Man in Box

Man in Box

Monday, November 06, 2006

Buy this book for every man you care about

This is an extraordinary book! I urge you to buy copies for every man, young or old, in your life - family, friend, lover. It can change their life for the better (and yours as well.) It can start them on the way to finding love without domination.

The book is The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks. You can purchase copies at only $10 each here from

Some excerpts:

...the will to use violence is really not linked to biology but to a set of expectations about the nature of power in a dominator culture. (p55) one talks about the role patriarchal notions of manhood play in teaching boys that it is their nature to kill, then teaching them that they can do nothing to change this nature --- nothing, that is, that will leave their masculinity intact. (p11)

Indoctrination…includes a psychological initiation that requires boys to accept that their willingness to do violent acts makes them patriarchal men. (p59)

Researchers [in a national survey of adolescent males] found that boys agreed that to be truly manly they must command respect, be tough, not talk about problems, and dominate females. (p42)

Patriarchal fathers cannot love their sons because the rules of patriarchy dictate that they stand in competition with their sons, ready to prove that they are the real man, the one in charge. (p47)

...there exists a masculine ideal that young males are not sure how to attain and that undermines their self-esteem. (p49)

Ruthless patriarchal assault on the self-esteem of teenage boys has become an accepted norm. There is a grave silence about male tyranny in relation to teenage boys. (p52)

Boys brutalized and victimized by patriarchy more often than not become patriarchal, embodying the abusive patriarchal masculinity that they once clearly recognized as evil. (p28)

The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women, [but rather] acts of psychic self-mutilation, [killing] off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem. (p66)

The unhappiness of men in relationships, the grief men feel about the failure of love, often goes unnoticed in our society precisely because the patriarchal culture really does not care if men are unhappy. (p5)

Wounded males must recover all the parts of the self they abandoned in serving the needs of patriarchal maleness. (p155)

The core of feminist masculinity is a commitment to gender equality and mutuality as crucial to interbeing and partnership in the creating and sustaining of life. (p118)

Feminist writing did not tell us about the deep inner misery of men. It did not tell us the terrible terror that gnaws at the soul when one cannot love. (p4)

...most folks continue to see men as the problem of patriarchy. This is simply not the case. Women can be as wedded to patriarchal thinking and action as men. (p23)

Dismantling and changing patriarchal culture is work that men and women must do together. (p24)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Your manhood can be revoked!

~ Charles Knight

The following are adapted excerpts from my "Tough Enough? Beyond the dominion of conventional masculinity in the politics of national security" -- a presentation to the Women in Public Policy weekly seminar, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA USA, 18 October 2005.

These excerpts address the contingency of 'manhood', the social enforcement of conventionality, and how these in combination are used to create gender-based 'war parties' to pursue international violence. They also explore what's to be done to move beyond this sort of destructive politics.

While conventional womanhood status is achieved for the most part through biological processes, conventional manhood status is granted by other males after ritualized ordeals and other social tests that often involve symbolic or actual violence. That other men are the keepers of manhood status has important consequences for gender politics. Men live with their manhood under the constant threat of revocation, and this contingency is a powerful enforcer of conventional power relations among males.

To illustrate how contingent manhood fits into the discourse about security and how it shores up a hegemonic masculinity I refer to the words of an archetypical man of action who in a moment of enthusiasm told us something interesting about how he experienced the fighting in Afghanistan.

On February 4th of 2005 the AP quotes Marine Corps Lt. Gen James Mattis as saying:

Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of hoot… It's fun to shoot some people. I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.

What drew my attention in this statement is that Mattis is justifying his pleasure in lethal violence within a cultural notion of 'manhood' and, in particular, the issue of who has it and who doesn't. Mattis derides the manhood of his enemy counterparts and once Mattis can judge them as less than real men he finds full permission to enjoy killing them.

