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The social problem and societal problematisation of men and masculinities

Exploitable results

This has proved to be the most difficult area to pre-define, but in some ways one of the most interesting. Social exclusion often figures in the research literature in different ways, such as, unemployment, ethnicity, homosexuality, homelessness, social isolation, poor education, poverty. The social exclusion of certain men links with unemployment of certain categories of men (such as less educated, rural, ethnic minority, young, older), men’s isolation within and separation from families, and associated social and health problems. These are clear issues throughout all countries. They are especially important in the Baltic, Central and East European countries with post-socialist transformations of work and welfare with dire consequences for many men. Even in Nordic countries, which are relatively egalitarian and have a relatively good social security system, new forms of problems have emerged. In the last decade, new forms of marginalisation have developed, with shifts from traditional industry to more postindustrialised society. Globalising processes may create new forms of work and marginalisation. Some men find it difficult to accommodate to these changes in the labour market and changed family structure. Instead of going into the care sector or getting more education, some young men become marginalised from work and family life. Working class men are considered the most vulnerable. There is a lack of attention to men engaged in creating and reproducing social exclusion, for example, around racism, and the intersections of different social divisions and forms of social exclusion. Policy recommendations on the social exclusion of men: Our recommendations included reducing the social exclusion of men, especially young marginalised men, men suffering racism, and men suffering multiple social exclusions; reducing the effects of the social exclusion of men upon women and children; ameliorating the effects of rapid socio-economic change that increase the social exclusion of men; specifically addressing the transnational aspects of social exclusion of men, in, for example, transnational migration, and homosexual sexual relations; to change men’s actions in creating and reproducing social exclusions.
- Men in Europe The conceptualisation of the Network’s activity around the notion of ‘men in Europe’, rather than, say, the ‘European man’ or ‘men’, highlights the social construction, and historical mutability, of men, within the contexts of both individual European nations and the EU. As such, this does not mean that we have assumed that there is a specific meaning to “being a European man”. Particular consideration needs to be given to the ways in which policy development is being directed by the European Union towards the countries of central and eastern Europe. The concern is not only that such policy imperatives may be enhancing gendered social disadvantages for women in favour of men but that these imperatives (in terms of their outcomes) may be running directly counter to other criteria identified by the Union as being keys for countries seeking membership: for instance, criteria relating to gender mainstreaming. - Comparative issues There are also many theoretical issues raised by the Network’s activities. Much of the main theoretical scholarship on men and masculinities has been conducted within the context of individual countries – Australia, Germany, Norway, UK, US, and so on. By broadening the range of national and cultural context, albeit within the European region, this present work seeks to add a much stronger comparative and contingent approach to these studies, both theoretically and empirically. - Men’s power Recent studies have foregrounded questions of men’s power, and men’s relations to power. There is a profound and enduring contradiction between men’s dominance in politics, state and economy, and the social exclusion of some groupings of men. There is a comparable contradiction between the high responsibility placed upon some men for societal development, and the recognition of some men’s irresponsible behaviour in terms of health, violence and care. These can both be seen as cultural expressions of traditional forms of masculinity. - Changing forms of masculinities and men’s gender practices In many countries and until relatively recently established forms of masculinity and men’s practices could be distinguished on two major dimensions - urban and rural; bourgeois and working class. The exact ways these four forms, and their permutations, were practiced clearly varied between societies and cultures. In recent years, all these forms of masculinity and men’s practices have been subject to major social change. Recent pluralised approaches to masculinities, including hegemonic masculinity, as the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of legitimacy of patriarchy, and which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women. - De-patriarchalisation and re-patriarchalisation There are also