Category Archives: masculinity

Familiar Men in the Toxic Masculinity Conversation


Laurie and Debbie say:

The #metoo conversation, instead of disappearing, is expanding to cover many related topics. Discussing rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape culture demands a discussion of masculinity–the toxic masculinity that creates these disastrous stories, and an exploration of alternatives.

While Laurie was taking the photographs for Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes, Debbie and her collaborator Richard Dutcher were working on writing the text for the book. All three of us spent five years engaged in examining masculinity from a wide variety of perspectives. Fourteen years after the book was published, those conversations are finally showing up in the mainstream news:

The eyes are clear, focused, expressive. These men are there, present, alive. They engage with each other, they engage with the camera, and they engage with the viewer. These men are not merely their hardened shells; there is somebody home, they inhabit their bodies. These are men you could know, men whom you would want to know.

“That … is resistance to traditional norms. Thesei men invite you in to their world; they do not keep you out. They open doors; they don’t build fences.”

Michael Kimmel, from his introduction



Paul Kivel, in Men’s Work, encourages people to think about masculinity as a tightly constraining box. The rule of being masculine is to make sure that you always appear to fit inside the box, because everyone is always checking to make sure that nothing sticks out. Everything masculine is inside the box. Everything outside the box is one of three things: female, weak, and queer. … So many men spend an awful lot of time and energy keeping all of themselves inside the box.

–Debbie and Richard, from “To Be a Man,” in Familiar Men



No aspect of being male is more complex or, perhaps, more determined by the [masculinity box] than sexuality. Who you have sex with, when, and how, as well as who you tell, when, and how, all have very strict guidelines. The first of these seems to be that you aren’t supposed to even think directly about the guidelines; you learn them in your body by watching and copying other men and you defy them at your peril.— from “To Be a Man”



Power is based on the projection of power, and real male bodies unerringly repudiate that projection. I think novelist Dorothy Allison said it best when she remarked that she thought the penis was the original source of the literary concept of irony, that something so small and vulnerable could be accorded such impressive powers. To see a penis is to know that it couldn’t possibly be a phallus.

Jonathan D. Katz, quoted in “To Be a Man”

In the United States in the beginning of the 21st century, simply being a man is bad for your health and your lifespan. Women statistically live longer than men and stay healthy and functional for a longer percentage of their lives.

— from “To Be a Man”



As far back as I can remember, I’d always known that Real Men don’t have asses. They walk all seized up, or run the risk of being accused of being a wimp or a faggot. It made my back hurt and it made my soul hurt, just so I could try to be a Real Man. Real Men have strong arms and chests and maybe even legs, but they don’t have bodies. After all, you can’t have a body if you don’t have an ass.

I began to explore new ways to move. The roadblocks I had to get past were amazingly deep and subtle.

Charlie Glickman, quoted in “To Be a Man”


Grandfather and Grandson


What’s a Defiant Girl For?


Debbie says:

First, kudos to State Street Global Advisors for putting up the statue of “Defiant Girl” (also “Fearless Girl”) facing the famous Wall Street bull. The statue went up on International Women’s Day last week. State Street’s intent is to shame more firms into including women on their boards. Personally, I can think of more important issues to defy Wall Street about, but I’m still glad she’s there.

She wouldn’t be making anywhere near as much news as she is, however, if a drunken Wall Street bro hadn’t made an attempt to screw her, apparently to impress the people checking out the new girl on Wall Street.

Plenty has been written about this photo, taken by Alexis Kaloyanides and shared publicly everywhere.

The man in the photo is such an amazingly clear example of several cultural phenomena:

1) He has clearly and unambiguously demonstrated what he and millions of men like him think women are for. The fact that the statue is really of an underage girl rather than a woman only underscores how unacceptably gross the inside of his mind is. It would be lovely if male minds like that were rare, but we all know better.

2) He has clearly and unambiguously demonstrated how completely safe he feels. I don’t think anyone has released his name, but you can still bet he’s licking his wounds and whining about how people aren’t being nice to him. Meanwhile Kaloyanides is the one who bravely put her own name out there, and it’s just as safe a bet that she is actually getting vicious responses from internet trolls.

3) He is in the process of clearly and unambiguously demonstrating the value of defiance. Fearless Girl would have gotten a few days of press, and a small steady stream of people coming to look at her, if he hadn’t brought his dick into the story. Now, she’s the wonder of Wall Street, and no TV station or newspaper can avoid talking about her.

Obviously, we dream of a world where no man would even think of such a disgusting display. But in the world we live in, I can only be grateful to Mr. Bro for making sure the whole world knows about Defiant Girl, and the millions of defiant, fearless girls and women who stand behind her.

He’s probably even more uncomfortable being thanked by radical feminists than he is being trashed by us, so I hope he reads this post.