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Participatory Session: Transforming Masculinities for the Degrowth Transition

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Growth societies have produced growth subjects and related gender relations. Historically, capitalist growth societies have produced the idea of a supposedly autonomous subject that strives to maximise individual benefits and negates or invisibilises its own dependency on caring relationships and the natural environment. This type of subject, central as it is to growth societies and their imaginaries, is implicitly male. The rise of capitalism and the making of a social order premised on and tuned to permanent expansion has, first and foremost, been the work of powerful and privileged people who (were) undoubtedly identified as men. And the hierarchically gendered division of labour typical to capitalist societies has both strengthened men‘s real positions of patriarchal power and reinforced a cultural imagery that connects maleness to public visibility, independence, strength, technologically powered dominance and control over human and non-human nature.

Obviously, this relationship between capitalist growth and gendered subjectivities is fundamental to any comprehensive understanding of the logic of growth societies and of possible alternatives. For many years now, feminists have relentlessly pointed this out from within and without the Degrowth movement, and have rightly demanded a more thorough engagement with gender relations and patriarchal dominance by the Degrowth community as a whole. No less rightly, these efforts have so far focused on rendering visible the caring relationships and the enormous amount of labour (labeled and symbolically devalued as ‚female‘) without which none of the much-praised achievements of the male heroes of capitalist development would have been possible. Yet, it seems that a significant part of the feminist challenge to us as a community remains to be tackled at any significant extent: The thorny questions about how, and under what conditions, men and masculinities could become conceivable as part of the Degrowth transition: How can maleness be decoupled from the logic of growth and dominance? What alternative masculinities, what ways of becoming and being male are conceivable that would not be at odds with, but rather actively supportive of and conducive to a societal transformation toward Degrowth?

Parts of an answer might be found in scientific debates from fields such as the sociology of masculinity, where, for example, a debate on „caring masculinities“ has recently emerged (Scholz and Heilmann, 2017). But beyond these few academic reference points, the best we have to go on is probably our own experience as men in the Degrowth community: In what situations do we experience our own maleness as a problem, as something that conflicts with our shared goals, and what experiences do we make in which spaces of possibility open up, allowing us to act, think and feel differently, in ways in which accepting our responsibilities for others, ourselves and for nature is not an alienating, but a liberating experience?

In this participatory session we want to enter into this long overdue debate. We want to discuss not only the relation between hegemonic masculinities and the logic and structure of growth societies, but also possible pathways of transformation towards alternative, different masculinities capable of rejecting the patriarchal-capitalist heritage of externalising responsibility and exerting control, while embracing degrowth, caring for others and accepting mutual dependency. In doing this, we will refer to what little debate there is in the Degrowth discourse so far, but more importantly, we want to draw on our own experiences as and with (self-identified) men and with masculinity in Degrowth-related social environments.

Our idea is that after a short input (5-10 minutes) from the organizers on the topic and the (very limited) debates on the subject of Degrowth and masculinities, participants will be invited to take five minutes to think for themselves about their own personal experiences and key incidents relating to their (or others‘) masculinity in Degrowth contexts and related environments. There will then be a 45-minute phase of discussion in small groups of about 5 to 8 participants each (depending on overall attendance and the space available), in which everyone can share and critically reflect on their experiences. Each small group will be given the task to select one of the experiences shared, which they consider particularly relevant or typical fot the kind of situation they discussed, to enact as a small play of 1-2 minutes as a presentation to the rest of the group. The last half hour will be devoted to these presentations (which will all be presented in a row without immediate explanation or discussion) and a concluding round of discussion aimed at identifying key issues for further debate on the topic. At the end, we want to raise the question of whether and how we want to enter into a prolonged and more systematic dialogue about masculinities and their relation to Degrowth, and collect some ideas for further cooperation.

Heilmann, Andreas/Scholz, Sylka (2017): Caring Masculinities – gesellschaftliche Transformationspotentiale fürsorglicher Männlichkeiten? Feministische Studien 35 (2)


Day: 2018-08-23
Start time: 16:00
Duration: 02:00
Room: ABF (203)
Track: Care, gender and feminism



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