indications of both de-patriarchalisation and re-patriarchalisation; of some growing uncertainty around masculinity, which may itself be connoted as ‘not masculine’. - Homogenisation, diversifications and problematisations There is a widening set of contradictions between, the one hand, the moves towards homogenisation in men and masculinities through globalisation, and, on the other hand, the moves to diversifications of gender, including the increasing problematisation of traditional and given aspects of men and masculinities. - Gaps As we envisaged at the outset of this Network, the many “gaps” we have discovered in all the materials available concerning men’s practices in Europe are just as crucial as those materials, which are available. These absences or silences are especially important in terms of: -- What is researched and what is not researched, and where; -- What issues are addressed by policy and which are not, and where. We believe particular attention must be paid to addressing these absences if effective policymaking about a range of critical social and political issues is to be developed. The alternative may be policy, which is not only inappropriate but also dangerous to various categories of citizens within Europe. - Gender collaboration in research Gender collaboration needs to be established in research and in designing strategies to monitor social problems. There is a clear need to maintain the close and integral relation of research on men and feminist research. Without this, research on men will be uniformed of the most developed theoretical and emprical research on gender. - Research and policy Both between countries and within individual countries there are clearly major mismatches between, on the one hand, those issues which are identified as crucial by research studies and, on the other hand, those issues which do (or do not) attain importance at the policy level. This finding clearly calls into question the policymaking processes, which differentially operate across the nations of Europe. Whilst it is clear that relationship between the research and policy-making communities varies considerably from one country to another, there seems to be a more general problem about this mismatch between priorities identified in research and priorities addressed by policy-makers. Whilst it is inevitable that political considerations will enter into decisions about policy-making, if the imbalance between research findings and policy development becomes too wide, then the effectiveness of the latter must be called into question. It should be noted that one of the many ways in which the outcomes from this Network can be used is to map the profile of academic research in any one country against the statistical and policy profiles of that country: thereby revealing the extent of fit (and non-fit) between policy priorities and research findings in that country. Using the material from this Report, we can say that the imbalance or non-fit between research findings and policy development generally seems sometimes very wide.
Gender-neutral language. Gender-neutral language is generally used in law and policy, though for different reasons within different legal-political traditions. The national constitutions embody equality for citizens under the law; non-discrimination on grounds of sex/gender. Despite these features, major structural gender inequalities persist. Gendered welfare state policy regimes. The different traditions of gendered welfare state policy regimes have definite implications for men’s practices; this is clearest in men’s relations to home and work, including different constructions of men as breadwinners. The implications for men’s social exclusion, violences and health need further explication. Gender equality provisions. The implications of gender equality provisions for men are under explored. Different men can have complex, even contradictory, relations to gender equality and other forms of equality. Men’s developing relations to gender equality can include: men assisting in the promotion of women’s greater equality; attention to the gendered disadvantage of certain men, as might include gay men, men with caring responsibilities, men in non-traditional work; men’s rights, fathers’ rights, and anti-women/anti-feminist politics. Gender mainstreaming. Efforts towards gender mainstreaming in law and policy are often, quite understandably, women-oriented; the implications for such policies for men need to be more fully explored, whilst at the same time avoiding antiwomen/ anti-feminist “men only” tendencies that can sometimes thus be promoted. Intersections of men, gender relations and other forms of social division and inequality. The intersection of men, gender relations and other forms of social division and inequality, such as ethnicity, remains an important and undeveloped field in law and policy. Both the substantive form and the recognition of these intersections in law, policy and politics vary considerably between the nations. These intersections are likely to be a major arena of political debate and policy development in the future.