Feminists have pointed out that in the stories of war the victor is usually gendered male and often the vanquished is gendered (or re-gendered) female [Goldstein p. 371]. In the binary system of conventional masculinity and femininity, if you have your manhood taken away what are you other than a woman, or in the masculinist discourse, a sissy or a girly-man? Furthermore, while a woman is tolerated in her place, in this system of thought there is no place for 'out of their place' males who are named and rejected as sissies, girly-men, fags, or queers.

From an international relations perspective the personal motivations of an individual soldier such as Mattis are well below the radar: state interests and associated motives are thought of as quite different from those of individuals in the state system. Furthermore there is no evidence I know of that most soldiers are motivated to fight by ideas such as Mattis' or that the military is a haven for men who share those ideas.

Nonetheless, Mattis's story provides me with a good introduction to a key political premise:

For every person like Mattis in the military there are undoubtedly ten, twenty or a hundred in civilian life. And in the American system of governance wars are pursued by ad hoc war coalitions that need to mobilize diverse groupings of political actors. People who are inclined to fight over matters of manhood offer a significant and reliable part of war coalitions and this group tracks closely to conventional masculine identity.

Now I want to return your attention to Mattis' seemingly gratuitous remark that he likes brawling! Brawling is fighting, usually fist fighting, for sport. People who do it tend to think of it as a worthy activity, and even if bloodied in the process, it is experienced first and foremost as fun. Participants who are usually male pride themselves with being ready for a fight at the slightest provocation. I believe Mattis made this remark about brawling because our culture includes the notion that real men are brawlers, and his affinity for brawling shores up his identity as a 'real man.'

However, brawling is not something that I have ever, ever wanted to do or thought might be fun. And when I have witnessed it I have made a point to give it a wide berth. Mattis' statement signaled that his masculinity is very different from mine.

I believe there is some more than trivial portion of males in our society who feel something like me and who exclude from their masculine identity affinity for brawling and, indeed, most any violence against males or females. I propose to you that this portion of males, when organized into self-confident identity and in alignment with other gender identity groupings, represents a potentially significant political expression in regards to national security policy. Right now organization of these males is inhibited, but with attention to this potential, this situation could change in the next decades.

However, under current conditions of hegemony the leading males who have laid claim to the title of 'real men' are able to make political use of the binary opposition of 'real man' and 'not a man' which is internalized in nearly all males. They use this to suppress opposing political expression of other males who are inclined toward different security policy preferences and to thereby rather too easily pull them into a hegemonic consensus.

If other masculinities are to challenge the hegemony of the conventional, we must resist the temptation to contest the character of a 'real man' -- to redefine this type - to say "We are real men of a different sort..."

The best strategy, I believe, is to cede to conservatives this particular ground, the lonely mountain top held by real men. Instead we need to develop multiple strong points for males in a diverse gender space of politics. I stress the word 'develop' since I believe there are as yet few alternative strong points in gender space for males to occupy. Gay man is one such point that has some strength, culturally and politically. But we need several others.

When I refer to gender space I am thinking about all of that space between and around what has traditionally been placed into a duality of masculine and feminine. I believe there is a multidimensional space of gender possibilities that don't lie in a straight line between man and woman. Gay, lesbian and transgender (and more recently queer) culture and politics has brought awareness of this gender space, especially among younger Americans who are increasingly open and accepting of a wide range of gender expressions simply unimaginable a couple decades ago.

Although GLBT and Q cultures are leading the way in this discovery, it is not my contention that they as an allied set of social movements will gain sufficient power to transform the politics of national security in the foreseeable future. Rather, my hypothesis is that there is some meaningful portion of males, many of whom are sexually straight and don't currently identify with queer culture, who have masculinities distinct from the traditional 'real man' type. This set might be composed of two or three different masculine types. Right now we simply don't know much about this male gender space and as part of a research agenda we need to learn more about these males and the gender space they occupy.

Just as women have organized themselves in opposition to conventional feminine roles and behaviors and then moved on to positive new feminine identities, there is latent potential for males to make this move away from conventional masculinity. It is time to realize this potential!

