Showing posts with label Masculinity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Masculinity. Show all posts

October 21, 2019

Tender Masculinity Among Britain's Chinese Students

“He’s what we call in Chinese English ‘milky’. He’s still a mummy’s boy according to the sense of what a man should be,” photographer Yan Wang Preston says of a young man stood in sand dunes wearing a floral shirt. “When he was answering my questions he said, ‘yeah, I’m not very manly’, but when it came to the photographs he said, ‘actually I’ve changed my mind, I am manly, just in different ways’.”
Preston, born in China in 1976 and based in Yorkshire since 2005, has been commissioned by Open Eye Gallery and LOOK Photo Biennial 2019 to document the significant Chinese community in the city of Liverpool, focusing her large-format photography on the transient population of Chinese international students. Following her 2017 project China Dream, where she asked young girls about their daydreams and ambitions, her most recent series He started with the provocative question: ‘What makes you a man?’ Preston was aiming not only to capture a survey of responses, but to question her own values, and to describe in pictures a new form of masculinity.
“I never really was exposed to all this gender talk when living in China, and it took me many years to synchronize with what’s being talked about here; the feminist approach and the idea of negative masculinity. I started questioning myself, wondering what’s my take on it. So with all of these questions, I thought perhaps it’s time to look at the other side? Notice I use the word ‘other’. I think that was really the question: finding out what Chinese men are like nowadays.
“All of them expressed a common idea of what a man should be: a man should be someone who can be responsible for their family and for their society. That is a very Confucian way of thinking. I think that on the larger scale it’s quite positive, but for example, one person said to me: ‘when I say that a man should be responsible I am aware that there is a hierarchy and I think that women are less responsible.’
“I see myself as a landscape photographer. I wanted a setting that was open enough to have a range of potential meanings to enrich the picture. There are many different beaches but this one is next to Crosby Beach, with the famous Antony Gormley sculptures. If you venture slightly north, towards Blackpool, the beach changes – it’s no longer sandy, it’s covered by fragments of old buildings, and it’s full of polished brick. You can’t really tell if it’s decay or nature.

“There’s a picture of one guy sitting on some kind of old fishing net. I remember the moment: he was very nervous, very tense, it was very cold and wet, and he sat on that net – I see it as a woman’s hair – and it struck me. I was looking at him through my viewfinder and he looked almost like a statue, he was so tender, he looked at the camera very, very sincerely. It has a beautiful formal quality with the curve of his body and the curve of the net on the beach. That one is actually my favorite picture in the series – I will always remember that moment.
“I realized I was looking at them as the ‘other’. I have a husband, I’ve had boyfriends, I’ve lived in a world full of men but I never became aware that I always looked at men as the other. How do you portray the other? I traced all the way back, I thought my initial question was forced anyway; ‘what makes you a man?’ Why did I even ask that? Was I trying to give a definition of what man should be like? Clearly, that was somewhere in my mind.”
He by Yan Wang Preston debuted as part of the LOOK Photo Biennial, Liverpool. 
  {Another Magazine}

August 24, 2019

Boys Are As Close as Girls in Their Adolescence Until Society Drives The Boys Underground

Image result for two boys hiking together
Masculinity can be toxic because it depends on ideas from others, not facts from nature and the needs of the individual.(Adam)

