[Breakingthesilence] reader update

Kev Smith kevin.smith at gmx.net
Jeu 15 Juil 20:15:44 CEST 2004

hello people

OK, i am goign to try and lay out the reader on monday and tuesday, so if
people want to send things then they should do it before the end of the

as it stands there is-

1) going to places that scare me - thoughts on challenging white male
2) tips for white guys working for social change 
3) Taking The First Step: Suggestions To People Called Out For Abusive
4) The yoruba myth
5) The sexual harassment action plan
6) maybe the short gender exercises i sent in a previous email?

I thought that maybe we should contextualise this reader in terms of the
process that has lead to their being this gender day during the
conference...  does anyone have any idea who could write this at quite short

I would also like to include somethign esle i am pasting into this called
Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism

Nico, I have reservations about including your piece on mens work in
anti-capitalist circles as it has raised a lot of controversy and
disagreement (not just from fabian - from other peopel i have spoken to
aswell) and i think that it would take a lot of reworking and discussion to
get it into a shape that everyone would be happy with. what do peopel think
about this?

There is another text that i really like called "masculinities, violence and
peace" that was translated into spanish and used in the pimiento verde.....
it is a little bit academic, but i think that it covers some nice areas...
again, i would like peopls feedback on this article, and i am pasting it
into this email after the homophobia one.

ok, hope everyone is well, apologies for long and potentially boring email

Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism
Suzanne Pharr ~ http://www.cyfc.umn.edu/Diversity/Gay/siecus.html
Homophobia and Heterosexism

Homophobia works effectively as a weapon of sexism because it is joined with
a powerful arm, heterosexism. Heterosexism creates the climate for
homophobia with its assumption that the world is and must be heterosexual
and its display of power and privilege as the norm. Heterosexism is the
systemic display of homophobia in the institutions of society....

It is not by chance that when children approach puberty and increased sexual
awareness they begin to taunt each other by calling these names: "queer,"
"faggot," "pervert." It is at puberty that the full force of society's
pressure to conform to heterosexuality and prepare for marriage is brought
to bear. Children know what we have taught them, and we have given dear
messages that those who deviate from standard expectations are to be made to
get back in line. The best controlling tactic at puberty is to be treated as
an outsider, to be ostracized at a time when it feels most vital to be
accepted. Those who are different must be made to suffer loss. It is also at
puberty that misogyny begins to be more apparent, and girls are pressured to
conform to societal norms that do not permit them to realize their full
potential. It is at this time that their academic achievements begin to
decrease as they are coerced into dependency upon a man for economic

There was a time when the two most condemning accusations against a woman
meant to ostracize and disempower her were "whore" and "lesbian." The sexual
revolution and changing attitudes about heterosexual behavior may have led
to some lessening of the power of the word "whore", though it still has
strength as a threat to sexual property and prostitutes are stigmatized and
abused. However, the word "lesbian" is still fully charged and carries with
it the full threat of loss of power and privilege, the threat of being cut
asunder, abandoned, and left outside of society's protection. 

Lesbians and Gay Men: A Threat to the Heart of Sexism

To be a lesbian is to be perceived as someone who has stepped out of line,
who has moved out of sexual/economic dependence on a male, who is
woman-identified. A lesbian is perceived as being outside the acceptable,
routinzed order of things. She is seen as someone who has no societal
institutions to protect her and who is not privileged to the protection of
individual males. Many heterosexual women see her as someone who stands in
contradiction to the sacrifices they have made to conform to compulsory
heterosexuality. A lesbian is perceived as a threat to the nuclear family,
to male dominance and control, to the very heart of sexism.

Gay men are perceived also as a threat to male dominance and control, and
the homophobia expressed against them has the same roots in sexism as does
homophobia against lesbians. Visible gay men are the objects of extreme
hatred and fear by heterosexual men because their breaking ranks with male
heterosexual solidarity is seen as a damaging rent in the very fabric of
sexism. They are seen as betrayers, as traitors who must be punished and
eliminated. In the beating and killing of gay men we see clear evidence of
this hatred. When we see the fierce homophobia expressed, toward gay men, we
can begin to understand the ways sexism also affects males through imposing
rigid, dehumanizing gender roles on them.

The two circumstances in which it is legitimate for men to be openly
physically affectionate with one another are in competitive sports and in
the crisis of war. For many men, these two experiences are the highlights of
their lives, and they think of them again and again with nostalgia. War and
sports offer a cover of all-male safety and dominance to keep away the
notion of affectionate openness being identified with homosexuality. When
gay men break ranks with male roles through bonding and affection outside
the areas of war and sports, they are perceived as not being "real men,"
that is, as being identified with women, the weaker sex that must be
dominated and that over the centuries has been the object of male hatred and
abuse. Misogyny gets transferred to gay men with a vengeance and is
increased by the fear that their sexual identity and behavior will bring
down the entire system of male dominance and compulsory heterosexuality.

