Wednesday, 26 June 2013

US blog - violence and masculinity

CRFR Associate Director Dr Nancy Lombard is visiting the US to talk about her research on young people’s attitudes to violence against women. She blogs about the first stage of her tour.

Today is the first day of my knowledge exchange programme. I am at Stonybrook University to meet with professor Michael Kimmell an expert in gender studies,  in particular, masculinities. Michael is a pro-feminist academic whose latest work is The Guy's Guide to Feminism', which was co-written with Michael Kaufman one of the co-founders of the white ribbon campaign.

I was interested to set up a meeting with Michael Kimmell to explore his own research and writings and discuss the connections that could be made with my own.

In my research looking at young people and their constructions of men's violence against women, many of the young boys I spoke to felt overwhelmed and disabled by narrow definitions of masculinity that they felt symbolised adult men and often saw this as the only way to 'be a real man'.

Their identities as young boys were structured by expectations of masculinity, but these were open to change, especially with supportive networks and friends, and when alternative masculine identities were available to them.

However, as they became older they saw these forms of masculine identities narrow and become more rigid. Such identities were associated with violence and structures of power that the young boys themselves did not want to 'aspire' to but saw little alternatives of how else to be a 'man'.

I was interested to speak to Michael about the implications of my research for the development of preventive work in schools and youth settings and the possibilities of alternative masculine identities and how this could be achieved.

We discussed how young people’s practices could be changed especially when they were exposed to alternative identities, and also how violence prevention could be personalised to encourage boys and men to see women as their mothers, daughters, sisters etc. (For example, the work of Jackson Katz and the Mentors in Violence Prevention work currently undertaken by Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit).

However, we both agreed that whilst individuals might create change it was only by overhauling ideologies  that such change could be sustained and that rigid definitions of masculinity where violence is valued could begin to be broken down.

Dr Nancy Lombard, Lecturer of Sociology and Social Policy, Glasgow Caledonian University Email Nancy
Associate Director, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) University of Edinburgh 
Associate Researcher, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research
Editorial Board Violence Against Women
Editor, with Lesley MacMillan, of Violence Against Women: Current Theory and Practice in Domestic Abuse, Sexual Violence and Exploitation

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