To restate my political hypothesis:

In the set of non-conventional masculinities that already exist, yet are currently subordinate, there is considerable political latency which could be organized into eventual alliance with progressive women to advance security policies that are less reliant on violence. Effective political organization will require establishing strong points of identity and confidence for these males.

The power of this set of other masculinities will remain latent as long as these males are kept within the confines of conventional masculinity by a combination of shaming and physical intimidation and the reified idea that there is only one gender choice for males - "real man" or "not a man." It is routine for boys growing up to be teased, harassed, and beaten if they stray ever so little from conventional male looks or behavior. This is something I can vividly remember from my childhood.

At the extreme, many of the most vicious hate crimes are against gays, transsexuals, and people of ambiguous gender appearance and behavior.

Returning to the potential political expression of males who are not fixed in the conventional masculine posture, the requisites for realizing their potential political power when aligned with women are these:

1. describing and "raising consciousness" about these different masculinities so that males can recognize them in themselves and have the option of identifying with one or another of their aspects or types.

2. an impassioned struggle, along the lines that gays have mounted in the last thirty years, against the shaming and physical intimidation of boys and men; and

3. following the examples of gays and lesbians, creating a proud and assertive political and social expression for these male gender variants.

I don't want to speculate on how long it will take for these new masculinities to emerge as a contending political force, but I am willing to hazard a prediction that a generation from now gender expression in politics, including national security politics, will be very different than it is now.

posted by Charles Knight

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sowing the Seeds of Fascism in America
by Stan Goff

Stan Goff has written this interesting essay on militarism, fascism, and masculinity -- Sowing the Seeds of Fascism in America.

An excerpt:

The film genre that most closely corresponds to a fascist mind-set is the male revenge fantasy, wherein after some offense is given that signifies the breakdown of order (usually resulting in the death or mortal imperilment of idealized wives or children) in which Enlightenment social conventions prove inadequate, and the release of irrational male violence is required to set the world straight again. Any reader can list these fantasies without a cue. It is one of the most common film genres in American society.
R. W. Connell wrote in Masculinities (University of California Press, 1995):

In gender terms, fascism was the naked reassertion of male supremacy in societies that had been moving toward equality for women. To accomplish this, fascism promoted new images of hegemonic masculinity, glorifying irrationality ("the triumph of the will”, thinking with “the blood") and the unrestrained violence of the frontline soldier.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

a female-male alliance supports a profound shift in the culture of violence

The following is excerpted from Security in the Great Transition by Charles Knight, published by the Tellus Institute, 2006. It is an imagined history of 21st Century warfare and international security written from the perspective of a grateful historian in 2084.

Few of the advancements in international security arrangements and in the demilitarization of nation states we enjoy today would have been possible if there had not been a deep change in culture from below. The previous century had already witnessed less glorification of warring and the rise to prominence of several outstanding leaders and movements committed to non-violent political struggle.

In the twenty-first century a deeper cultural change happened. Non-violent practice became central to many more people's lives and identities at all levels of relationships, from the personal to the global. Historians trace this “culture revolution” back to the feminist and gay liberation struggles of the twentieth century. By the second decade of the twenty-first century these movements had evolved into broad and multi-variant gender revolution that found strong resonance in the Global Citizens Movement that was then gaining strength (Kriegman, 2006). More and more people came to understand that gender identity and roles were much more of a choice (and had many more possibilities) than had been understood in previous generations. Gender identity and roles were increasingly understood as non-dichotomous, occupying a complex space of sexual and gender behavior possibilities. Gender expression was an active, creative, and inventive part of life and very much a choice in the way of being with and among others.