The major recurring theme here is men’s relatively low life expectancy, poor health, accidents, suicide, morbidity. Some studies see traditional masculinity as hazardous to health. Men suffer and die more and at a younger age from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases, accidents and violence than women. Socio-economic factors, qualifications, social status, life style, diet, smoking and drinking, hereditary factors, as well as occupational hazards, can all be important for morbidity and mortality. Gender differences in health arise from how certain work done by men are hazardous occupations. Evidence suggests that generally men neglect their health and that for some men at least their ‘masculinity’ is characterised by risk taking, especially for younger men (in terms of smoking, alcohol and drug taking, unsafe sexual practices, road accidents, lack of awareness of risk), an ignorance of their bodies, and a reluctance to seek medical intervention for suspected health problems. There has been relatively little academic work on men’s health and men’s health practices from a gendered perspective in many countries. Policy recommendations on men’s health: Our recommendations include: to improve men’s health; to facilitate men’s improved health practices, including use of health services; and to connect men’s health to forms of masculinity, such as risk-taking behaviour. To fully understand, and deal with, the dynamics around the health problems of at least some men we may need to connect those problems to dominant, or even in some cases oppressive, ways of “being a man”: for instance, risk-taking behaviour relevant to some injuries and addictions; or an almost “macho” unwillingness to take one’s health problems seriously and seek medical help; or the marked violence which enters into the methods which a number of men seem to use to commit suicide. This point is also a good example of a more general conclusion arising from the Network outcomes which is highly relevant for policy-makers: in designing policy interventions one must seek to bridge the central divide which has previously existed in much research on men i.e the splitting of studies which focus on “problems which some experience” from those which explore “the problems which some create”. Our other recommendations in the field of men’s health were: to focus on the negative effects of men’s health problems upon women and children; to ensure that focusing on men’s health does not reduce resources for women’s and children’s health. Once again, this final point is one which we would wish to emphasise and to apply broadly across all the policy areas above: the creation of effective policy interventions in the field of men’s practices are vital. However, they must never be made at the expense of funding for services to women and/or children.
The general state of studies on men: The state of studies on men in the 10 national contexts varies in terms of volume and detail of research, the ways in which research has been framed, as well as substantive differences in men’s societal position and social practices. The framing of research refers to the extent to which research on men has been conducted directly and in an explicitly gendered way, the relation of these studies to feminist scholarship, Women’s Studies and Gender Research more generally, and the extent to which research on men is focused on and presents ‘voices’ of men or those affected by men. Other differences include different theoretical, methodological and disciplinary emphases, assumptions and decisions. In all the countries reviewed the state of research on men is uneven and far from well developed. In most countries research on men is still relatively new and in the process of uneven development. The extent of national research resources seems to be a factor affecting the extent of research on men. In some countries there is now some form of relatively established tradition of research on men, albeit of different orientations. In most countries, though there may not be a very large body of focused research on men, a sizeable amount of analysis of men is possible. Interconnections between the four focus areas surveyed (home and work; social exclusion; violences; and health) The academic research has pointed clearly to strong interconnections between the four focus areas - especially between unemployment, social exclusion and ill health. Patterns of men’s violence interconnect with these issues to some extent but also cut across these social divisions. Similarities and differences. There are both clear similarities between the ten nations and clear differences, in terms of the extent of egalitarianism, in relation to gender and more generally; the form of rapid economic growth or downturn; the experience of post-socialist transformation; the development of a strong women’s movement and gender politics. There are also differences between men in the same country; for example, former West German men tend to be more traditional than former East German men, and also within one man or groups of men. Men in power. There is a particular neglect of attention to men in powerful positions and to analyses of men’s broad relations to power, both in themselves and as contexts to the four themes.
