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A complicated relationship: Masculinity and Feminism, a workshop for cis males

Article

The #metoo movement initiated a massive constructive, and long-overdue, debate on sexual assault and sexualized violence. However, it cannot be that only victims of sexualized violence (mostly women, trans- and inter-persons) are responsible for social change. It is of utmost importance to make the structural level of sexual violence and discrimination visible. These omnipresent phenomena are not just personal experiences from an individual level, but rather, they point to structurally anchored images of certain masculinities and a “normal” dominant male behavior.

Many cis male activists openly support the feminist cause. However, when it comes to questioning their own dominant way of speaking in mixed-gendered activist groups, or the distribution of certain tasks, there is still much to do. By carrying out this workshop with a group of cis male activists, Hanna wanted to approach sexism through the lens of critical masculinity, meaning that acting in sexist ways does not necessarily mean having bad intentions. Gender discrimination is a system that we cannot ignore because it puts men in positions of power. As a result, it is necessary to reflect on male privilege in order to make this system visible. It is not about blaming or accusing cis men, but about recognizing current social power structures and changing them. Taking feminist positions seriously in this context also means dealing with male privilege and focusing on male behavior.

The most important thing was that my peers offered to read my concept and give me critical feedback. This gave me the confidence to implement the workshop for ten politically active participants

 

Hanna developed the workshop with her queer-feminist group. Although she has been educated in intersectional feminist theory, she had never dealt in-depth with critical masculinity studies. Because of this, she had to do a lot of research. An important book she used was R. W. Connell’s ground-breaking work Masculinities, in which Connell describes masculinity as a socially constructed category that changes depending on the historical and cultural contexts. Hanna worked with political education for awhile, so she had some experience with transforming complex theoretical ideas into less-complex workshop material. As a group, they actively addressed cis males who were interested in broadening their horizons. Originally, the group wanted to use a community-owned room in Berlin, but they had to move to a private apartment due to the Corona-crisis. Hanna and one of the participants moderated the workshop together. Ten activists actively took part in the workshop, and they had a day (including a two-hour lunch break) full of insights and intense discussions.

 

This project was implemented with the support of the FAQ-Infoladen and the queer-feminist group she*claim.