Tuesday, February 2, 2010

These folks may be on to something

It would seem that there are those in the scholarly community that have decided to hold a symposium on the state of men and boys this coming April 7.

I have to say I like the idea.

A lot of the time when people want to speak on the lives of men all that is brought up the negative. Well that in and of itself would not be a problem. The problem is that when such things are brought its usually in the context of blaming men, holding them responsible for things that are beyond them, and venting anger. Not very often do you actually hear about how to actually address these issues beyond shouting that men are bad, are the reason the family is breaking down, etc.... In short some real analysis is in order and this might be the place for it.

Unlike other sources that focus only on the harm that men do and totally ignoring the harm dome to men when it suits them this symposium may actually succeed where others fail:
It will encompass a broad range of topics relevant to the study of boys and men in contemporary society ranging from their roles in the family and workforce, as well as their physical and emotional health, to the growing problem of misandry—the hatred of males, an unacknowledged but underlying socio-cultural, economic, political and legal phenomenon endangering the well-being of both genders.

I think it would be interesting to actually take a look at the state of being male beyond. Yeah people can say that being male is the default and therefore we know everything about them but at the same time things are lost in this. However while I would like to see a more serious look at things such as misandry, the performance of boys in school, and the unfair gender based expectations imposed on men this symposium appears to not be free of flaws.
Is Male Studies essentialist?

One fundamental question of Male Studies is whether there are essential features of being male. Having a male body is clearly one of them. Male Studies raises the question of whether there are other fundamental features of being male such as an inner experience of being male.

I have a bit of a problem with this. Now it is possible that the meaning behind this is to convey that having a male body is essential to fully knowing the male experience. This would make sense given that for the most part the gender expectations heaped on males and females stem from the bodies we start off with. Me and my male body (and I mean this in the biological sense) are expected partake in such things as having a wreckless sex life, work insane hours, and take violence against women more seriously than violence against men (and conversely those who have female bodies have their own sets of expectations that come into play). So at face value this paragraph could just be saying that in order to understand being male one must have a male body and thus have to face the expectations I mentioned above (and many more) that come with it.

However I can see where this could very easily be taken to mean that only those with male bodies (as defined by biology) can identify as male. I don't really agree with this notion. While I did say above that having a male body brings the full brunt of being male in this world it would be unfair to say that having a male body is a requirement for being being male. There are plenty of people out there that have what would biology call a female body but act, speak, dress, and otherwise perform in a manner that would be classified as male. Yeah they may not have the bodies that would subject them to the full experience of being male but that should not exclude them from being male if they wish.

I've sent an email about this issue to the address listed on the site but have yet to get a reply but when/if I do I will be sure to do a followup post.

All in all if this symposium opens up some real discussion on being male in this world I'll be very grateful.


Paul Elam said...

You can attend the symposium on male studies onlline. The cost is just $15.00 go to malestudies.org

Danny said...

Oh I know I could but I will be at work at that time and streaming content is blocked at my job. That's why I hope it will be recorded somehow.