Recurring themes include men’s occupational, working and wage advantages over women, gender segregation at work, many men’s close associations with paid work, men in non-traditional occupations. There has been a general lack of attention to men as managers, policy-makers, owners and other power holders. In many countries there are twin problems of the unemployment of some or many men in certain social categories, and yet work-overload and long working hours for other men. These can especially be a problem for young men and young fathers; they can affect both working class and middle class men as, for example, during economic recession. Work organisations are becoming more time-hungry and less secure and predictable. While, it is necessary not to overstate the uniformity of this trend which is relevant to certain groups only and not all countries, time utilisation emerges as a fundamental issue of creating difference in everyday negotiations between men and women. Another recurring theme is men’s benefit from avoidance of domestic responsibilities, and the absence of fathers. In some cases, this tradition of men’s avoidance of childcare and domestic responsibilities is very recent indeed and still continues for the majority of men. In some cases it is being reinforced through new family ideologies within transformation processes. In many countries there is a general continuation of traditional ‘solutions’ in domestic arrangements, but growing recognition of the micro-politics of fatherhood, domestic responsibilities, and home-work reconciliation at least for some men. In many countries there are also counter and conflictual tendencies. On the one hand, there is an increasing emphasis on home, caring, relations. This may be connected to ”family values”, a political right wing or a gender equal status perspective. It is not surprising if there may be a degree of cultural uncertainty on men’s place in the home and as fathers and a growing recognition of ambivalence, even when there is a strong familism. There is also in some countries a growing interest in the reconciliation of work and home; and growing variety of ways of approaching this. Given the considerable difference that still exists between men’s and women’s earnings, it is not surprising that it is the woman who usually stays at home after the birth of a child. Since she is usually the person with the lower income, a couple does not need to be wholehearted advocates of traditional domestic ideology to opt for the traditional solution. On the other hand, this labour market difference is not in itself enough to explain the persistence of such patterns. Other factors include the impact of power relations between women and men in marriage and similar couple relationships. Moreover, this pattern of women’s tendency to leave the labour force for childrearing, for varying amounts of time, has to be understood in terms of the diverse patterns across Europe. Evidence from Nordic countries shows that parental leave which is left to negotiations between men and women, are mostly taken up by women, although most people, men especially, say they want a more balanced situation. Men and indeed fathers are clearly not an homogeneous group. Men’s unemployment can have clear and diverse effects on men’s lives in families. Among men there has long been a contradiction between the ideas they profess and the way they actually live. The fact that men and women living together do not always give the same assessment of their relationship in general and the distribution of tasks between them in particular has become a much discussed topic in methodology. The paradoxical ways in which gender conflicts on the distribution of housework may be negotiated may be illustrated from German research: while in the early 1980s women living with men were generally more likely than men to claim that they did more of the work, some studies in the 1990s have shown the opposite. Policy recommendations on men’s relations to home and work: One central recommendation is to encourage men to devote more time and priority to caring, housework, childcare, and the reconciliation of home and paid work. Other recommendations included: to remove men’s advantages in paid work and work organisations, as with the persistence of the gender wage, non-equal opportunities practices in appointment and promotion, and domination of top level jobs; policies on men in transnational organisations and their development of equality policies; to encourage men’s positive contribution to gender equality; to remove discriminations against men, such as compulsory conscription of men into the armed forces, and discriminations against gay men.
Research. While in recent years there has been an increasing amount of research on representations of men in the media, there has been relatively little concern with the mundane, everyday media representations of men in newspapers. This workpackage is thus founded on a less firm research base than the previous three workpackages. This opens up many questions for future research on men in newspapers, and men’s relations to newspapers. Methodology. The workpackage on media and newspaper representations involved new qualitative and quantitative research that has raised very complex issues of measurement and analysis. In particular, there are major methodological and even epistemological issues in assessing forms of representation to ‘men’, ‘men’s practices’ and ‘masculinities’. This is especially so when a large amount of newspaper reporting is presented in supposedly or apparently ‘gender-neutral’ terms. Men are routinely taken-for-granted and not problematical in the press. Additionally, there are significant sections and genres of reporting, especially around politics, business and sport, that are often ‘all about men’, but without explicitly addressing men in a gendered way. Furthermore, the framework of the four main themes has been to a large extent imposed on the newspaper material surveyed. Extent of Newspaper Coverage. While the overall extent of coverage of men, particularly explicit coverage, is relatively small, there is noticeably more coverage in the attention to men in families and, to an extent, gender equality debates are more present in Western European countries, especially Norway and Finland, than in the transitional nations. Distribution. The most reported themes were generally Violences, usually followed by Home and Work. Social Exclusion was reported to a variable extent, and it was the most reported theme in Germany and Ireland. Health was generally the least reported theme; this was especially so in the transitional nations, with, for example, no articles in Latvia and only one in Poland. This contrasts with the higher number of articles in, for example, Finland and the UK. Representations of Violence. This theme needs special mention as it figured so strongly in some countries. There is often a relatively large amount of reporting of short articles on men’s violence, much of it reported on an individual basis. There are, however, some exceptions to this pattern with limited attention to group, cultural, social, societal, historical and international perspectives. The Cultural Dimension. More generally, this Workpackage points to the possibilities for greater attention to the cultural dimension in comparative studies of men and gender relations. Literatures, where attention is given to, for example, cultural repertoires and national discourses could be useful here. The primary research completed by the Network on newspaper articles provides an initial analysis of what could be a much larger project.
