Defining Modern Masculinity

9780199778249Yesterday, I attended one of Bradford Literature Festival‘s brilliant events in the eponymously impressive Impressions Gallery in Bradford Centenary Square. I had already used Peter Lloyd‘s potentially polemic book as a key text in both a seminar, Misandry and the Second Sexism 1, and a lecture; wherein I’d presented analyses of the tenets underpinning his work. And I read Mark McCormack‘s text and found it to be unusual within the field of accessible academic texts as it made me cry.

The panel didn’t disappoint. Along with a distinctly  Bradfordian flavour of unique contribution from Javad Alipoor, and the impeccable chairing offered by spoken word artist, Ralph Dartford, the discussion was wide-ranging and clearly engaged us as the audience. This was evident because people of all ages and genders got involved, conversed with the panel and felt empowered enough to make both sharp observations and steer the direction of the talk as it progressed.

Peter Lloyd is as impressive as his writing; he spoke with verve and passion, his work is obviously not a hollow political drum being beaten for the mere thrill of furor-feeding. He addressed interesting audience observations with dexterity and humour but most of all, it’s clear he is sincere in his belief that the casual, everyday misandry that men in our society are assailed with has been allowed to proliferate to the point that it is pedestrian. We barely notice it. Except, I would argue (as does Peter’s work) that we do, subconsciously, at least. I see the evidence of this in my Male Eating Disorders research; where men have deeply internalised toxic messages that they are not worthy of love, sanity and esteem, often for the very fact of being men in an anti-male environment.

Stand By Your Manhood

The Suffragentleman’s work

Diverging from Peter Lloyd’s journalism were the academic perspectives of Dr Mark McCormack. His work is one to watch, as ten years from now I suspect we’ll be looking back on the findings presented within his book as being of seminal significance in changing our appreciation of how masculinities are evolving. His insights offered a quite radical reframing of how young men are relating to one another, about their ability to fashion and feel new ways of being with one another in a warm, tactile, appreciative environment without these relationships being construed as homosexual, and therefore subject to homophobic taunts and slurs. He reported that his data suggests that there is a clear generational nature to masculinities with 21st century boys being potentially unencumbered by the stiflingly rigid ways of being men together found in previous decades.

The audience ensured that conversation engaged with multiple aspects of masculinities, such as:

  • the interplay between feminism and masculinity
  • the role of arts education and the UK’s failure to include this in young men’s experiences
  • the evolving identity of manhood over the lifespan as we age
  • the failure of modern discourses to offer full insight into the experiences of masculinities.

These represent a small summary of the full extent of the talk, and certainly don’t do justice to the overall content that was covered. I was left with more questions than answers and my head buzzing about the links between what I’d heard, my data, my own academic discussion and the thoughts that had been provoked.

A thoroughly worthwhile experience and yet another, among the many reasons,  to support Bradford Literature Festival.