Keynote speakers - Political Masculinities as Agents of Change Conference

Headshot of Jeff Hearn

Jeff Hearn 

The Politics of Absent Men OR Political Masculinities Without the Polis

Örebro University, Sweden; Hanken School of Economics, Finland; University of Huddersfield, UK

Politics used to be constructed as about men coming together to discuss public matters in specific spaces, whether in public meetings or behind closed doors. In contrast, men’s profeminist politics initially meant men coming together to face the private, the personal as political, in ambiguous intermediate zones. Meanwhile, on one hand, public man/men has, if not fallen, then at least tripped over, becoming privatised, individualized, and, on the other, and paradoxically, all is now technologically public, all in the 'public eye'. Accordingly, political masculinities are now often without the polis. And the politics of absent men takes various forms, through: absences by the growing accumulations of resources in MNCs and other transnational institutions, transnational ownership, control, offshoring and outsourcing; technological absences, with those assumed to be ‘men’ at the other end of cyberspace; and bodily absences, as with older men, disabled men, men migrating or displaced from war, and so on. These absences seem of growing importance for gender politics around men and masculinities, as powerful, as invisible, as off the agenda, without the polis. Men’s politics, profeminist or anti-feminist, is now not so much about meeting in public, private or even intermediate zones, but dispersed, (dis)embodied, formed through absence.

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Jemma Stringer

Jemma Stringer

Beyond the theory: The politics of men and masculinities in practice

Gender Justice Officer, Oxfam GB

It is relatively well understood that if we are to achieve gender equality, inclusion of, and ownership by, men as well as women, along with the challenging of harmful ideals of masculinity at both individual and systemic level, must be a central part of the process. 

While in theory this is a well-advanced discussion with much agreement, the practicalities of a workable path towards gender equality in which men have an equal stake, or even a partial stake, is a more contentious and difficult terrain. 

Building on learning from ten years' experience working practically towards gender equality, both in particularly ‘gendered’ environments – with women experiencing gender-based violence, with men in prison, and with female offenders – and in the context of the international development sector, this keynote address will seek to explore the politics of working with men as agents of change to achieve gender equality. It will attempt to foreground some of the more pragmatic takes and mistakes of challenging dominant codes of masculinities as part of broader practical and focused efforts to address gender inequalities and their consequences. 

The politics of working with men as agents of change to address harmful norms of masculinity and to achieve gender equality are deep and complex - so much so that many institutions and organisations simply cannot agree on how to go about it. This keynote will explore the potentials and the tensions of this work in practice, and what this means in contexts where patriarchal practices remain ingrained and resources for women’s rights work are becoming ever more constrained.

Read Jemma Stringer's biography

Download Jemma's keynote presentation