The recurring theme here is the widespread nature of the problem of men’s violences to women, children and other men, and in particular the growing public awareness of men’s violence against women. Men are over represented among those who use violence, especially heavy violence. This violence is also age-related. The life course variation in violence with a more violence-prone youth phase has been connected to increasing exposure to commercial violence and to other social phenomena, but these connections have not been well mapped. Violence against women by known men is becoming recognised as a major social problem in most of the countries. The range of abusive behaviours perpetrated on victims include direct physical violence, isolation and control of movements, and abuse through the control of money. There has been a large amount of feminist research on women’s experiences of violence from men, and the policy and practical consequences of that violence, including that by state and welfare agencies, as well as some national representative surveys of women’s experiences of violence, as in Finland. There has for some years been a considerable research literature on prison and clinical populations of violent men. There is now the recent development of some research in the UK and elsewhere on the accounts and understandings of such violence to women by men living in the community, men’s engagement with criminal justice and welfare agencies, and the evaluation of men’s programmes intervening with such men. The gendered study of men’s violence to women is thus a growing focus of funded research, as is professional intervention. Child abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse and child neglect, is now also being recognised as a prominent social problem in many countries. Both the gendered nature of these problems and an appreciation of how service responses are themselves gendered are beginning to receive more critical attention, both in terms of perpetrators and victims/survivors. There has been a strong concern with the intersection of sexuality and violence in Italy and the UK: This is likely to be an area of growing concern elsewhere. There is some research on men’s sexual abuse of children but this is still an underdeveloped research focus in most countries - as is the undoubted overlap between men who are violent to their partners and men who are violent to their children. In some countries sexual abuse cases remain largely hidden, as is men’s sexual violence to men. There has also been some highlighting of those men who have received violence from women. Men’s violences to ethnic minorities, migrants, people of colour, gay men and older people are being highlighted more, but still very unexplored. Policy recommendations on men’s violences: Our recommendations include: stopping men’s violence to women, children and other men, assisting victims and survivors; enforcing the criminal law on clear physical violence, that has historically often not been enforced in relation to men’s violence to known women and children; making non-violence and anti-violence central public policy of all relevant institutions - including a focus on schools within extensive public education campaigns; assisting men who have been violent to stop their violence, such as men’s programmes, should be subject to accountability, high professional standards, close evaluation, and not be funded from women’s services; and recognising the part played by men in forms of other violence, including racist violence. We also want to make a more general point about social policy and men’s violences to women and/or children. If we look at various welfare systems in Western Europe in terms of the extent to which they demonstrate an awareness of the problem and a willingness to respond to it, then the transnational patterns that emerge in Europe are almost a reversal of the standard Esping-Andersen-type classifications. The criteria which can be used to look at each country would include: the levels of research carried out on the topic in different countries; the extent to which the prevalence of men’s violences has been researched and/or acknowledged publically; the extent to which legal frameworks are focused on men’s violences; the extent to which there are welfare initiatives aimed at dealing with the outcomes of men’s violences; the extent to which welfare professionals are trained to address men’s violences.