This story comes from Life Kit, NPR's family of podcasts for making life better — everything from finances to exercise to raising kids.  
Here's the bad news: Men are hurting, and, according to many researchers, masculinity is what is hurting them and making it hard for them to maintain friendships.
Society tells men* to be stoic and to suppress their feelings and expects them to be aggressive, says Niobe Way, a developmental psychologist at New York University, but having a full range of emotions is inherently human.
The way has spent more than 30 years interviewing teen boys about masculinity and friendship. She says that in childhood, boys feel affectionate about their relationships — just as girls do. 
"Children have remarkable social and emotional skills — to listen to each other, to read each other's emotions, empathy, all sorts of lovely things," she says. 
But then, like clockwork, in late adolescence, boys go underground emotionally when talking about their friendships. "You get the 'I don't care anymore.' Or, 'No homo,' as if I've been asking a question about their sexuality rather than about their friendships," she says.  
The good news is that those skills can be recovered! There are a lot of experts who can help, and here's what they recommend: 
1. Don't blame yourself.
You are a product of a society that expects very particular things of masculinity, so focus on undoing hurtful and restricting belief systems. "Friendships are coded as not masculine; certainly emotions are coded as ... not masculine," Way says. "So if you're not supposed to be emotional that means you're not going to be able to find the intimacy."
Thomas Page McBee has thought a lot about masculinity — especially for his two books, Amateur and Man Alive. "I don't want to overstate it, but I think there's something really disturbing about how we think about masculinity as a culture," he says. In his extensive reporting, he has found a lot of codes that society expects boys and men to adhere to. "I think we need to really face that and look at it culturally and see the damage it's doing."
2. Accept your own desire for intimacy and normalize it for the people in your life.
Way recommends sharing articles about masculinity and friendship so that you can start these conversations — and, boy, are you in luck: There is a list of articles at the end of this post! Pore over them and don't forget you have the entire Internet at your fingertips, friend! 
3. Model vulnerability. 
Say the thing that scares you, like "I'm afraid nobody will go to my party," or "I miss my grandma every day." Doing so will make it OK for other people to follow your lead. We are all on the elevator to a society where emotional availability is normalized, and I want you to press "door open."
4. Ask more questions.
People sometimes feel they might be prying if they ask someone about themselves — especially when their friend is sharing something tough. But if you get curious in moments of vulnerability, you will open the door to all kinds of growth in your relationship. Take the opportunity to really see your friend and show them they matter by following up. But, as LeVar Burton says on Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it! Niobe Way says, "When you're with a friend or a romantic partner and they don't have questions for you, that is incredibly alienating." 
5. Get close with the children in your life. 
Way's research says that the No. 1 thing that helps children (especially boys) grow up to have enriching friendships is to be close with an adult relative who was not afraid to express emotions. So, if you're a parent, stepparent, or thinking about becoming one, or if you have nieces or nephews, take the opportunity to be close to them and help them grow up to be good friends, too. 
Here's a little syllabus on masculinity so you can start your own research:
* For the purpose of this piece, we're using the word "men" to refer to people who identify that way and who can be saddled with the constraints of masculinity.

July 26, 2019

Boys to Men Being Gay and Masculine


Boys to Men is an interview series featuring conversations between author Thomas Page McBee and some of our favorite men about learning — and unlearning — masculinity.

Greyson Chance, the 21-year-old YouTube star from Oklahoma, is probably still best known for his stunning sixth-grade music festival performance of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” that went viral in 2010. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching: Chance is a precocious and unselfconscious piano man, and the handheld recording juxtaposes his passion against the performative boredom of his peers, in full view behind him.

The video racked up more than 65 million views, which landed Chance an appearance on the Ellen show and a recording contract with her label. He has since released two albums, including this year’s Portraits. The music video for the lead single features three love stories told across gender and sexuality. Chance himself came out as gay in 2017 in an Instagram post. We talked about reimagining coming out as a masculine rite-of-passage, and how trans people got him to think more deeply about gender identity.

Thomas Page McBee: When did you first realize that you were a man?

Greyson Chance: Probably when I came out to my friends and family. I think I was 16. It felt like I had seen older adult males in my life, like my dad and my grandpa and my older brother, go through consequential moments where they had to be a bit more courageous than they are in their day-to-day, and that felt like stepping into manhood. I really felt confident in who I was as a man after I came out.

TPM: Has your idea of what being a man means changed since you were 16?

GC: It’s constantly evolving. I'm starting to realize as I'm getting older that being a man and being firm in your masculinity is so far removed from an exterior vision of it. It has nothing to do with the way you dress or the way you talk, or how you identify.

I think, for me, it really goes back to principles. It means taking care of the people around you, sticking up for your friends, sticking up for your family, being brave, not stepping away from a challenge.

TPM: What questions did you have about gender, especially masculinity, as a young person? And how did you find the answers to those questions?

GC: I think I had been taught that if I liked boys, that was emasculating. My biggest question was, why did I feel a certain way towards people that are like me, and why does that affect my masculinity? I didn’t understand.

And I'll be completely honest, in terms of questions about gender, it wasn't until I became friends with people in the trans community and actually had real conversations with them that I began to understand gender in a much, much bigger way. So I think I'm still asking questions too, you know? I'm still curious.

TPM: What's a question you've asked recently about gender?

GC: Because I fit into one letter in this [LGBT] community, and because I'm also a white male, I think the biggest question that I have is: how can I help? I think we need to be listening more.

TPM: As I'm sure you know, not being "girly or gay" is one of the main ways we as a culture define manhood for boys. Were you called gay before you came out? Did you ever call anyone else gay as an insult? 