Although there was significant cultural resistance to this gender revolution, many observers expressed surprise at how quickly millions, especially among the young, broke with conventional identities to join in the freedom of open gender expression. For matters of security this “revolution” had several effects: a significant minority of males began to identify with a masculinity that did not include an affinity for violent or dominating relations with others and a majority of females were no longer willing to cede management of security (in their immediate lives and internationally) to males. This had political effect in that it became much harder to form political coalitions in support of wars—in particular, fewer people were willing to throw their political support behind organized violence. Also many more females aspired to be elected or promoted into positions of power and found success, often supported by significant numbers of males who preferred less violent and less dominating approaches to security issues frequently favored by female leaders.

This female-male alliance caused a profound shift in the culture of violence at the personal, familial, and community level. As the century progressed the steady decrease in the size of national armies and the numbers of wars was matched by a similarly paced decrease in violence “domestically”, the result of intensive social and political organizing by this growing female-male gender alliance. Of course, this change in gender identities and relations was not evenly paced across cultures and societies, but an unmistakable global trend was apparent that supported lower levels of international, inter-communal, and inter-personal violence.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Jean Baker Miller and Relational-Cultural Theory

Jean Baker Miller was one of the founding contributors to the branch of feminist psychotherapy and psychology known as Relational-Cultural Theory. 

I can attest that she was a wonderful human being and she will be deeply missed by those of us lucky enough to have known her!  Jean died in 2006 from complications of polio she had as a child.

I repost below a 'brief summary' of Relational-Cultural Theory from the Jean Baker Miller Center at Wellesley College.  Please believe me when I say this has everything to do with liberating masculinities.

The Development of Relational-Cultural Theory

Beginnings: Self-in-Relation

Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) has grown from the early work of Jean Baker Miller, M.D. who wrote the best-selling book Toward New Psychology of Women. Since the first edition was published in 1976, the book has sold over 200,000 copies, has been translated into 20 languages, and published in 12 countries. In her work, Dr. Miller explored the importance of dynamics of dominance and subordination in human relationships and began to reframe the psychology of women as a psychology centered in relationships.

RCT was then further developed collaboratively when Jean Baker Miller, M.D., Judith V. Jordan, Ph.D., Irene Stiver, Ph.D., and Janet Surrey, Ph.D. began meeting twice a month in 1977. This group, later named the Stone Center Theory Group, and then the Founding Scholars, was trying to break free from what they felt were the damaging effects for women of traditional therapy. By 1981 they were writing papers, presenting at conferences, and had found an institutional home at the Stone Center at Wellesley College where Jean Baker Miller served as the first director; they were literally coming into voice.

Women Finding Voice
The group continued to question the usefulness of psychology and therapeutic practices that elevate and celebrate the notion of a hyper-individuated separate self. The dominant (white, male, middle-class, heterosexual) culture valorizes power over others, overemphasizing internal traits, intrapsychic conflict, and strive for independence and success accomplished through competitive achievement, particularly in the culture of the 21st-century United States. To the extent that relationships are emphasized, they are viewed as primarily utilitarian, as aids to the achievement to separate self. They underemphasize the importance of connection, growth-fostering relationship and community, and often position a person’s need for interconnectedness as a sign of “weakness.”

From Woman’s Voice to Women’s Voices
As the work progressed, it brought phenomenological focus to the experience of women whose voices had been historically marginalized from the mainstream writing about women’s development. The inclusion of these voices was intended to challenge our assumptions of a power myth norm that would define “woman” as a white, economically privileged, able-bodied, and heterosexual female. Unchallenged, this norm becomes a standard against which all women’s experience is interpreted and evaluated. Therefore, the extent to which an individual woman conforms to this norm becomes almost by default the measure by which she is deemed worthy of notice or fit for connection. They began to understand the importance of connection as it also sought to move the model away from the biases of white, middle-class heterosexual experience, from woman’s voice to women’s voices: understanding the essentiality of connection across difference.

The effects of disconnection at a societal level, the ways that power differentials, forces of stratification, privilege, and marginalization can disconnect and disempower individuals and groups of people is paramount to understanding well-being on both an individual and societal level. The exercise of power over others (dominance), unilateral, influence, and/or coercive control is a prime deterrent to mutuality.

