manifesto for an international network for the radical critique of masculinities


Despite worldwide struggles of the movements of women, gays, lesbians, queers, transgendered people, intersexuals…, their oppression remains. Ideologies that legitimise the exploitation and oppression of women abound. For too many people, the oppression and marginalisation of all those who don't conform to dominant norms of gender and sexuality is invisible, or appears natural. The forms of consciousness that enable this blindness are unchallenged in their global effectiveness. And in many radical and emancipatory movements the way gender and sexuality are dealt with is completely insufficient. Worldwide, only very few men are active against gender-specific violence, oppression and exploitation; for most men in emancipatory movements, the different kinds of oppression suffered by people who deviate from the norms of gender and sexuality in force in their society are only rarely an issue.

This is the background for our initiative. We want more men to become active against patriarchal gender relations in radical movements (and elsewhere). We want more heterosexual men to challenge the heterosexism of our societies. Here and there we see attempts at the kind of activism we would like to see more of. There is movement, sometimes receding, often contradictory, regarding the taking over of domestic work and responsibility for children by men. There are initiatives by men against male violence against women, for fair wages for women. Some few heterosexual men attempt to challenge the hatred and violence directed against gays.

One aim of our initiative is to collect dispersed attempts at activism by men against sexism and heterosexism.

We want to create a platform for debate among different kinds of criticism of hegemonic masculinities; a platform for various groups and individuals to communicate, network and coordinate more effective political interventions in the future.

We also want to be a contact for people who are trying to be active in the way we envisage, but are isolated in their scenes or their region, and would like to be in touch and exchange with others.

In our opinion, most radical, emancipatory, subversive movements the world over still think and act way too much in national frameworks. We believe much much more needs to be done in the way of international, transnational, antinational… meetings, debates and organisation.

Racisms, xenophobia, antisemitism, patriarchal gender relations, heterosexism, capitalism, state and nation exist world-wide ? therefore the struggles against them must be global. All the different forms of social power and domination are inseparably linked. The struggles against them must therefore also be linked. Our initiative wants to contribute to the development of an international radical current that is as class-conscious as it is profeminist, that is queer and anticapitalist, critical of body norms and anti-state, for different social relations with nature and against the nation, as opposed to any type of racism or xenophobia as to antisemitism. We want everything!

The social construction of sexuality and gender takes different forms not only in different societies, but also in different scenes and movements. Accordingly the theoretical and practical critique of gender and sexuality must take different shapes. So: What we want is to learn from each other, to inspire each other, to discuss and argue and develop new ideas and kinds of political action on an international level. What we want is a practical and theoretical critique of masculinities. This is the responsibility of men. But the issue of masculinities and their critique does not 'belong' to men. We invite everyone to the process of debate, learning and hopefully organizing which we envisage ? whether they define themselves as men, as women, transgendered persons or whatever. We believe men have something to gain from being active against patriarchal gender relations. But we insist that, in terms of the social relationos of gender, men have to be viewed, first and foremost, as members of a privileged group. We insist that our first priority must be to criticise and challenge these privileges. Men do suffer in the patriarchal relations of gender. But this is not our political focus and we believe it is false to make this a focus.

We have other questions. Questions we find interesting and important for the development of radical politics in general: What is the role of race, ethnicity and class in the constitution of masculinities? Can white and non-white men work together against sexism and heterosexism, and if so, under which conditions? Can heterosexual and non-heterosexual men work together against sexism and heterosexism, and if so, under which conditions? What would it mean to abolish masculinity? Is the attempt to reform masculinity worthwhile? Is that possible at all? What is subversive appropriation of masculinity by women? Is masculinity a resource that can be redistributed?