Men's Studies Association: 18th Annual Meeting

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August 4, 2006 – Ramapo College, Mahwah, New Jersey

Nonexistent Knights: Men’s Situational Gender Practices in Campus Anti-Rape Organizing

Michael Messina-Yauchzy, Ph.D., Keuka College, Keuka Park, NY

ABSTRACT -Through both feminist organizing and media magnification, issues of rape grew to a peak of attention on college campuses during the 1980s and 1990s.  Anti-rape activists sought both to shape institutional prevention and response and also to reduce rape by affecting student culture and men’s behavior.  This paper is from my study examining the rise of anti-rape activism on one northeastern United States university campus in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Based on three years of participant observation and in-depth interviewing, it focuses on a student movement organization (“HEAR-US!”) that involved both women and men and that gained strong ownership of the rape issue.  Begun as a loosely-structured pressure-group, HEAR-US! was transformed over time into a formally structured club within the student-organization culture, dividing its attention between policy activism and promoting rape awareness.  HEAR-US! activists won widespread acknowledgement for pressuring the university to establish a Rape Center, for influencing policy, and for sustaining attention to rape as a campus issue for several years.  In the group’s public activities, both women and men promoted gender equality and opposed sexism as the cultural and structural context of rape.  The present paper focuses on men’s participation.

Men in HEAR-US co-facilitated numerous anti-rape programs with women; spoke out against rape at public rallies; critiqued their own and other men’s behaviors regarding sexual consent; wrote thoughtful essays and letters published in various campus periodicals; acted as liaisons to fraternities, residential units, and other organizations for outreach and coordination; argued for better University rape preventive policies and facilities; and carried out a myriad of organizational tasks—from making signs to taking minutes and preparing budget proposals.  In one-to-one and program contexts, they gave support and encouragement to women who told their stories as survivors of rape.  They challenged homophobia, rape myths, and racism.  They spoke as guests in public schools.  Their public work on behalf of the anti-rape cause was often diligent, well informed, thoughtful, and articulate. But, simultaneously, in-house conflict grew over male organizational dominance, hierarchical authority, and behaviors claimed to silence and re-victimize women.  In the organizational context of HEAR-US, men's dominating practices and unwillingness to accept critique in an ongoing and open process alienated key female participants, led these women to resign or be expelled from the organization, and set the stage for ongoing conflict over men's participation.  [WHY DID THE MEN DO THIS?]  This undermined the credibility of the organization with some potential allies as well as hindering the group’s growth, maintenance, goal achievement, and the development of individual participants’ strengths and competencies.

In the present paper, I discuss both contributions and problems of men's participation in “HEAR-US!,” utilizing the tradition of feminist social movement organization studies and both long-standing and recent theory on gender and masculinities as situated practice.  I examine why problems of non-reflexivity were disavowed by the crusading men in my study, making them, in a term borrowed from novelist Italo Calvino, "nonexistent knights."  Finally, I offer prescriptive responses including a role for broader anti-sexist networks involving men.

Integrating Concepts of Masculinity and Spirituality in the Transition to Manhood—A New Zealand Study

Andrew Smith, Programme Leader, Counseling and Family Studies, Bethlehem Tertiary Institute, Tauranga, New Zealand

ABSTRACT - The literature identifies an historical lack of, but recent increase in research that integrates masculinity and spirituality. The lack is even more apparent when viewed from the perspective of the experience and insights of adolescents transitioning to manhood.

In a recently submitted doctoral thesis exploring spirituality and the transition to manhood, triads of son, father and paternal grandfather were interviewed on a one-to-one basis. Participants discussed their experiences and opinions around understandings of masculinity, how transition happens, and where faith and faith-communities fit in that transition process. This paper reports selectively on the findings from the interviews with the sons in relation to the integration of masculinity and spirituality.

The sons consistently described their sense of masculinity in terms of character traits such as responsibility and integrity. These traits were not apparently linked to traditional male roles. They were, however, arising from a deep-seated ‘inner-knowing’ of their own manhood. This inner-knowing sits alongside an ambivalence, expressed in the interviews, concerning when, if ever, mature manhood is achieved. The strength of inner-knowing also co-exists with difficulty in articulating differences between masculinity and femininity. Participants also reported a strong sense of connection between their sense of gender and their personal faith. Despite the centrality of faith, they were consistent in viewing their experience of involvement in a faith-community as having little contribution to their own transition to manhood.

A number of considerations arise from these finding. Firstly, they demonstrate a willingness on the part of the young males to break away from cultural stereotypes. Secondly, they provoke reconsideration of post-structural views on the construction of masculinity. A three-dimensional way of viewing masculinity is discussed in the paper. Thirdly, they appear to reflect the contemporary egalitarian environment that breaks down the gender divide. Lastly, they challenge faith-communities to review their role in relation to boys and young men.

