Men's Studies Association: 15th Annual Meeting

Filed under , .

August 1, 2003 – University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Are Men’s Support Groups Repackaged Patriarchy?

Edward Barton, Michigan State University    

ABSTRACT - One of the criticisms of Robert Bly and the mythopoetic branch of the contemporar men’s movement is that they are not pro-feminist and that, in fact, they are anti-feminist. This paper will present a review of the literature of men’s support groups from a mythopoetic perspective, social support perspective, and self-help group perspective, which will be informed by data from structured interviews of men in two different types of mythopoetic peer mutual support groups.

Seeking Masculinities in the Middle East: An Anthropology of Power and Absence

Don Conway-Long, Ph.D., Webster University, St. Louis, Mo.  

ABSTRACT - Given the dark times we face in the relations between the Arab-Muslim world and the United States, we must pay greater attention to the gender order of Arab-Muslim societies.  The portrait of Islam made by media outlets does little to elucidate; instead, gross generalizations and inappropriate affronts proliferate.  As an attempt at clarity, this paper will present another view utilizing the tools of gender analysis developed by Western scholars.

Islam has been repeatedly linked to terrorism, which is almost exclusively the work of men. What then is the connection between Islam in both progressive and regressive interpretations, political acts of violence, and masculinity?  How are we to understand the concept “jihad” as masculine gender performance?  What is the difference between historical and contemporary representations of the Muslim male?   Answering these questions will facilitate a more nuanced understanding of the actions of male Arab Muslims than we are normally provided. Muslim men will be critically examined in the context of Islamic history and present conditions faced by Muslim peoples.  The relations between the sexes in Islamic theory and practice will be addressed, laying the foundation for an analysis of the intersection between Islamic culture and international patriarchal gender order.  Gender, inseparable from other social and institutional frameworks, will be shown to interact strongly with economic, political and cultural factors.

The paper will conclude by interconnecting the roots of Muslim anger with the conditions in which masculinities are constructed and lived. The rise of Islamists choosing violence to achieve their ends will be placed in the context of the post-colonial world and the powerful forces of globalization that have grown out of earlier colonial relations and subsequent struggles for independent stability. The phenomenon of Islamist violence by men will also be contextualized more deeply in overall Arab-Muslim political and economic conditions.

Kubrick's Queers

Bryan K. Crow, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

ABSTACT - A number of films by the late director Stanley Kubrick contain scenes that depict or refer to homosexuality.  This paper analyzes transcripts of the dialogue and action in 13 such scenes from Spartacus, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut, with references to other films in Kubrick's oevre, addressing the analytic questions:  was Kubrick homophobic, or homo-friendly, and did his depiction of homosexuality evolve between 1960 and 1999?  Film clips will be shown during the presentation.

The Countertenor:  Perceptions of Emasculation, Effeminacy, and the Homoerotic

Lon Ellenberger, ABD, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

ABSTRACT - To many people, the kind of sound the countertenor makes seems unmanly, even feminine.  Coming from a man¹s body, such a sound elicits discomfort from these listeners. This discomfort manifests itself in three kinds of perceptions, one or more of which the disturbed listener likely assumes to be true of the countertenor:  that he is emasculated, effeminate or homosexual.

The first of these, emasculation is connected with the world of the castrati singers who enjoyed the zenith of their popularity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the history of which has been recently introduced to a wide audience by the feature film "Farinelli."  The castrati
are ‘singing machines,’  pinnacles of artifice,  sexless creatures of history, blank slates ready to receive the mantle of any gender construction as required for the dictates of operatic theater.  Such extremes of human grandiosity and inhuman mutilation become resurrected in the fantasies of those who are most threatened by the perversion of nature represented by the castrati phenomenon.

Alternatively, the perception of effeminacy born towards the countertenor singer bears a striking resemblance to society’s perceptions of cross-dressers.  The first questions usually are ‘are you a freak’? or ‘why do you want to sing like a girl’?  The underlying fear exposed is the countertenor’s deviance against those same principles of sex roles and gender construction which constitute one of the pillars of western society.

Finally, and perhaps most salient is the perception of the countertenor as being homosexual.  How could a heterosexual male relinquish his power of immutability of body and accept the construct of the penetrable ‘feminine’ as part of his vocal sound?  How could he allow the transgressive connotations of homosexuality to be paired with his masculinity?  How could he withstand the systematic shaming represented in such statements as, ‘it looks like we¹ve got the bearded lady singing with us tonight,’ a sneer perpetrated against the founding father of modern countertenor singing, Alfred Deller.  