Mutuality involves profound mutual respect and mutual openness to change and responsiveness. It does not mean equality. As Jean Baker Miller once said, “In order for one person to grow in relationship, both people must grow.” This involves intersubjective, cognitive-emotional change; there is a certain, although different, vulnerability for both participants. Although we ultimately believe safety lies in building good, growth-fostering relationships and not in establishing separation from and power over others, building authentic connection is predicated on tolerating uncertainty, complexity, and the inevitable vulnerability involved in real change. It is far from easy or being perpetually “nice.”

Naming Relational and Cultural Power Structures
A critical step in the evolution of the model was recognizing the significance of cultural context to human development and the impact of culture on daily life. This awareness follows from increased acknowledgment that relationships do not exist as atomized units—separate and distinct from the larger culture. Indeed, relationships may both represent and reproduce the culture in which they are embedded. Accordingly, theories about human development must answer the question: What purpose and whose interests does the theory serve? The history of psychological theory is replete with evidence of complicity with cultural arrangements and power practices that divide people into groups of dominants and subordinates. One example of this complicity was the proliferation of psychiatric diagnoses in the 19th century ascribing certain “personality traits” to African slaves that supposedly made them susceptible to “rascality, episodes of running away and disregard for owner’s property” (Thomas & Sillen, 1972).

More recently, feminist theorists (Broverman, Broverman, Clarkson, Rosenkranz, & Vogel, 1970; Gilligan, 1982; Jordan et al., 1991; Miller, 1976, 1987; Miller & Stiver, 1997) have noted how the traditional theories of psychological maturity tended to overpathologize women as inherently needy, overly emotional, and dependent. Rarely was there any attention to the social structures and power arrangements that circumscribed the relational roles designated for women in a gender-stratified culture. When “personality traits” are attributed to a subordinate group and pathologized, psychological theories help to justify and preserve the culture’s power stratifications. In sum, the shift from self-in-relation to RCT signifies an intentional focus on the social implications of theory development.

Through exploring connection and disconnection at both the individual and social levels, we begin to understand how the political becomes psychological/personal and vice versa. Connections form or fail to form within a web of other social and cultural relationships. As we more deeply understood the central role of culture and power differentials on relationships, we felt the model’s name needed to signal this.

Pursuing Social Justice
To place culture, alongside connection, at the center of the theory is to break a critical silence. First, it acknowledges that social and political values inform theories of human psychology, including those that valorize separation and autonomy. Relational-Cultural Theory does not pretend to be value neutral. RCT recognizes that to feign value neutrality is to perpetuate the distortions of the stratified culture in rather predictable ways. First, theory itself becomes exempt from social scrutiny and takes on an aura of truth. Second, such hierarchical “power over” theories control how all members of the culture are defined and known. Third, it does this by tending to degrade or pathologize the experiences of marginalized people. Fourth, it tends to overvalue and privilege the perspectives of people who are culturally dominant.

Miller (1976) and others have pointed out that as one gains dominance in a culture of stratified power, enabling supports and connections are rendered invisible. By placing culture at the center of the model, RCT strives to make visible the multi-layered connections that belie the myth of separation (Miller & Stiver, 1997).

In a culture that valorizes separation and autonomy, persons with cultural privilege can falsely appear more self-sufficient and so will be judged as healthier, more mature, more worthy of the privilege society affords. Those who enjoy less cultural privilege (whether by virtue or race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic status) will more likely be viewed as deficient and needy. They are more likely to be subject to systemic disadvantage and culture shaming.

By bringing a phenomenological focus to cultural context, a more complete and accurate picture of human experience and possibility emerges. Without such a focus, the experiences of both the socially privileged and the socially disadvantaged are subject to distortion.

