Thursday, July 7, 2011

R.W. Connell – "Masculinities": Contemporary politics of masculinity

In the epilogue of "Masculinities" R.W. Connell is attempting to describe the politics of masculinity in contemporary times, flowing the works of Goode and Godenzi which show that despite openness to challenging claims made by feminism, men still have a strong hold in the material world and the equality is still far away. Connell is suggesting a model that has four dimensions of gender relation to try to account for the interests of men in contemporary patriarchy:

Power: man have favorable positions in business, state affairs, public spaces, the family, enforcement agencies and the means to generate violence. On the other hand: men are usually the ones who are arrested and executed, they are the main target of military violence and of liberal economic competition.

Division of labor: men's income is twice that of women and they enjoy favorable position in the economy and have better access to opportunities in the men dominated system. On the other hand hazardous works are mostly held by men and they rate higher as sole-providers. They pay more taxes while welfare divides state income to their disadvantage.

Cathexis: men are given unreturned emotional support from women. Society (for instance the media and culture) favors men's pleasure over women's and legitimizes their sexual freedom. On the other hand men's sexuality is more alienated and restrained. There are less free to express their emotions and they are excluded from contact with their children during their early years.

The symbolic level: men control most of the cultural institutions and enjoy a higher level of recognition. On the other hand humanities studies are becoming more and more a feminine field and mothers enjoy greater legitimization as parents.

in relation to the body Connell notes how men's occupations make them more vulnerable to physical injury while on the other hand they are not required to wear restricting cloths or spend time and money on their appearance.

This "checks and balances" approach might give the illusion that the benefits of masculinity even out with its costs, but Connell makes sure to note that the advantages of masculinity often serve men who are not the same as those who suffers from its drawbacks, and this is where gender crosses with other categories such as race and class. If Connell is talking about a variety of masculinities, than there is a variety of social position that those masculinities provide. But this, for Connell, does not mean we should abandon the category of men all together.  

Raewyn Connell – "Masculinities", 1995
Chapter 6: A Very Straight Gay
Chapter 7: Men of Reason