Masculinities 101

The following is an excerpt taken from Gary Barker’s remarks on Engaging Men and Boys at the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence. Later this month, I’ll be posting my interview with Gary Barker regarding his work and the work of his organization, Promundo. In the meantime, enjoy this thought-provoking excerpt and check out the link below to watch his talk in its entirety – David

As we’ve been talking about Masculinities and doing research about it, these are some of the key points for us. One – that we’re talking about understanding men not as a monolithic, one-size-fits-all way of understanding what men are, but that there’s multiplicities out there. And these multiplicities don’t mean that some men are tall and some men are short and some like blue and some like yellow. That there are different ways of being men. There are different categories of being men that hold more power than other categories of men. And that those power dynamics are the important things to understand both in terms of men’s lives as they interact with women, but also men’s lives as they interact with other men. We understand these versions, these ways of being men are constructed collectively in a number of social institutions from the household in the family to school to the workplace to community level to sports, etc., etc. And I suppose if there’s any single universal that we hear as we listen to men around the world, it’s this equation of being men and being adult men with being providers and having work. And we know all kinds of things and I’ll talk more about what happens when men don’t have as much work or as much income as they think they should. We understand that as we look around the world the rigidity around what it means to be men too often brings costs in the lives of men themselves and certainly in the lives of women that we see far too often…

…Too often our research makes it look like we focus the spotlight on a group of men in a given setting and we say men there are like this. And they look like frozen pictures in many ways. It looks like the men are like that, they will be like that always, and there’s nothing much that can be done. Kind of a frozen picture of what men are as opposed to understanding men in the dynamic nature of their lives – of what it means to be men changing over the life cycle, changing in cultural moment, changing in historical moment. And that if we can figure out ways that our programs can understand that on-going sense of change, the tensions around being men, and not trying to sort of place men in these boxes, because those boxes are actually part of the problem after all.

I think ultimately a piece that we don’t talk about a lot as we talk about patriarchy in a structure that gives men more power collectively over women, we don’t often talk about or talk about as much the fact that patriarchy also creates huge power dynamics within men’s lives. That some men have more power than others. And particularly the men that we’re mostly working with in the Global South do not perceive themselves as powerful even though we know that on paper in lots of different ways, more than paper, they do hold more power than the women in their lives. But to understand that where the men as we hold that view of them, they often don’t have that view of their own lives. And to understand that sense of powerlessness that many men feel particularly in the Global South, particularly low-income men. That that sense of frustration, of feeling less power than other groups of more powerful men is often what drives a lot of men’s use of violence and a lot of the negative behaviors that we’re very much trying to change. So, that’s my Masculinities 101…

Watch the Full Lecture 

Read my interview with Gary Barker

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