By Mattea Cumoletti:
Aloha Fletchitas! Time for my weekly take on Gender@Fletcher!
Who Runs the World?
Last Tuesday was International Day of the Girl, and TBH (that’s youth internet lingo for to be honest), I was not even aware of this holiday until it popped up on my Facebook feed. I have been a devoted celebrant of International Women’s Day for years, but the Day of the Girl is a whole new level of awesome in my opinion. Remember seeing that #WhatIReallyReallyWant campaign this summer promoting the Global Goals (or SDGs) specific to gender equality? Day of the Girl harnesses that girl power and then some. Of course my hero Michelle Obama celebrated with an event at the White House, and Save the Children released a report that rated the best and worst places in the world to be a girl. The US was a disheartening 32 out of 144. And let’s just say that figure would go even lower if He Who Must Not Be Named gets to have any influence over the future of girls and women in this country #justsaying
Manhood and Masculinities
Earlier this week, an email went out soliciting participation in the Fletcher Manhood and Masculinities Group, an informal student group with the “goal of creating a safe space for the men of our community to gather and discuss issues related to masculinity.” I personally wondered whether anyone who saw the email might expect the group meeting to look something like this. I was also curious if the men who began the group last year were motivated at all by a perceived exclusivity from Gender Initiative and Global Women—maybe they thought those meetings might look like this?
So I took my questions to the source. I chatted with my good pal Jesse Adelman, a fellow MALD who is co-leading the initiative. He told me that last year, the effort came from a desire to continue the conversation after Fletcher’s first Gender Conference. Many male students wanted to engage in the “gender conversation” in a respectful and meaningful way, and it was important to have a safe space to discuss and learn about gender-related issues, specifically surrounding masculinities.
Quick 101 here: Masculinity is, as all gender-related things, a social construct. It is something men are expected to achieve and constantly perform (remember that video on the “American Man” I linked in my last blog?), and signals of manhood are fluid and different both within and between cultures. We had this conversation in one of my classes this week: where you’re from, how do you know someone’s “become a man?” From facial hair to Bar Mitzvahs, cattle rustling to marriage and financial stability, there were a ton of answers (apparently in France you’re only a man once you have good taste in wine). So the Fletcher Manhood and Masculinities Group wants to create the space where anyone who identifies as male or masculine can talk about this and lots more, without any judgment or expectations. They’ve even teamed up with Tufts sociology professor Freeden Oeur, an expert on gender, masculinities, and feminist theory, to help structure parts of the conversation. I think it sounds like an important initiative, and I encourage anyone who has questions or wants to know more to reach out to Jesse or John Bidwell.
Now let’s talk politics. I never want to use the name of that moldy carrot who is running for president because I don’t want to add to whatever big data/media metrics cloud that powered his rise. But as Michelle said in her incredible speech this week, we can’t just ignore the fact that a presidential candidate has a history of (allegedly) committing and definitely bragging about sexual assault. It has been powerful to watch the backlash from women and men across the country during this tumultuous campaign week, but my favorite thing to come out of this is the #pussygrabsback movement. Timing was ripe this week for the Russian feminist protestors Pussy Riot to make a comeback. So I brought them back, right here to Medford. My house threw a little pre-Halloween bash and those hooligans came to show their anti-Hairpiece support. Even the Russian foreign minister acknowledged the pussy power this week.
I don’t like to think America has stooped this low as a country. I want to blame it all on one person, but of course the level of gross that this campaign has reached hasn’t happened just because of the power of one person; latent racism and misogyny have definitely played a role. Maybe we need a new radical theory of politics, to borrow language from feminist theorists, something that pushes us out of the rut we’re in that facilitated this bigot’s rise to power. So I’ll leave you with this performance of “I want a dyke for president” as inspiration. Until next time, Fletch.
Mattea Cumoletti is a second year Masters of Law and Diplomacy student at the Fletcher School, focusing on Gender Analysis in International Studies and Human Security. She recently came to the realization that she is actually more of a Gene Belcher than a Tina Belcher, and she’s learning to accept that. Mattea can be reached at email@example.com.