Who Defines “Reality?”
The illusion of separation and the mistaken belief in autonomy contribute to the denial of the basic human need to participate in the growth of others and to being open to be moved by others. And yet the power to move others, to find responsiveness, to effect change, to create movement together is a vital part of good connection. How power is defined and expressed is crucial. For instance there is the power to name, to shame, and to define another’s value or lack thereof, the power to distribute resources. If this power is expressed unilaterally, it reduces the strength and power of the other people or group of people who do not hold this power. As it is held onto and denied to others, it creates disconnection and disempowerment. Inequalities in power distribution occur in families, in therapy relationships, in work relationships. At a societal level, unequal distribution of power among groups—those largely defined as marginal by dominant center groups—is rampant and the source of pain and disconnection among the members of the marginalized people.

Necessity of Conflict in Mutual Relationships
The complexity of connection and of relationships arises from unequal power, from working with difference, or from trying to manage conflict creatively. RCT recognizes that all relationships are punctuated by disconnections, misunderstandings, and conflict. Connecting in a real, growthful way with others is not always harmonious or comfortable; we all experience fear, anger, and shame. We move away to protect ourselves, particularly if we are not met with empathic responsiveness or if we feel we do not matter to the other person. But when we renegotiate these inevitable disconnections, the relationship is enhanced and personal feelings of well-being, creativity, and clarity increase.

The path of connection is filled with disconnections, the vulnerability of seeking reconnection, and the tension around needing to move away, possibly to hide in protective inauthenticity. But we believe there is powerful force behind the movement toward connection, a yearning for connection, a desire to contribute to others, to serve something larger than “the self.”

Finding Hope
As we move forward in the development of RCT, we ask: How can we create a radical new language of connection and fully appreciate the fundamental contribution of relationship to human development? How can we appreciate the power of “controlling images?” Described so powerfully by Patricia Hill Collins (1990), these images are often about race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, and are imposed by the dominant culture to disempower and marginalize subordinate groups. We seek to examine how cultural stratification along multiple social identities shapes developmental experiences and relational possibilities by exploring how experiences of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, and gender effect the development of authenticity and mutual empathy in relationship. In the earliest days of our work we elucidated the relational consequences of interpersonal disconnection, describing it as a primary source of human suffering.

We acknowledge the thesis that a “power over” culture is itself an agent of disconnection that, left unchallenged, diminishes the relational capacities and confidence of all its members. For example, because unilateral power breeds fear, it also diminishes the relational capacities of those who hold power over others. When the purpose of a relationship is to protect the power differential (maintain the gap between those who hold privilege and those who do not), it is highly unlikely that authentic responsiveness can unfold. Indeed, authentic engagement and openness to mutual influence may be viewed as dangerous practices.

The path of connection is filled with complexity, contradiction, and uncertainty. In the face of the unknowns and the humbling blindspots, we are dedicated to learning to being responsive. In a world that is increasingly disconnected, violent, and filled with fear, where community needs are obscured by individual greed and competition, we feel commitment to connection. And in turning to connection, we feel hope.

Broverman, I. K., Broverman, D. M., Clarkson, F. E., Rosenkranz, P. S., & Vogel, S. (1970). "Sex-role stereotypes and clinical judgments of mental health." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 34(1), 1-7.

Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Jordan, J. V. (Ed.). (1997). Women’s growth in diversity: More writings from the Stone Center. New York: Guilford Press.

Jordan, J. V., Kaplan, A. G., Miller, J. B., Stiver, I. P., & Surrey, J. L. (1991). Women’s growth in connection: Writings from the Stone Center. New York: Guilford Press.

Miller, J. B. (1976). Toward a new psychology of women. Boston: Beacon Press.

Miller, J. B. (1987). Toward a new psychology of women (2nd ed.). Boston: Beacon Press.

Miller, J. B. & Stiver, I. P. (1997). The healing connection: How women form relationships in therapy and in life. Boston: Beacon Press.

