Monday, July 09, 2012

Anticipatory Detox; Or, Maybe Some Posting About Masculinity

I still have one month of school left, give or take, and it is going to be a hard go of it right to the end. This term has been brutal, partly for reasons I should have anticipated and partly for reasons I could not have. It will all happen, probably faster than I expect, but the end still feels a long way away from where I sit right now.

I know that when I am finally done, I am going to need to detox. By that I mean a few different things, but most of all I mean that I feel an urgent need to shake off the ... shape, I guess is a good word, that this experience has pushed me into. It has moulded my practices around how I think about and use my time, around reading, and around writing. I'm not saying I haven't gotten anything out of it, because I definitely have. I have not wavered for an instant from thinking that this foray into the academy has been a good choice for me, and I most definitely have learned things and gained things from the various activities that have pushed me into this shape, and from the various clever and generous people I've been lucky enough to work with along the way. But, on the whole, it's not a shape I like. Thankfully, as I've only been doing this for a year, I expect the shape will fall away easily enough, while the good stuff I've gained will be further taken up, re-worked, and put to use.

More than anything (except perhaps two weeks of doing absolutely nothing) what I need is the time and space and silence and solitude to remember what it means to do a broader range of kinds of writing, organized in a more dynamic and responsive-to-interest and responsive-to-political-contingency kind of way. I know that, at a certain level of "should," I should have some new big project ready to hit the ground running in the fall -- I'll be done school, my books will be coming out, and it would be great to treat those things as momentum and be able to say with assurance that my next big thing is just around the corner. And certainly I have some candidates in mind for things that might be both "big" and "next." But, for better or worse, for a little while I'm going to need to focus on doing smaller things. And on detoxing.

With that end in mind, I've been thinking that one good thing to do in the first month or two after I'm done would be to find small, easy, informal, regular things to work on -- perhaps structured in some way, since often the complete freedom of coming up with something from nothing on a regular basis actually makes things harder than I want this to be. I have a few different things in mind that could meet these criteria, not to mention other sets of criteria pointed at other components of the overall goal, but I want to talk about just this one right now.

Add to this another, for the moment unconnected, series of observations: There's this website called The Good Men Project. I don't know much about it. Mostly, I just have impressions. I haven't even visited the site to prepare to write this post. I remember (vaguely) when it launched that my sense of the hype around it was that it would be a site for liberal, pro-feminist discussions of masculinity, but maybe with a bit of space for material more critical and intersectional than that. And that seemed like a good thing -- boys talking with each other to figure out both our complicity in and our possibilities for working to oppose gender oppression, even if it begins from the confines of liberalism, isn't a bad thing at all. I have never, however, been more than a very occasional reader of the site. I follow them on Twitter, so I see passing headlines sometimes, but it is quite rare that I actually click through and read what's on offer. And, frankly, from the headlines I see and the few articles I read, I'm not sure what to think. I have certainly read some that seem more or less in line with my original impression of the site's mission. But I have also read some that are politically really awful, and that seem consistent with the accusation I ran across on a feminist site a few months ago -- sorry, I don't remember where, or I'd link it -- that GMP had degenerated into (or perhaps had always been) a sort of soft "men's rights" site rather than anything even vaguely critical or committed to working against gender oppression. Like I said, I don't know the truth of any of these things, and so far I have not had the time or the inclination to find out.

Add to the mix that I, myself, am interested in thinking and writing critically about masculinity and about gender and about gender oppression (in the context of the other aspects of social relations with which they are entwined), that I have done so a little bit before, and that I intend to do so a little bit more in the future.

So my idea was that, not too long after I finished school, I would take it upon myself to take one hour a day, three days out of each week, for four weeks, and I would use each of those hours to write a post responding to an article that had been posted that day or the day before on the GMP site. I wouldn't be aiming for anything lengthy or formal or polished. I would be strict about limiting myself to an hour for each post -- okay, maybe an hour and a half. And I would just write. It would get me engaging with ideas of concern to me and it would get me doing a different kind of writing than I've done recently. It might, in the end, be utterly pointless, and that would be fine. But it might give me a more grounded understanding of what exactly the GMP is and whether it has any political value, and it might get me thinking about things that could feed into future work that would be less short and casual and bloggy.

Except, I can't wait. I mean, I can't just start doing this now, and ignore the other things on my plate -- that would be extra-toxifying, not detoxing. But I'm thinking I could maybe move the items on said plate around a little bit and, oh, I don't know, maybe manage one such post a week until school is done. Just as a little taste, a hint of what's waiting for me. So I'm going to try and do that.

Of course there's a good chance you'll see this post and then one of the talked-about posts over the next week and then that's it until mid-August -- for the last five days and probably for the next five-to-seven as well, I've been putting together indexes for these, and it is mentally taxing but quite boring work. Which means that at the end of the day, when I'm too far gone to get any more of that done without making mistakes, I still have it in me to write a little bit. But in a week's time, I'll be turning back to school writing for one last sprint to the finish line, and there's a good chance I may not feel like doing any writing but that until it's all done. So this post may just be an advanced preview of my little "Good Men Project Project" and the real thing won't really happen until August, or it may be the start of a lite version of it.

In either case, just writing this has helped me, at least a little bit, to start a some anticipatory detoxing -- some pre-detoxing, some savouring of the smell even if I can't yet take a bite.


Red Jenny said...

Great post, Scott. I will be interested to read what you write abut masculinity. I think us feminists ought to take more account of it, as I truly think liberation from all damaging gender norms is necessary for the liberation of women. I also think boys and men who don't fit easily into society's dominant ideals of masculinity suffer tremendously. I was reading an article yesterday (in Forbes I think) about how to raise girls to prevent the wage gap and although I agreed with a good portion of it, I was very annoyed that it only focused on girls. Boys need to be raised to be caring and kind just as much as girls need to be raised to be assertive and technologically capable. More than that, society needs to value caring as much as it currently values certain kinds of tech and finance.

I also think the men's rights stuff is fascinating. I don't think we ought to simply dismiss it as a backlash against feminism (although it is often that) but I think it is a reflection of what some have called a crisis of masculinity. I think this is actually an opportunity - maybe men (at least some) are looking for change, too. Or maybe I'm too optimistic. Anyways, I will be interested to read your posts and hopefully converse about these subjects and more.

Congrats on your book and on a year of academia (almost) completed!

Scott Neigh said...

Thanks, Jenny.

Yes, I totally agree that attention to the ways in which social relations of gender constrain and harm men as well as privilege us is crucial to challenging gender oppression. I'm not too sure about even the less objectionable men's rights-ish stuff, though...but I guess I'll have a chance to see!

Thanks again!