GC: I was born and raised in Oklahoma but in a pretty affluent suburb outside of Oklahoma City. A lot of people are like, "Oh, well, in Oklahoma it has to be extra horrible, right?" And my response is always that I don't think I experienced any more homophobia than any other kid growing up in an American white suburb. I used to get called "Gayson" on the playground. I was constantly called a “faggot.”

I played soccer when I was a kid. I didn't fully recognize that I was gay, but I knew that when people were calling me these things, it was a problem, and that it was going to affect my positioning within the social fabric of my school. So I would use my athletic ability as sort of a defense mechanism to show people and say, "You’re calling me a faggot on the playground and that's implying I'm a sissy. Well, let's go play sports and I'll show you how good I am on the field." That may be just distracted people and also kind of just held onto my own view of masculinity, at that time, when I was that young.

TPM: What's the most harmful thing you were taught about being a man that you’ve had to unlearn?

GC: You’re constantly taught that you have to be tough, you have been unbreakable. What about protective masculinity? What about pulling your friend aside and saying, "Hey, are you good? Are you okay?" To me, that's what makes a good man: Someone who is willing to throw a fist at the bar when they need to, but maybe not as the first reaction. I think it's just about redefining terms like “tough” and “strong.”

TPM: And do you attach those things to having a male body or to masculinity broadly? Like for example, could a woman have those same qualities?

GC: Yeah, I mean absolutely. I know women that are a lot more tough than I am and who are a lot better at executing these traits. I don't necessarily think it's exclusive. When we're talking about about, "Okay, what does it mean to be a good man?" Maybe it is a broader question of, "What does it mean to be a good f*cking human being," you know? Maybe that's what we need to be teaching more and less of, "Okay, here's what ‘masculine’ means. Here's what ‘feminine’ means." Let's just talk about how you protect your friends, how you protect your family, and how you be a good person.

TPM: Is there something you did as a boy because of male socialization that you now regret doing?

GC: If I'm being incredibly honest, in my first experiences with just meeting trans people, I said a lot of naïve things that I really wish I could take back. But at the same time, they were honest questions that I just really didn't know, you know? Now I just feel like the biggest idiot in the world. I think it took me a long time to recognize the connection between who I was and how my letter fit into LGBTQ+. I wish I would have been a bit wiser when I was younger, as we all probably do.

TPM: I watched the video of you performing Paparazzi as a kid and thinking about how, in our culture, that kind of vulnerability is really not rewarded at all in boys. You obviously were rewarded in certain ways, but did you have to deal with a backlash?

GC: I think, had I gone up there and danced and sang for the Gaga song, I think the reaction from the men and the boys in the room would have been a lot different. But here in Oklahoma, people really respect musicianship, you know? We like country music, we like people with guitars and with banjos who can f*cking get out and play an instrument and actually sing. And so I don't remember experiencing any reaction, minus a lot of adult males and boys in my school going, "It's really cool that you did that."

May 27, 2019

There are Better ways to be Masculine Than to Follow Tradition to an Early Death

Men's groups are coming together to discover the meaning of masculinity in the age of #MeToo.
Leonardo Santamaria for NPR
Sean Jin is 31 and says he's not washed a dish until he was in his sophomore year of college.
"Literally my mom and my grandma would ... tell me to stop doing dishes because I'm a man and I shouldn't be doing dishes." It was a long time, he says, before he realized their advice and that sensibility were "not OK."
Now, as part of the Masculinity Action Project, a group of men in Philadelphia who regularly meet to discuss and promote what they see as healthier masculinity, Jin has been thinking a lot about what men are "supposed to" do and not do. 
He joined the peer-led group, he says, because men face real issues like higher rates of suicide than women and much higher rates of incarceration.
"It's important to have an understanding of these problems as rooted in an economic crisis and a cultural crisis in which there can be a progressive solution," Jin says.
In supporting each other emotionally, Jin says, men need alternative solutions to those offered by the misogynist incel — "involuntary celibate" — community or other men's rights activists who believe men are oppressed.
"Incels or the right wing provide a solution that's really based on more control of women and more violence toward minorities," Jin says.
Instead, he says, he and his friends seek the sort of answers "in which liberation for minorities and more freedom for women is actually empowering for men."
Once a month, the Philadelphia men's group meets to learn about the history of the feminist movement and share experiences — how they learned what "being a man" means and how some of those ideas can harm other people and even themselves. They talk about how best to support each other.

