By Lisa Jean Moore
When I was invited to participate in coordinating The Feminist Wire’s Forum on Masculinities, I was both excited and more than a bit anxious. Certainly the reflexive and critical examination of masculinities is deeply interesting to me as a sociologist, a mother, a wife, a feminist, an American, and a human being. But still, I worried about being in the awkward and uncomfortable position of the ‘feminist nag.’ Would I have to remind contributors that any examination of masculinity would need to consider girls and women? That starting and ending an analysis with ‘how hard it is to be a man’ would be deeply unsatisfying in its partial rendering of masculinity? I fretted about what was to come. Would I have to be THAT bitch?
Clearly, never having met in person TFW Collective Members Darnell L. Moore and David J. Leonard, the co-editors of this forum, I wondered how to fit my concerns and perspectives into the ways we might frame the forum. Could I trust them? In that familiar internalized sexism I’ve had to battle for 25 years in the academy, I wondered, would their male bonding trump my feminist insights?
Turns out my own baggage about men and masculinity led me to severely underestimate the sheer brilliance and commitment to critical masculinity each of these men embody and engage. My personal bias was revealed to me when I asked them why they were interested in doing this forum. Darnell shared, “I was motivated to engage this forum because it is necessary that we interrogate and re-imagine masculinities. I am particularly interested in thinking about masculinities through an asset analysis and not just a deficit-focused analysis. Can masculinities be redeemed? Are there ways to express masculinities that move away from sexist and patriarchal frames?” He continued on, “I think TFW is a perfect place to do this work because we are interested in examining gender as it is variously expressed through many types of bodies. I think we should note why it might be good to take up these questions during Women’s Herstory month, as well. Herstory is shaped by history, yes. That history has often done violence to women.”
David’s own ‘personal is political’ was expressed when he added, “I am motivated because the work that we do, and The Feminist Wire as a whole, is constantly challenging me to rethink and examine the ways that masculinity operates in my everyday life. To bring the conversations, the real-life work, the personal challenges and the systemic fights, into focus as they relate to masculinity is so important.”
Witnessing Darnell and David’s own process in putting the forum together and stretching themselves as well as encouraging each contributor to dig deeper — to refract masculinity through many different perspectives — has been a reparative experience for me. Reading the contributions has also been humbling. Certainly, the pain and suffering expressed about the rigid contours of heteronormative masculine performances and institutions are poignantly expressed from a variety of perspectives. But beyond that, each contributor is committed to searching for possibilities, new angles, novel opportunities to revision, reexamine, revolutionalize masculinity. The breadth and depth of considerations of masculinity are heterogeneous, fresh, engaged, smart, and tender. I have cried more than once reading these pieces. I have become angry. And I have been awed, surprised, embarrassed, and inspired.
Convening this forum has indeed taught me that consciousness-raising is an ongoing experience. David, Darnell, and I welcome you to read these pieces, muse over them, comment on them, share them, and build from them. Just as we have.
Lisa Jean Moore is a feminist medical sociologist and a professor at Purchase College, State University of New York. She has written books about urban beekeeping, human sperm, women’s health, and the sociology of the body.