Masculinities, Violence, and Peacemaking

by Bob Connell

Though women have often manufactured weapons and serviced armies—and in an
age of nuclear weapons are equally targeted— it is historically rare for
women to be in combat. The twenty million members of the world's armed
forces today are overwhelmingly men. In many countries all soldiers are men;
and even in those countries which admit women to the military, commanders
are almost exclusively men. Men also dominate other branches of enforcement,
both in the public sector as police officers and prison guards, and in the
private sector as security agents.

In private life too, men are more likely to be armed and violent. In the
United States, careful research by criminologists establishes that private
gun ownership runs four times as high among men as among women, even after a
campaign by the gun industry to persuade women to buy guns. (The average
percentage of US men owning guns, in surveys from 1980 to 1994, was 49%.) In
the same country, official statistics for 1996 show men accounting for 90%
of those arrested for aggravated assault and 90% of those arrested for
murder and manslaughter. These figures are not exceptional.

There is a debate about the gender balance of violence within households,
and it is clear that many women are capable of violence (eg in punishing
children). The weight of evidence, however, indicates that major domestic
violence is overwhelmingly by husbands towards wives. Rape is overwhelmingly
by men on women. Criminal rape shades into sexual intercourse under
pressure. The major national survey of sexual behaviour in the United States
finds women six times as likely as men to have an experience of forced sex,
almost always being forced by a man.

Further, men predominate in warlike conduct in other spheres of life.
Body-contact sports, such as boxing and football, involve ritualized combat
and often physical injury. These sports are almost exclusively practised by
men. Dangerous driving is increasingly recognized as a form of violence. It
is mainly done by men. Young men die on the roads at a rate four times that
of young women, and kill at an even higher ratio. Older men, as corporate
executives, make the decisions that result in injury or death from the
actions of their businesses—industrial injuries to their workers, pollution
injury to neighbours, and environmental destruction.

So men predominate across the spectrum of violence. A strategy for peace
must concern itself with this fact, the reasons for it, and its implications
for work to reduce violence.

"Natural" violence

There is a widespread belief that it is natural for men to be violent. Males
are inherently more aggressive than women, the argument goes. "Boys will be
boys" and cannot be trained otherwise; rape and combat—however
regrettable—are part of the unchanging order of nature. There is often an
appeal to biology, with testosterone in particular, the so- called "male
hormone", as a catch-all explanation for men's aggression.

Careful examination of the evidence shows that this biological essentialism
is not credible. Testosterone levels for instance, far from being a
clear-cut source of dominance and aggression in society, are as likely to be
the consequence of social relations. Cross-cultural studies of masculinities
reveal a diversity that is impossible to reconcile with a biologically-fixed
master pattern of masculinity.

When we speak statistically of "men" having higher rates of violence than
women, we must not slide to the inference that therefore all men are
violent. Almost all soldiers are men, but most men are not soldiers. Though
most killers are men, most men never kill or even commit assault. Though an
appalling number of men do rape, most men do not. It is a fact of great
importance, both theoretically and practically, that there are many non-
violent men in the world. This too needs explanation, and must be considered
in a strategy for peace.

Further, when we note that most soldiers, sports professionals, or
executives are men, we are not just talking about individuals. We are
speaking of masculinised institutions. The organisational culture of armies,
for instance, is heavily gendered. Recent social research inside armed
forces in Germany and other countries reveals an energetic effort to produce
a narrowly-defined hegemonic masculinity. Similarly, organized sport does
not just reflect, but actively produces, particular versions of masculinity.

We may reason, then, that it is in social masculinities rather than
biological differences that we must seek the main causes of gendered
violence, and the main answers to it. How are social masculinities to be
understood? In grappling with this question, we are able to draw on a new
generation of research, to which I now turn.

Understanding masculinities

In recent years there has been a great flowering of research on the nature
and forms of social masculinities. This research, and accompanying debate,
is now world-wide. It has moved decisively beyond the old concept of a
unitary "male sex role" or a fixed "masculine" character structure.
Empirical studies of the details of social life are necessarily complex, but
some important general conclusions do seem to be emerging from this research
as a whole. I will condense them into seven points, noting in each case some
implications for peace strategy.

