles that have come before. So back in January, I listed an article about masculinity and Donald Trump, but have not done so since. Little new has been said about Trump and masculinity since then, but the articles keep on coming. But I do not include them below.
Instead, the subject that has been highlighted this month is the discussion of problematic aspects of masculinity on university campuses. This started at the end of last month with the publication of an article, Duke Offers Men a ‘Safe Space’ to Contemplate Their ‘Toxic Masculinity’. This was re-reported many times throughout October, often critically. A similar story At the University of Redlands, Guys Meet to Parse What it Means to be Men swiftly followed. In Australia a story unfolded with news of a course about male privilege due to be rolled out in schools.
These are classic Stage 3 efforts, particularly when they manifest under the auspices of women’s initiatives on campus. It’s very important to discuss the issue of masculinity on campuses, but it requires a delicate balance. Certainly, young men need to be made aware of how certain masculine performances are oppressive to women and are ethically (and sometimes legally) unacceptable. However, if conversations about men are framed primarily by the wellbeing of women, the balance has been missed. Such initiatives need to give equal weight to the wellbeing of men. There could even be an argument for such initiatives to be primarily about the wellbeing of men as this would attract more men due to the natural priority given to self-interest, with a hope/expectation that when men have learned to be kinder to themselves they will in turn be kinder to women.
Further still, such unbalanced efforts may even prove counter-productive. One article this month that was widely shared by Stage 2 advocates was about a student “forced” to watch the documentary The Mask You Live In. The danger here is that such initiatives could radicalize students into a position of reactionary masculinity, in much the same way that counter-terrorism initiatives have a habit of creating terrorists. Again, do not hear me say that conversations about problematic forms of masculinity are unnecessary: we simply have to get the tone and balance right.
Peering into my crystal ball I have written a new article, What Does the Future Hold for Masculinity? This article identifies three focal points for masculinity in the near future. At Stage 2 there is the connection between masculinity and populism, along with an increase of MGTOW and sex technologies. At the same time, at Stage 4 is the increase of queer masculinities. I suggest this will result in a situation of increasing extremes: extreme regressive and extreme progressive, which may leave many people in the middle forced to choose a side that they are not comfortable with. Of course, if we can all just learn to listen to each other better, we can prevent this from happening.
Masculinity Offset Credits
I’ve written the first in an occasional series of “moonshot ideas” that propose large high-level solutions to the “problem” of masculinity. In this article I borrow from the logic of carbon credits and propose a scheme called Masculinity Offset Credits. The article was recently published in the ethical investing magazine, Blue & Green Tomorrow.
There are two purposes to this article. First, I believe it would be beneficial to start framing masculinity as a sustainability issue, as this takes some of the heat out of antagonistic gender politics, and makes it clear that changing masculinity is for the benefit of both women and men. Second, the proposed scheme provides a much-needed way to finance initiatives that provide solutions to the sustainability problem caused by masculinity: lack of funding is a serious obstacle for people who wish to make anything happen around the subject of masculinity.
If you or someone you know has experience developing financial products and services and want to explore the viability of such a scheme, please do feel free to get in touch to start a conversation.
The Five Stages of Masculinity: Academic Write-up
An extended and fully referenced version of The Five Stages of Masculinity was published this month, providing a peer-reviewed account of the model for the academic domain.
Suggested citation: Gelfer, J. (2016). The Five Stages of Masculinity: A New Model for Understanding Masculinities. Masculinities and Social Change 5(3): 268-294 (pdf article link).
Abstract: The article uses the so-called “crisis of masculinity” as a jumping-off point for proposing a new model for understanding masculinities called the Five Stages of Masculinity. The five stages outlined in the article are: Stage 1, Unconscious Masculinity; Stage 2, Conscious Masculinity; Stage 3, Critical Masculinities; Stage 4, Multiple Masculinities; Stage 5, Beyond Masculinities. A content analysis of news and magazine articles is provided to give some initial indication as to the proportion of public conversations taking place at each stage. The article concludes by discussing the implications of the Five Stages of Masculinity for the study of men and masculinities, as well as some new thoughts on the nature of the crisis of masculinity via a mobilization of Giorgio Agamben’s concept of the “state of exception.”