Is modern countertenor singing vocal cross-dressing?  Does the countertenor then, by utilizing his natural vocal Fach, essentially challenge the very idea of what is natural?  By confronting expectations, does this challenge foster tolerance for those who are perceived as unacceptable to much of modern society by virtue of their vestment or sexual identity?

Agency and Complicity in Straight, White Economically Privileged Masculinity

Joe Parker, Ph.D., Pitzer College, Claremont, CA

ABSTACT - Within a feminist location politics, social location is determined through a gendered, racialized, class-stratified and sexually oriented politics.  In this paper I examine theoretically the While the theoretical possibilities of this agency may seem obvious in a liberal humanist conception of the self, this paper emphasizes the ways in which social location inevitably produces complicity within the historically located structures of modernity.  Issues of complicity
arise from consideration of postmodern feminist analyses of subjectivity and its relations to discursive regimes found both in meaning systems and in behavior.

I take as my primary case study the constitution and consolidation of the subject through its Other, in my case the Others of Japan and the premodern. By examining the politics of the Other as it is domesticated and managed through the production of coherence for the subject, I
inquire into how subjectivity may be constituted that loosens the grip of modernity on the subject position of straight, white, economically privileged masculinity. By exploring the ethics and the politics of the complex relation between agency and complicity, I hope to invite critical thinking and new modes of social relations that question modernity and its history of oppression.

“Who Wants to be With A Short Asian Guy?”: The Internalization of Subordinated Masculinity Among Asian American Males

Karen D. Pyke, Ph.D., University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA

ABSTRACT - This study examines the internalization of “gendered racism” among second generation Korean and Vietnamese American men. Asian American males must contend with “controlling images” perpetuated in the white dominated society that subordinate their masculinity and racially construct them as wimpy, submissive, small in stature, non-athletic, and nerdy, on the one hand, and as hyperdomineering brutes on the other hand. The kinds of gendered racism that Asian American males experience and how they respond is the focus of this investigation, which draws on in-depth interviews with 100 sons of Korean and Vietnamese immigrants in southern California. Respondents reiterate in their narratives the negative caricatures of Asian  masculinity that they have grown up with and continue to endure. Over and over again as they describe Asian American males in general, their sense of themselves as men, or their experiences with gendered racist attacks on their masculinity, they painfully touch on derogatory stereotypes of Asian masculinity, including notions that they are unattractive to females, especially white females. Over and over again, they reaffirm the demonizing images of Asian American males, even as they relate accounts of resistance against the stereotypes. This study also examines the strategy of hypermasculinity, including the denigration of women, that some respondents engaged as a strategy for resisting feminized notions of Asian masculinity. The findings highlight a process of mental colonization among new non-white Americans who learn self-hatred as they adapt to the patriarchal white supremacist values of the mainstream society.

Men’s Reactions To A Court-Mandated Batterer Treatment Program: The Paradoxical Denial And Normalization Of Violence

Beth Skilken Catlett, Ph.D., DePaul University, Chicago, Il Patrick C. McKenry, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

ABSTRACT - An increasing number of men are being court mandated to batterer treatment programs, typically cognitively-behavioral gender-based groups interventions. However, we know little about the success of these programs and even less about how the participants make meaning out of their violent behavior and this treatment experience.  

The proposed presentation draws on in-depth interview data from 25 males, all of whom were participants in a court mandated treatment program in Chicago, Illinois. These data are part of a larger project evaluating the effectiveness of the domestic violence program in the Social Service Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.

The Social Service Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County provides treatment to one of the largest client populations in the nation.  All individuals who are convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense that results in a conditional discharge are mandated into this treatment program.   During the initial assessment phase, the offender is seen individually by a domestic violence caseworker.  Once the assessment process is completed, and the offender accepts responsibility for his violence, he enters the domestic violence program.  In addition, during assessment, those with alcohol or other drug related problems are referred to an appropriate treatment program.  After treatment has been established, they offender most often re-enters the domestic violence program.  
    
  Preliminary data analysis suggests that the meanings men attach to their violent behavior are paradoxical.  That is, on the one hand, men often deny and minimize their use of violence as well as attribute blame to their female intimate partner.  At the same time, they interpret the violence as normative behavior and a rational response to “being disrespected.” These paradoxical meanings will be explored as they reflect the intersections of race, gender, and class.  These findings suggest the utility of Kaufmann’s (1994) conceptualization of men’s contradictory experiences of power, e.g.., experiences of perceived powerlessness and actual (if latent) power.