The explicit gendering of statistics on men’s practices: It was noted that an interesting and paradoxical issue is that the more that research, especially focused gendered research on men, is done the more that there is a realisation of the gaps that exist, both in specific fields and at a general methodological level. Clearly a lack of data on/from men hinders research development. This conclusion cannot be said to have been reinforced in any clear way from the national reports. On first reading it might seem that relatively few specific gaps have been identified in the statistical sources. In some senses there is indeed a wealth of information, especially on work and employment, as well as demography, family arrangements, health, illness and mortality. On the other hand, a closer reading shows that while the national statistical systems provide a broad range of relevant information, they usually have significant shortcomings. Explicit gendering of statistics is still not usual. Moreover, there is an absence of focused statistical studies of men, especially differences amongst men. Many statistical studies are relatively cautious in their critical commentary. Many provide data for further analysis, interrogation, and comparison with other data, critical comment, and theory development. This is partly a reflection of traditions around the rules of statistical inference, and partly as many studies are produced within a governmental context where such further analysis and critique is not seen as appropriate. The source and methodology of statistics. There is a need to attend with great care to the source and methodology of statistics on men’s practices. For example, focused surveys of women’s experience of sexual violence (in the broad sense of the term) tend to produce higher reports than general crime victim surveys. In turn, the latter tend to produce higher figures than police and criminal justice statistics. Thus the use of statistics on men’s practices is a matter for both technical improvement and policy and political judgement. Unities and differences. There are both clear similarities between the ten nations and clear differences, in terms of the extent of egalitarianism, in relation to gender and more generally; the form of rapid economic growth or downturn; the experience of post-socialist transformation; the development of a strong women’s movement and gender politics. However, these data on men’s practices also reveal the pervasive and massive negative impact of patriarchal relations of power across all sectors of society. The importance of the ongoing challenge to these gendered power relations cannot be over-emphasised. There is a neglect of attention to men in powerful positions and to analyses of men’s broad relations to power, both in themselves and as contexts to the four themes. Unities and differences between men need to be highlighted – both between countries and amongst men within each country. There are, for example, differences between men in the same country, such as between men in the former West German and the former East Germany, and also within one man or groups of men. Recent structural changes and constructions of men. Analyses of the social problem of men should take into account that many of the countries have experienced recent major socio-economic changes. This applies especially to the transitional nations, though one should not underestimate the scale of change elsewhere, such as economic boom (Ireland) and recovery from recession (Finland). There is also the impact of more general restructurings of economy and society throughout all the countries reviewed. In the case of the transitional nations the political and economic changes were often viewed as positive compared with the Soviet experience. They also often brought social and human problems. While there is no 100% concordance between economic and social change, there is often a clear relation, for instance, a weakening of the primary sector leading to social and geographical mobility. In the transitional nations people never expected economic freedom would be associated with a decrease in population and birth rate, high criminality, drugs, and diseases such as tuberculosis. During the transition period there is often a negative relation between economy and welfare. These changes have implications for the social construction of men. In the Russian Federation there has been the recent appearance of “victimisation theory” to explain men’s behaviour, according to which men are passive victims of their biological nature and structural (cultural) circumstances. Men are portrayed as victims rather than “actively functioning” social agents, with the policy implications that follow from this. The various national and transnational restructurings throughout all the countries raise complex empirical and theoretical issues around the analysis and reconceptualisation of patriarchy and patriarchal social relations. These include their reconstitution, both as reinforcements of existing social relations and as new forms of social relations. New forms of gendering and gendered contradictions may thus be developing, with, through and for men’s practices. Interconnections, power and social exclusion. There are strong interconnections between the four focus areas. This applies to both men’s power and domination in each theme area, and between some men’s unemployment, social exclusion and ill health. Social exclusion applies to and intersects with all three other themes: home and work, violences, health. Patterns of men’s violence also interconnect with all the themes to some extent but also cut across social divisions. Statistics are mainly focused on ‘dyadic’ analysis, for example, poverty and men/women, or poverty and ethnicity. Developing ‘triadic’ statistical surveys and analyses of, say, poverty, gender and ethnicity is much rarer, and an altogether more complex task.