This spring, part of one of the group's meetings involved standing in a public park and giving a one-minute speech about any topic they chose. One man spoke of being mocked and spit upon for liking ballet as a 9-year-old boy; another spoke of his feelings about getting a divorce; a third man shared with the others what it was like to tell his father "I love you" for the first time at the age of 38.

The idea of such mentoring and support groups isn't new, though today's movement is trying to broaden its base. Paul Kivel, an activist and co-founder of a similar group that was active from the 1970s to the 1990s in Oakland, Calif., says men's groups in those days were mostly white and middle-class.
Today, the global nonprofit ManKind Project says it has close to 10,000 members in 21 nations, is ethnically and socioeconomically diverse and aims to draw men of all ages.
"We strive to be increasingly inclusive and affirming of cultural differences, especially with respect to color, class, sexual orientation, faith, age, ability, ethnicity, and nationality," the group's website says.
Toby Fraser, a co-leader of the Philadelphia group that Jin attends, says its members range in age from 20 to 40; it's a mix of heterosexual, queer and gay men.
Simply having a broad group of people who identify as masculine — whatever their age, race or sexual orientation — can serve as a helpful sounding board, Fraser says.
"Rather than just saying, 'Hey, we're a group of dudes bonding over how great it is to be dudes,' " Fraser says, "it's like, 'Hey, we're a group of people who have been taught similar things that don't work for us and we see not working or we hear not working for the people around us. How can we support each other to make it different?' "
Participants are also expected to take those ideas outside the group and make a difference in their communities.
For example, Jeremy Gillam coaches ice hockey and life skills at an after-school hockey program for children in Philadelphia. He says he and his fellow coaches teach the kids in their program that even though the National Hockey League still allows fighting, they should not respond to violence with violence. He says he tells them, "The referee always sees the last violent act, and that's what's going to be penalized."
That advice surprises some boys, Gillam says.  
"One of the first things that we heard," he says, "is, 'Dad told me to stick up for myself. Dad's not going to be happy with me if I just let this happen, so I'm going to push back.' "
Vashti Bledsoe is the program director at Lutheran Settlement House, the Philadelphia nonprofit that organizes the monthly men's group. She says men in the group have already started talking about how the #MeToo movement pertains to them — and that's huge.
"These conversations are happening [in the community], whether they're happening in a healthy or unhealthy way ... but people don't know how to frame it and name it," Bledsoe says. "What these guys have done is to be very intentional about teaching people how to name [the way ideas about masculinity affect their own actions] and say, 'It's OK. It doesn't make you less of a man to recognize that.' "
Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association published guidelines this year suggesting that therapists consider masculine social norms when working with male clients. Some traditional ideas of masculinity, the group says, "can have negative consequences for the health of boys and men."
The guidelines quickly became controversial. New York magazine writer Andrew Sullivan wrote that they "pathologize half of humanity," and National Review writer David French wrote that the American Psychological Association "declares war on 'traditional masculinity.' "
Christopher Liang, an associate professor of counseling psychology at Lehigh University and a co-author of the APA guidelines, says they actually grew out of decades of research and clinical experience.
For example, he says, many of the male clients he treats were taught to suppress their feelings, growing up — to engage in violence or to drink, rather than talk. And when they do open up, he says, their range of emotions can be limited.  
"Instead of saying, 'I'm really upset', they may say, 'I'm feeling really angry,' because anger is one of those emotions that men have been allowed to express," Liang says.
He says he and his colleagues were surprised by the controversy around the guidelines, which were intended for use by psychologists. The APA advisory group is now working on a shorter version for the general public that they hope could be useful to teachers and parents.
Criticism of the APA guidelines focused on the potentially harmful aspects of masculinity, but the APA points to other masculine norms — such as valuing courage and leadership — as positive.
Aylin Kaya, a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, recently published research that gets at that wider range of masculine norms and stereotypes in a study of male college students.
Some norms, such as the need to be dominant in a relationship or the inability to express emotion, were associated with lower "psychological well-being," she found. That's a measure of whether students accepted themselves, had positive relationships with other people and felt "a sense of agency" in their lives, Kaya explains. But the traditional norm of "a drive to win and to succeed" contributed to higher well-being.  
Kaya adds that even those findings should be teased apart. A drive to win or succeed could be good for society and for male or female identity if it emphasizes agency and mastery, but bad if people associate their self-worth with beating other people.
Kaya says one potential application of her research would be for psychologists — and men, in general — to separate helpful ideas of masculinity from harmful ones.
"As clinicians," she says, "our job is to make the invisible visible ... asking clients, 'Where do you get these ideas of how you're supposed to act? Where did you learn that?' To help them kind of unpack — 'I wasn't born with this; it wasn't my natural way of being. I was socialized into this; I learned it. And maybe I can start to unlearn it.' "
For example, Kaya says, some male clients come to her looking for insight because they've been struggling with romantic relationships. It turns out, she says, the issue beneath the struggle is that they feel they cannot show emotion without being ridiculed or demeaned, which makes it hard for them to be intimate with their partners.
Given the findings from her study on perceptions of masculinity, Kaya says, she now might ask them to first think about why they feel like they can't show emotion — whether that's useful for them — and then work on ways to help them emotionally connect with people.

