Young Feminist Men Finding their Way

On young Swedish Men’s Experiences of and Orientations in Feminist Settings

  • Robin Ekelund Malmö University
Keywords: men, masculinities, masculinity, feminism, queer phenomenology

Abstract

Men and feminism is a contentious topic. In theoretical discussions as well as in previous studies, men and feminism have been described as an oxymoron, that being a man and a feminist is a border land position and that it entails experiences of so-called gender vertigo or gender limbo. Still, there are men who identify themselves as feminists and engage in feminist settings, parties and organizations. In this article, I aim to explore how masculinity is constructed and shaped within feminism. The article is based on qualitative interviews with nine young feminist men in Sweden. Using Sara Ahmed’s queer phenomenology and the concepts of disorientation and reorientation, I analyse how the interviewees experience themselves as men and feminists and how they navigate within their feminist settings. The analysis illustrates that in contrast to previous research, the interviewees articulate an assuredness in their position as men and feminists. However, being a man and a feminist is still a somewhat disorienting position that promotes reflexive journeys through which the interviewees seek to elaborate a sensitive, perceptive and “softer” masculinity. Feminism can be seen as a way of doing masculinity, and the ways in which the interviewees (re)orient themselves in their feminist settings can be understood as processes of masculinity construction. These reorientations position the interviewees in the background of their feminist settings, where they carry out what I call political housekeeping and men-feminism. From this position, they also adopt a perspective of a theoretical as well as temporal distance and articulate themselves as actors in the history of feminism. Thus, the article highlights that feminist men can seek out a masculinity that is positioned in the background yet still experience themselves as subjects in the feminist struggle.

Published
2021-02-02
Section
Men Can/Can men Change?