The limits of discourse: masculinity as vulnerability

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 5
  • Abstract:

    For many, gender equity being fair to women and men is a zero sum game in which men should be willing to give up their privileges for the creation of a more equitable and just society. The idea that men might benefit from gender equity seems, for many, unthinkable. This was brought home a few years ago in a gender studies test, when students answering a question on what men might gain from gender equality explained instead how women would benefit. In this Perspective I reflect on the ways in which popular discourses around gender may inadvertently undermine movement towards gender and social justice. Dismissing my students' answers as the result of poor teaching or learning misses a key point: It seems to be extraordinarily difficult for most people to recognise how gender creates masculine vulnerabilities or how gender equity could benefit men. I suggest that if we are to improve women's lives through the reduction of violence, feminist teachers and activists need to think creatively about how to help men and boys understand that performances of masculinity deeply compromise their own lives.