Men's Studies Association: 13th Annual Meeting

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July 20, 2001 – University of Denver, Denver, CO

Gay Stepfathers: Self-Perception of Their Role

Lisa Current, Colorado State University and Jerry Bigner, Ph.D., Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

ABSTRACT - The purpose of this phenomenological study is to explore the roles that gay stepfathers play in their families; how they define and developed these roles and what has influenced them in this process.  There are around 869,000 gay male stepparents in the U.S. who are helping to care for a partner’s children from a previous marriage (Bigner, 1999; Bryant and Demian, 1994; Kinsey, 1948, 1953; United States Census Bureau, 2000), yet this study will be the first one to take an in-depth look at gay stepfathers and one of the first that will specifically research the role. To participate in this study participants have to have been in a long-term committed relationship with their gay partner for at least 3 years, their partner has a child or children from a previous heterosexual relationship, his partner’s child/children live or lived with them part of the time, his partner and him have “come out” to the children, and his partner and him do not have children of our own (e.g., through adoption, surrogate, etc.).   Three participants have been interviewed thus far and they have resided in a couple of cities along the Front Range in Colorado, in Wyoming and the Bay Area in California.  Two more participants will be interviewed for the study for a total of 5 participants.  Information gleaned from this group of individuals will help shed light on a very marginalized group and provide some information that will aid therapists and agencies in providing them more effective treatment.
 
Enlightened Machismo: Self-Help for the Post-Asshole

Andrew Boyd, New York, New York

ABSTRACT - Enlightened Machismo is a work in progress. As an author, culture jammer, and social justice organizer, I have written three previous books including, "The Activist Cookbook," "Life's Little Deconstruction Book," and "Daily Afflictions." These works use plain talk and humor to engage people in an examination of and protest against some of the injustices that diminish our lives. 

A lifetime of participant observation in patriarchal society, a longitudinal study of my own narrative of masculinity, and anecdotal sociological data gleaned from a battery of informal interviews suggests a new book with the following premise: It's hard to be a man these days. Women want you to be sensitive--then call you a wimp.  The media paints you as a violent, sports-crazed, power-hungry, sex-obsessed, planet-destroying couch-potato--and then expects you to pack lunches for the kids.  Of course, you're confused.  The old ways of being a man--drive a toxic waste truck, refuse to eat quiche, have a really uptight sphincter--no longer work. While the new soft alternative looks a lot like an amateur woman in sandals.

Further reflection on this dilemma suggests the following remedy: You have to be enlightened AND macho.  You have to be a real real man--you have to be both responsible and dangerous, soft and hard, good and bad.  You have to be a mensch--but a mensch with an edge.  

Further analysis of electronically mediated contemporary social discourse suggests that the best strategy for implementing such a remedy and for building a counter-hegemonic men's movement that is both anti-sexist and offers a positive and empowered vision of masculinity is through a humorous advice book.  Such a book would show men how to make feminism work for them. Appealing to their self-interest, it would ask: Why feel like a victim any longer? Why let women harass and badger you into becoming a decent human being when you can do it yourself?  

I wrote this abstract in a playful and engaging way as befits its endeavor. I keenly welcome any feedback from colleagues regarding methodology, topic areas, resources, theoretical literature, etc.

 Intimacy and Patriarchy among Middle Eastern Men

 Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN

ABSTRACT - In some social contexts, patriarchy is accompanied (and reinforced) by competition and a fear of emotional/physical intimacy among men.  Men then usually depend upon women for their primary emotional support and relationships.  In others cultural contexts, such as the Middle East, patriarchy seems to be accompanied by close ties among men, including (a) primary emotional and friendship ties between men rather than between men and women, and (b) frequent and public physical touching and intimacy among men.  How can we explain this difference, and what does it tell us about what "men's issues" are in
different social and cultural contexts?  This paper is based on both the personal experiences of the presenter (while living in the Middle East August-December, 2000) and a review of relevant literature.

Beyond the ‘Backpack’ of Privilege: White Feminist Anti-racism Strategies

Karen R. Lozano, Ending Violence Against Women Project, Golden, CO

ABSTRACT - For many white activists, Peggy McIntosh’s essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” is an excellent introduction to the concept of racism and the ways that white people benefit from living in a racist society.  In her essay, McIntosh shares her personal experiences as she struggled to understand racism, and she invites readers to examine white privilege in our own lives.  In “Beyond the ‘Backpack’ of Privilege,” I begin my discussion where McIntosh’s ended, asking the question, “What will we do with such knowledge?”  Now that we are conscious of white privilege, how can we take actions to challenge racism?

In order to answer this question, I conducted an extensive analysis of writings in feminist theory, women’s history, philosophy, and social psychology.  I also participated in several campus antiracism protests, coalitions, and conferences.  These activities provided me with praxis against which to evaluate feminist antiracism theories.  In fact, examples of actual racial hate crimes that occurred at CU in 1998 are included in my discussion.  Based on this interdisciplinary research as well as my practical experience, I present a series of strategies for white feminist antiracism activism, arguing that white feminists must take responsibility for antiracism initiatives.

This paper is not Privilege 101.  It is about moving beyond our knowledge of privilege and working toward dismantling interpersonal and societal systems of injustice. The presentation is centrally focused on a feminist analysis of race/racism; issues specific to feminist/pro-feminist men will be addressed during group discussion.

The Matrix of Identity

David Greene, Ph.D., Ramapo College, Mahwah, NJ

ABSTRACT - In the introduction to Men’s Lives (2001), Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner tell us that, “In the contemporary United States, masculinity is constructed differently by class culture, by race and ethnicity, and by age. And each of these axes of masculinity modifies the others. Black masculinity differs from white masculinity, yet each of them is also further modified by class and age. A 30-year-old middle-class black man will have some things in common with a 30-year-old middle-class white man that he might not share with a 60-year-old working-class black man, although he will share with him elements of masculinity that are different from those of the white man of his class and age. The resulting matrix of masculinities is complicated by cross-cutting elements… .”

For quite some time now, it has seemed clear to me that my primary identity is based upon my working-class background.  Although I now earn my living as a college professor, my outlook, my values, my tastes, my friends, and my very sense of self seem rooted in the class that I came from.  But, following Kimmel & Messner, isn’t all identity likely to be a matrix? Isn’t whatever we experience as our “core”--be it race, sex, or class--likely to be “complicated by cross-cutting elements?” Isn’t it likely that what feels like my working-class core, has been complicated by my sex, my race, my religion and other categorical aspects of my identity?

In this narrative paper, I attempt to use my own experience to answer these questions. My methodology consists of two steps.  In the first I reflect upon the development of my identity centered only in my working-class origins--that is without reference to any of my other categorical memberships. In doing this, I am able to come up with eight aspects of who I am that seem clearly grounded in growing up working-class. In the second step, I introduce my other categorical memberships--sex, race, sexual orientation, immigrant status, ablebodiedness, religion--(and individual circumstances)  and examine the dynamic role that they play in the formation of what seems to truly be the matrix of my identity.

Of particular interest to a men’s studies audience is what I discovered about the powerful and pervasive way that being a male interacted with the other factors. In fact, the clearest and most interesting dynamic uncovered in the narrative involves an interaction of social class, masculinity and religion. Conclusions about the nature of identity and further issues involved in conceptualizing it as a matrix are also presented.