January 4, 2017

New Campus Study on Masculinity That is Talked about but Not Understood


Another offering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this one on masculinity, is drawing fire from conservatives as an example of ideological excesses at the school.

The target is the Men’s Project, a six-week voluntary discussion program that “aims to explore masculinity and the problems accompanied by simplified definitions of it,” according to a UW Health Service news release.

Cultural influences distorting ideas of masculinity include “media, hook up culture, alcohol, violence, and pop culture,” said another promotional piece posted on UW-Madison’s Multicultural Student Center website. “Understanding the connections between our experiences and experiences of masculinity and issues in our society can help build stronger communities."

State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, a long-time critic of the UW and vice-chair of the Committee on Universities and Colleges, on Wednesday said the UW-Madison offering “declares war on men.”

Nass was recently joined by State Rep. David Murphy, R-Greenville, chair of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, in blasting an African Studies course set to begin later this month called The Problem of Whiteness.

Nass and Murphy last month suggested that legislators use their control over funding for the university in the budget-writing process now underway to force UW System schools to “reform.”

Nass repeated that call Wednesday in an email to Republican legislators.

“Our friends at UW-Madison not happy enough with labeling 'whiteness' as a societal problem, now are attacking another societal ill…, Men and their masculinity,” Nass said in the email.

“The supposedly underfunded and overworked administrators at our flagship campus have scrapped together enough dollars to offer a six-week program open only to 'men-identified students.' UW-Madison has become part of a national liberal effort to rid male students of their 'toxic masculinity.'"

The offering of such a program reveals how the highly paid leaders at UW-Madison “believe that Wisconsin mothers and fathers have done a poor job of raising their boys by trying to instill in them the values and characteristics necessary in becoming a Man,” Nass wrote. 
“Will we have the courage to reform the UW System in the 2017-19 biennial budget?” he concluded.

The term “toxic masculinity” was sounded in a post a day earlier by The College Fix, which noted that UW-Madison is among many colleges with offerings that “seek to purge male students of their so-called toxic masculinity.”

As UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith McGlone put it, the Men's Project tries to address the negative way in which typical understandings of masculinity can affect male students.

“These expectations influence the decisions men make about friendships; spending time outside of class; careers or academic majors; and sexual and romantic relationships. Men are socialized to believe they need to act a certain way to be accepted as ‘masculine’ or have what it takes to be a man,” she told The College Fix. 

“This can lead to self-destructive behaviors that impair their ability to complete their education,” McGlone wrote in an email message. “Research indicates that young men are less likely to enroll in and graduate from college, less likely to seek help from campus resources and more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as abusing drugs and alcohol. Research also indicates that programs such as the Men’s Project can counter these negative trends and support college men in their educational experience.”

Criticism of the program has been taken up by a number of conservative outlets and includes an essay at the National Review bemoaning the spread of feminist ideas that Nass linked to in his email to colleagues

“Feminism has infected child-rearing and modern education so thoroughly that legions of parents and teachers are adrift and clueless. They have no idea what to do with their sons, and absent fathers compound the confusion and create yawning cultural voids. Yes, there are some pajama boys out there, the guys who embrace the feminist project (truthfully in part to hook up with feminist women), but there are countless others who reject feminism’s version of a 'man box' and are instead adrift in purposeless masculinity,” wrote staff writer David French.

Another site referred to the program as a continued “jihad against what it means to be a man.”

Nass spokesperson Mike Mikalsen said Wednesday that instead of reprioritizing its spending, UW-Madison is asking for more state money.

“They continue to believe they can operate as they always have with personalized agendas," Mikalsen said.

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