Monday, 27 April 2015

Farewell to the Men's Team

By Nathan Kalman-Lamb

Well, I'm sorry to announce that my time leading the Men's Team has drawn to an end. This will be my final post for the Men's Team blog, just as this is my final day working on behalf of the Team.

It has, I believe, been a very productive year. When I began in May 2014, the on-line presence of the Men's Team was practically non-existent. There was a Twitter account with nine followers. There was a Facebook page. There was little else. Based on the premise that in this day-in-age, an on-line presence is at least as important as a physical one, we worked hard to change that. Today (as of the minute I type this), our Twitter account has precisely 1,567 followers.  Even more significantly, we founded this blog, which, as of this moment, has been viewed 4,488 times in less than a year.

Do these numbers matter? I think they do, for reasons beyond self-aggrandizement (although I am proud of them!).

As the year has advanced, it has become more and more clear to me that the Men's Team has a principal purpose above all others. Of course, our mandate has been and continues to be to struggle to redefine masculinity as part of a larger project to end gender-based violence. That is an immense ambition, however, and one that cannot realistically be imminently accomplished. This does not mean that the project of the Men's Team is misguided or even Sisyphean, however. For, the most important role of the Men's Team, I now believe, is symbolic. Not tokenistic, mind you, but symbolic. The symbol of an organization of men who stand alongside women in the feminist struggle against gender-based violence matters.

It matters because, from an ethical standpoint, it is important for men to stand up and model to other men that it is possible to do what is right, even if it is difficult and/or unpopular work.

It matters because it gives feminist women who must waste hours and hours of their time arguing with MRAs (Men's Rights Activists) on-line that their message is getting through to some men, and that there is hope things will get better.

It matters because it tells everyone who has suffered directly or indirectly as a consequence of the ideology of hegemonic masculinity that there is an alternative and that there are people who are committed to it.

The value of our increased on-line presence is that we have been able to disseminate that symbolic presence far more widely than in the past. We have let people know that we exist and that we are here for all of the above-stated reasons.

Of course, for precisely all of the same reasons, it is also important for the Men's Team to have a physical presence. To that end, members spent many a Friday in the past year tabling in Vari Hall at York University in an effort to initiate conversations on gender-based violence and masculinity. We also hosted a (wildly successful, in my humble opinion) workshop on masculinity and advertising.

This is all work that I hope will continue and be built upon in the future under new leadership. For now, I would like to warmly thank the members of the Men's Team who devoted a great deal of time and effort this year: Christopher Ford, E. A., Ernest Velasquez, Tony Barone, and Trevor York.

Thank you also to each of you who took the time to read and comment on what we had to say on the subject of masculinity and gender-based violence, whether that was here on the blog or on Twitter, and to those who stopped to chat in Vari Hall. I found it meaningfully encouraging to see just how many people care deeply about this subject and are unwilling to settle for the status quo.

Finally, please allow me to add this final statement of principle. We live in a patriarchal society -- a society that structurally privileges men at the expense of women. One way in which patriarchy manifests is through the identity category of hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity, at its core, operates according to the logic of coercive entitlement. It teaches men that they deserve to have whatever it is they are able to take by force. This is why masculinity is directly connected to gender-based violence. Men are taught that they must aspire to dominate in every sphere of their lives, including their relations with women, and that if they succeed in doing so, they deserve to be rewarded. This is a fundamentally instrumental approach to the other and it is one (in combination with the patriarchal logic that men are inherently more valuable than women) that inevitably leads many men who internalize it to cause harm in myriad ways to the women they encounter in their lives.

As men, we need to acknowledge the privileges that we receive from hegemonic masculinity. We need to own up to our complicity in coercive entitlement. And, most importantly, we need to start working to ensure that future generations of men who follow us will see hegemonic masculinity for what it is: an archaic, bigoted, patently unethical way of being in the world.

I trust that the Men's Team will continue that project after I am gone. I can promise you that I will, regardless of where life takes me.

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