Thomas, A. & Sillen, S. (1972). Racism and psychiatry. New York: Brunner-Routledge.

reposted from

Friday, October 06, 2006

the other & beyond male -- what's he like?

The following is adapted from some exploratory writing I did earlier this year:

A premise of my work on male gender identity and politics is that there is already some significant minority of males who reject (consciously or in their being in the world) the dominant male gender identity and role. I ask: around which characteristics and what behaviors might these males eventually discover each other and then combine into a new gender identity?

First, they would understand how hard it is for a male in this patriarchal society to express love and be in loving relationships of mutuality. They would consciously be in pursuit of healing this wound in themselves and of sharing the rewards of love with other men and women (thanks to bell hooks for articulating this.)

Men who reject Real Manhood would desire the joys and challenges of nurturing the young, the sick, the old, and their much-of-the-time healthy friends. They would want access to as much of their emotional and spiritual life as possible and they would be ready to struggle against cultures that seek to stifle it in the name of efficiency and order.

These men would reject violence for the deep hurt it does to the community and they would prepare themselves to struggle fiercely and with respect for others to protect that which is precious in their families, community and world.

They would work to accept the existential vulnerability of their corporal life in a world of uncertainty. By accepting vulnerability they would give up the illusion of control which drives so much of the will to dominate.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

of me (the editor) and this blog

My feminist friends tell me that it is important to ‘locate’ myself when I write. And blog culture is very conducive to writing about ‘me’, so for this first post on this new blog I will take the hint and tell you something about myself and why I am taking the trouble to create this blog.

Professionally I work as a national security analyst. I work for a ‘think tank’ and I spend about half my time writing critical studies of U.S. defense policy (that should help you locate my political leanings) and the other half of my work goes to making information about national security issues available on the Web so that millions of people in the United States and around the world (we have actually reached millions with our Internet sites) are better informed and therefore better prepared to engage in the politics of security.

I am a male. My ancestry is primarily European-American. My family has accumulated and passed along considerable wealth over generations. I am sixty years-old. I have been married to the same woman for almost forty years. I have three children and two grandchildren. Pretty straight! At least you’d think so by the description so far. And I have been pretty lucky, in many ways! More about me in future posts...I promise.

Back to national security. Several years ago I started to get serious about gender and national security. I watched while George Bush and Karl Rove successfully called John Kerry’s masculinity into question around a war in which Kerry had served with distinction while Bush had used family connections to avoid going. Seemed like an unlikely formula for political success. But Bush and Rove used male insecurity and female attachment to the most fundamental of bargains in patriarchy (men protecting the women folk) to build an election victory.

It was then that I decided that in order to make it harder for men like George Bush to lead us into wars we need to free as many males as possible from the tyranny of wondering if they are ‘real men’ so that they can confidently say ‘no’ to war (as well as other destructive behaviors.) And that will take a movement of liberation of males from the confines of conventional masculinity.

A friend called my attention to the literature of people who have trans-gendered. Reading their stories really brought home to me how much of what we experience as our gender is socially constructed. If trans people can do it and if we just allow ourselves to think outside the confines of the binary Male/Female, the possibilities for liberating males is huge and obvious.

One day, inspired, I started to draft a manifesto about this type of male liberation. I showed it to some trusted feminist friends and the feedback I got convinced me that it wasn’t quite ready for prime time. And besides, a manifesto is a political document, and, as such, it is better if it represents the views of more than one person. So I will ask some others to help me revise and add their voices to it. When it appears in print I trust it will be the stronger for it.

Meanwhile, what about this blog? I imagine developing here, in a less formal way, some of the ideas that are in my draft manifesto and other essays I have written to date. There is so much that needs to be explored. I will also invite some of the wonderful people I have met in gender studies and in feminist politics to join me here with their ideas and comments. I invite your thoughts, dear reader, and will post those I judge to add something meaningful to a mutual exploration of promising new gender space. Write me at otherbeyond(at)