The paper concludes with a consideration of the implications for the ways in which transition to manhood might be supported by individuals and communities.

The Closet Freak: An Examination of Black Masculinity in Hip Hop

Derrick L. Williams, Ph.D. student, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL. Mentoring Specialist, Southern Illinois Regional Social Services

ABSTRACT - In the hyper masculine arena of Hip Hop the notion of women as sexual objects, violence, and materialism has become common occurrences.  The often violent and misogynist nature of Hip Hop leaves little space for alternative models of masculinity outside of the white capitalist patriarchy paradigm.  An Atlanta-based Hip Hop artist that goes by the name of Cee-Lo Green is currently challenging the dominant normative practice of sexism in Hip Hop by presenting new possibilities of black masculinity.  Beat writers and journalist have scrambled to find an appropriate title for Green’s music and craftsmanship as an emcee, singer, poet, and philosopher.  Using words as “alternative” to describe his stylistic approach, Green finds solace in moving fluidly through the web of socially constructed identity markers while simultaneously investigating notions of black masculinity.  In mainstream rap music image is everything, it can be the major driving point for an artist to sell millions of units.  The rap music industry is keenly aware of this important factor, so therefore, it is imperative for record companies to sell an artist’s image instead of his or her skills as a musician.  This is apparently clear with mainstream rap artists who share common themes within their musical styles and choices.  The rap element of Hip Hop was built upon skillful craftsmanship which requires a command of language and word structure. When Hip Hop began in the 1970s emceeing was seen as a rare talent only practiced by a few chosen crafted individuals such as Coke La Rock, Busy Bee, Lisa Lee and Grand Master Caz.  These practitioners emceed the earliest Hip Hop block parties, so they were considered special and willed certain political power within the culture.  It was vital for the practitioners to be ordained by the Hip Hop community as emcees, now that premise has collapse.  The skillful craft has been manufactured as commodity by corporate America into a form of production.  Anyone who feels as if she or he can rap can now become a rapper without having to work at the craft of emceeing, because they no longer have to seek approval from the Hip Hop community.  With a large volume of artists who lack emceeing skills, the mainstream rap industry employs cleaver marketing schemes in efforts to assist rap artists in gaining street creditability, popularity, and validity.  One has to look no further than the current trends in mainstream rap music to see some common occurrences that take place.  It appears for the large part, to be popular in rap music one must be young, sexist, dangerous, and exciting.  This creates what is known as the “spectacle” a sort of diversionary tactic to mask or conceal the lack of lyrical skills.  As long as the audience is entertained and profit is made, by any means, imagery outweighs skills.  Selling black men as unintelligent thugs is a popular trend that appears to be embraced by mainstream society given artist and their listeners little space to explore other forms of masculinity.  Cee-Lo Green is an artist that constantly challenges the notion of traditional patriarchy and the monolithic trends of Hop Hip by writing songs that advocate for a new way of thinking about black masculinity.  In one song entitled Young Man Green writes, “Hey there young man why do you degrade your sister by calling them bitches and whores.  What if one day someone feels the same way about that daughter of yours?”  There are multiple examples of Green critiquing and questioning the masculine status of Hip Hop while simultaneously exposing his insecurities as an artist and man.  This research paper will investigate Cee-Lo Green’s body of artistic work to answer the question of how does Green’s music provide a space for reexamining masculinity in Hip Hop culture.  The research conducted will draw support from hooks’ plantation patriarchy, McCall’s readings on black masculinity, and Akbar’s black manhood concept.           
 
               
The Expression of Hegemonic Masculinity in College Fraternities

Amanda J. Finizio, M.A., Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

ABSTRACT - This presentation will be based on my research and work in college fraternities over the past year.   In the first part of my workshop I will present the concept of hegemonic masculinity and how young men often cope with such narrow guidelines for what it means to be a man by seeking membership in an all male, ‘hegemonically masculine’ organization such as a college fraternity or sports team.  Drawing on my research and transcripts, I will focus on three areas in which these men act out their masculinities: 1) through heavy consumption of alcohol, 2) acting as un-feminine as possible particularly in (avoidance of) emotional expression, and 3) using women as accessories of their masculinity whether through talk, behavior, flirtation, or even sexual assault.  I will frame my discussion around both the positive and negative consequences of seeking a masculine identity in such a narrowly defined all male space.  Positive consequences, as I found through my ethnographic research can be that men in fact feel validated in their masculinity and therefore feel more freedom in forming emotional bonds and creating support systems with their fraternity brothers.  Possible negative consequences are that such an all male hegemonic environment can provide support for what Peggy Reeves Sanday would term a ‘rape prone culture’, which has a myriad of negative effects on women as well as men.  Following my presentation I will hand out relevant statements from my informants as a common basis for group discussion and interpretation of my material and the topics at hand. I will not need any special equipment or considerations.