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The Limits of Masculinity: Male Identity and Women’s Liberation by Andrew Tolson

August 18, 2015

TLOM The author was part of a (heterosexual) men’s group in Birmingham from 1973-1975.

‘The personal is political’ has become a commonplace today but was esoteric when this book was written. For men’s liberationists, personal change requires political change. They were pro-male but also pro-gay and pro-women

The problem is that boys admire and copy their fathers, which is unreal as they are absent from home most of the time. The aim is to get on, be self-reliant rather than asking for help. Serve some higher good. Have the security of a good job (fear of vulnerability and risk). Learn masculine language which proscribes certain topics – sport, machines, competitiveness, ways of speaking – banter, jokes, bravado

Role models – the footballer, man of action, fighter

Break up of life into compartments – leisure has to be earned. Work comes first and you get paid so you can be your real self afterwards – so work is unreal.

All this is socially constructed.

The step to cure is men’s groups – consciousness raising.

Men’s liberation – after women’s.

Then liberation from competitiveness, hierarchies, work and leisure split – in short, socialism where all co-operate

There’s some theology too.


industrialised societies, definitions of masculinity are bound up with definitions of work …the qualities needed by the successful worker are closely linked to those of the successful man.”

“In this situation a seemingly anachronistic working class masculinity continues to have a vital political role. Because it provides a basis for collective solidarity the culture of the work group acts as an important form of resistance …”

“In this context working class male chauvinism is part of an elaborate symbolic world; and in the age of mass production is a vital cultural defence.”

“As men as agents of a patriarchal culture, we remained the dominant gender. In a certain sense, we were imperialists in a rebellion of slaves — concerned defensively about the threat of our privilege … Men can, I think within a limited sphere, develop a supportive role which does not ‘incorporate’ feminist and gay initiatives. It is important that men should continue to participate in childcare and nursery education where their very presence challenges sex-role expectations.”.

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From → Sexuality

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