Among the contributions and controversies that have emerged from feminist approaches, in particular feminism which advocates the diversity of identities, a line of research and action has emerged that begins to be known as “New Masculinities”.
This line made it possible to rethink different practices linked to gender and to understand more specifically the male subjectivities which have consolidated as hegemonic and sometimes violent. In this way and in certain spaces, it has been possible to act politically and therapeutically against it.
Although this is something that is still in development, here we can sketch some background and proposals that have emerged, as well as important areas for action.
New masculinities: response to a crisis
Gender approaches cause discomfort. They are uncomfortable because they question our places in the world, they force us to reorganize the subjective positions, that is to say the identities and the relations between them. In this sense, it is discomfort that generates “productive discomfort” (Sánchez, 2017).
If we analyze the social transformations of recent years, and especially look at the violent practices with which many men have tried to reaffirm their own virility; we can notice that masculinity is in crisis.
A crisis which is particularly visible in violence against women, but which is also linked to the different gender discomforts experienced by the men themselves. Gender approaches made it possible to pay attention to this. They allow us to understand some specific questions about the relationships, subjectivities and discomforts that have been constructed through gender binarism.
Until recently, attention to gender focused only on women and in femininity. Masculinity and its values had remained untouchable. It then became necessary to create models offering new places and roles (more equitable and freer from violence) that would not focus solely on the experience of women.
An alternative to hegemonic masculinity?
New masculinities are emerging as an alternative to hegemonic masculinity. The term “hegemonic masculinity” refers to dominant masculinity behaviors, which include the most traditional models of gender domination; based, for example, on mandates like “men don’t cry”, “they are always brave”, “nothing feminine”, “unmistakably heterosexual”, and so on.
In other words, these are the values, beliefs, attitudes, myths, stereotypes or behaviors that legitimize the power and authority of men over women (and over everyone other than straight men).
Hegemonic masculinity is what gave rise to a whole form of political and social organization based on the idea of human leadership and the predominance of the Eastern worldview over other forms of life.
However, this hegemony can also be replicated in models that present themselves as alternative and new (and not just traditional masculinity), which is why the very concept of New Masculinities is constantly revised. Thus, one of the bases for rethinking masculinity is its capacity for self-reflection and criticism towards the different models, values, practices and experiences of masculinity.
In short, they are known as New Masculinities because they seek to consolidate alternative experiences and practices to hegemonic masculinity.
Political and therapeutic action centered on the male experience
It is quite common for men to be given the task of teaching women what to do to stop being raped. But this often comes from the prohibition and the convenience of the man himself (not to wear such clothes, not to go out alone, not to speak in this way, etc.).
Faced with this, one way or another, many women explained that the way of showing solidarity with feminist struggles and against gender violence is not the same; among other things because the recommendations are made experiences completely unrelated to gender violence, Which ultimately reproduce the same domination.
This has not only been expressed by women, but many men have responded by creating journeys based on their own experience, which translate into political and therapeutic actions.
Rethinking gender models
In general, it is a question of generating a collective reflection on gender (specifically around masculinity) as a political action to address certain phenomena linked to violence and gender discomfort, starting from the male experience of men.
In other words, it is a question of “deconstructing” hegemonic masculinity. That is, being aware of the historical and structural conditions that have created gender inequalities and violence, and taking individual responsibility for what is appropriate.
For example, suppose they have been involved in such violence and collectively look for strategies to prevent it. Or, to share one’s own vulnerability by making explicit gender-related experiences and discomforts; and from there, to articulate them with the experiences and discomforts of the opposite sex and non-hegemonic sexulalides.
New masculinities or hybrid masculinities?
The concept of new masculinities has given rise to much debate. For example, Jokin Azpiazu, a pioneer in rethinking the masculine gender, Suggests that the idea of new masculinities is best understood through the concept of “hybrid masculinities”, initially proposed by sociologist CJ Pascoe.
The latter term refers to the fact that masculinities themselves should not be presented as new, but the effort should only be to incorporate non-hegemonic elements that generate new patterns and relationships.
Otherwise, there is a risk of adapting the same hegemonic masculinity to the new needs posed by gender approaches, which ultimately generates new forms of domination. That is to say, seemingly harmless practices but which in the end they reproduce the same structures of inequality.
In the same vein, the author reflects on the need to justify a different masculinity, or whether it is rather to problematize masculinity as a whole.
- Men and New Masculinities Collective (2018). We. Get to know our actions and our philosophy. Accessed May 8, 2018.Available at http://colectivohombresymasculinidades.com.
- Sánchez, J. (2017). Masculinity and feminism: a space of “productive discomfort”. Accessed May 8, 2018.Available at http://www.pikaramagazine.com/2017/06/masculinidades-y-feminismo-un-espacio-de-incomodidad-productiva/.
- Bergara, A., Riviere, J. and Bacete, R. (2008). Men, equality and new masculinities. Institute of Basque Women Emakunde: Vitoria.
- Segarra, M. and Carabí (eds). (2000). New masculinities. Icara: Barcelona.