    1) Multiple masculinities: Different cultures, and different periods of
history, construct gender differently. In multicultural societies there are
likely to be multiple definitions of masculinity. Equally important, more
than one kind of masculinity can be found within a given culture, even
within a single institution such as a school or workplace. 
    Implications: Violent, aggressive masculinity will rarely be the only
form of masculinity present, in any cultural setting. The variety of
masculinities that are documented in research can provide examples and
materials for peace education. Edudcation programs must recognise diversity
in gender patterns, and the tensions that can result from social diversity. 

    2) Hierarchy and hegemony: Different masculinities exist in definite
relations with each other, often relations of hierarchy and exclusion. There
is generally a dominant or "hegemonic" form of masculinity, the centre of
the system of gendered power. The hegemonic form need not be the most common
form of masculinity. 
    Implications:: Large numbers of men and boys have a divided, tense, or
oppositional relationship to hegemonic masculinity. Clear-cut alternatives,
however, are often culturally discredited or despised. The most powerful
groups of men usually have few personal incentives for gender change. Other
groups may have stronger motives for change. 

    3) Collective masculinities: Masculinities are sustained and enacted not
only by individuals, but also by groups, institutions, and cultural forms
like mass media. Multiple masculinities may be produced and sustained by the
same institution. 
    Implications: The institutionalization of masculinity is a major problem
for peace strategy. Corporations, workplaces, voluntary organisations, and
the state are important sites of action. Collective struggle, and the
re-shaping of institutions, are as necessary as the reform of individual

    4) Bodies as arenas: Men's bodies do not fix patterns of masculinity,
but they are still very important in the expression of masculinity, which
constantly involves bodily experience, bodily pleasures, and the
vulnerabilities of bodies. 
    Implications: Peace education may often be too much "in the head".
Health, sport and sexuality are issues which must be addressed in changing
masculinity. Active construction. 

    5) Masculinities do not exist prior to social interaction:, but come
into existence as people act. Masculinities are actively produced, using the
resources available in a given milieu. 
    Implications: The process of constructing masculinity, rather than the
end state, may be the source of violence. No pattern of masculine violence
is fixed, beyond all hope of social reform. Equally, no reform is final. It
is possible that gender reforms will be overthrown and more violent patterns
of masculinity re-introduced. 

    6) Division: Masculinities are not homogeneous, but are likely to be
internally divided. Men's lives often embody tensions between contradictory
desires or practices. 
    Implications: Any pattern of masculinity has potentials for change. Any
group of men is likely to have complex and conflicting interests, some of
which will support change towards more peaceable gender patterns. 

    7) Dynamics: Masculinities are created in specific historical
circumstances. They are liable to be contested, reconstructed, or displaced.
The forces producing change include contradictions within gender relations,
as well as the interplay of gender with other social forces. 
    Implications: Masculinities are always changing, and this creates
motives for learning. However, as any agenda for change is likely to be
against some groups' interests, controversy and conflict is to be expected. 

These lessons are mainly drawn from research on local patterns of gender. In
thinking about a strategy for peace, however, we must go beyond local
contexts, and think at a global level too.

Globalising masculinities

The colonial empires from which the modern global economy developed were
gendered institutions, which disrupted indigenous gender orders, and
installed violent masculinities in the hegemonic position. This process was
the beginning of a global gender order, and the colonisers' masculinities
were the first globalising masculinities.

In turn, the process of decolonisation disrupted the gender hierarchies of
the colonial order. Where armed struggle was involved, the use of western
military technology also involved some adoption of western military
masculinity, and further disruption of community-based gender orders.

World politics today is increasingly organised around the needs of
transnational capital and the creation of global markets. Neo-liberalism
speaks a gender-neutral language of "markets", "individuals", and "choice",
but has an implicit view of masculinity. The "individual" of neoliberal
theory has the attributes and interests of a male entrepreneur.
Institutionally, the strong emphasis on competition creates a particular
kind of hierarchy among men. Meanwhile the increasingly unregulated world of
transnational corporations places strategic social power in the hands of
particular groups of men. Here is the basis of a new hegemonic masculinity
on a world scale.

The hegemonic form of masculinity in the new world order, I would argue, is
the masculinity of the business executives who operate in global markets,
and the political executives and military leaderships who constantly deal
with them. I call this "transnational business masculinity", and I think
that understanding it will be important for the future of peace strategies.

Peace strategies and masculinities

There are many causes of violence, including dispossession, poverty, greed,
nationalism, racism, and other forms of inequality, bigotry and desire.
Gender dynamics are by no means the whole story. Yet given the concentration
of weapons and the practices of violence among men, gender patterns appear
to be strategic. Masculinities are the forms in which many dynamics of
violence take shape.

