During October I shared in two conferences about masculinity politics, in different corners of Europe.
The first was in Barcelona, held in an old, old municipal building – renovated now – that had been a historic cultural centre for women (see the picture, left). Titled "Congreso Iberoamericano de Masculinidades y Equidad", 7-8 October, it was a mixture of research and activism. Details: http://www.cime2011.org/ There was some participation from Latin America though most delegates were from Spain - a meeting of men’s groups for gender equality from around the country.
About 250 people came to the opening plenary, when I gave the keynote address. I was quite nervous, but got into the swing about 10 minutes in, and I think gave a decent talk on the theme of masculinities, men, global politics and gender justice. I don’t speak Spanish, so there was simultaneous translation, done by a guy hidden away in a back room, a bit eerie. Enough people were listening to the translation that when I made a joke, there were two waves of laughter, about three seconds apart.
|Opening session, CIME Barcelona|
Two weeks later was the Austrian "Männertagung 2011", 20-21 October, also a mixture of activism and research. Held in Graz, a thousand-year-old city in the pretty hill country of Styria, once a Hapsburg hangout and now a university town. I came by train from the north, through the mountains with autumn snow and leaves. Details of the conference: http://maennertagung2011.mur.at/
The conference was in the technical university on the working-class side of the river, a gritty industrial building in a gritty industrial area. About the same number of people as in Barcelona, and again I gave the opening plenary address, very well received - thank you, colleagues from Austria! Here there were more people from social work and other human service professions. Austria has a network of men’s counselling centres, and is almost unique in having a national office of men’s affairs, located in the social welfare ministry. (They have a separate ministry for women.)
So the big political moment in Graz was when the Minister turned up, gave a short address, and answered questions from the floor. He’s a Social Democrat, tipped as a future leader; the current conservative government is struggling in a big corruption scandal. A theme of the conference was ‘hegemonic masculinity’. The irony did not escape the conference participants, when the Minister and university authorities offered us a perfect illustration – affable, authoritative, and giving absolutely nothing away.
But the main work of the conference was done in workshops. I shared with Elli Scambor, one of the conference convenors, a research workshop about hegemonic masculinity. Other workshops dealt with migration, men’s health, queer issues, equality politics, violence, fatherhood, and youth work. In another plenary, Thomas Gesterkamp from Germany (http://www.thomasgesterkamp.de/) gave an illuminating tour of the politics of masculinity, including the menacing masculinity-fundamentalism that has emerged in right-wing politics in Europe.
|The Birthday Party, Graz|