Evidently, then, strategy for peace must include a strategy of change in
masculinities. This is the new dimension in peace work which studies of men
suggest: contesting the hegemony of masculinities which emphasise violence,
confrontation and domination, replacing them with patterns of masculinity
more open to negotiation, cooperation and equality.

The relationship of masculinity to violence is more complex than appears at
first sight, so there is not just one pattern of change required.
Institutionalised violence (eg by armies) requires more than one kind of
masculinity. The masculinity of the general is different from the
masculinity of the front-line soldier, and armies acknowledge this by
training them separately. The differing masculinities that are hegemonic in
different cultures may lead to qualitatively different patterns of violence.

Some violent patterns of masculinity develop in response to violence, they
do not simply cause it. An important example is the "protest masculinity"
that emerges in contexts of poverty and ethnic oppression. On the other
hand, some patterns of masculinity are not personally violent, but their
ascendancy creates conditions for violence, such as inequality and
dispossession. The case of transnational business masculinity has already
been mentioned.

A gender-informed strategy for peace must, therefore, be sophisticated about
patterns of masculinity. It must also be designed to operate across a broad
front, broader than most agendas of sex role reform would suggest. The
arenas for action to reduce masculine violence include:

    Development: Schooling, child rearing and adult/child relationships in
families, classrooms, play groups, etc (including the issues commonly
thought of as "sex role modelling"). 

    Personal life: Marital relations and sexuality, family relationships,
friendship (including the role of sexual and domestic violence in
constructions of masculinity). 

    Community life: Peer groups, neighbourhood life, leisure including
sports (including youth subcultures as bearers of violent masculinities). 

    Cultural institutions: Higher education, science and technology, mass
media, the arts and popular entertainment (including exemplary masculinities
in broadcast sports). 

    Workplaces: Occupational cultures, industrial relations, corporations,
unions and bureaucracies; the state and its enforcement apparatuses (armies,
police etc). 

    Markets: The labour market and the effects of unemployment; capital and
commodity markets both international and local; management practices and

What principles might link action across this very broad spectrum? I do not
think we should follow the model of gender reform that demands men adopt a
new character, instantly become "the new man". Such hero-making agendas deny
what we already know about the multiplicity and the internal complexity of

Rather, strategy for peace needs to be embedded in a practicable strategy of
change in gender relations. The goal should be to develop gender practices
for men which shift gender relations in a democratic direction. Democratic
gender relations are those that move towards equality, nonviolence, and
mutual respect between people of different genders, sexualities,
ethnicities, and generations.

Reshaping gender

A peace strategy concerned with masculinities, then, does not demand a
complete rupture with patterns of conduct men are now familiar with. Some of
the qualities in "traditional" definitions of masculinity (eg courage,
steadfastness, ambition) are certainly needed in the cause of peace. Active
models of engagement are needed for boys and men, especially when peace is
understood not just as the absence of violence, but as a positive form of

The task is not to abolish gender, but to re-shape it; to disconnect (for
instance) courage from violence, steadfastness from prejudice, ambition from
exploitation. In the course of that re-shaping, diversity will grow. Making
boys and men aware of the diversity of masculinities that already exist in
the world, beyond the narrow models they are commonly offered, is an
important task for education.

Though the hierarchy of masculinities is part of the problem in gender
relations, the fact that there are different masculinities is in itself an
asset. At the lowest level, it establishes that masculinity is not a single
fixed pattern. More positively, multiple masculinities represent complexity
of interests and purposes, which open possibilities for change. Finally the
plurality of gender prefigures the creativity of a democratic social order.
For men, the democratic remaking of gender practices requires persistent
engagement with women, not the separatism-for-men which is strong in current
masculinity politics. The "gender-relevant" programmes now attempted in
schools, which do not necessarily segregate boys and girls but attempt to
identify gender issues and make them the subject of conscious debate, are
important examples. Educational and social action must be inclusive in
another sense too, responding to the differing cultural meanings of gender
and the different socio-economic circumstances in which students live. A
programme apt for suburban middle-class students may be very inappropriate
for ethnically diverse inner-city children in poverty, or rural children
living in villages.

No-one with experience of struggles for peace, or of attempts at gender
reform, will imagine these are easy tasks. Recognising the interplay of
masculinities with strategies for peace is not a magic key. In some ways,
indeed, it makes familiar strategies seem more complex and difficult.

But it also, I believe, opens ways of moving past obstacles which both peace
movements and the movement for gender democracy have encountered.

Dr Connell works at the University of Sydney.  

I'm not using my eyfa email address anymore
please update your addressbook accordingly, innit

I'm not using my eyfa email address anymore
please update your addressbook accordingly, innit

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