3. Men, masculinities and matterings

Men, masculinities and matterings

Convenors: Jiri Nieminen, Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius, University of Jyväskylä & Timo Aho, University of Jyväskylä

Contact: jiri.h.e.nieminen (at) jyu.fi

Seminar rooms: Galaxy (Parallel sessions 2, 3 & 4)

Format: Hybrid

A relational understanding of the diversity of masculinities and manhoods has been a centerpiece of critical studies on men and masculinities since its establishment. Yet, many commentators have noted complications and awkwardness, and a sort of catch-up game that men and masculinity studies play in relation to the broader field of gender and feminist studies. This being said, vivid critical discussion, and emerging scholarship within the men and masculinity studies community, signals an increasing awareness of these complexities.

This workshop calls for contributions that address both established (e.g., race, class, age, ability) and emerging categories (e.g., humans/other-than-humans, ‘new materialisms’) of difference in relation to men and masculinities. We aim to discuss experiences, practices, discourses, representations, and politics related to transformations and challenges of men and boys, with a particular interest on how new materialist and intersectional perspectives can contribute to and enrich our understanding on men, masculinities and differences in the context of current globalocal hybrid-form challenges. However, proposals need not be limited the aforementioned perspectives, but we encourage submissions from a wide range of theoretical discussions, methodologies, research topics and disciplines to contribute these debates. Presentations focusing on empirical, theoretical and methodological questions are equally appreciated. We also welcome master level students to present their theses and work-in-progress.


Katri Pöllänen

Ville Pöysä

Stephanie Clark

Riku Löf

Henri Hyvönen

Marlene Hartmann

Domenica Gisella Calabrò

Sampo Bergman

Thit Gaarskjær Jørgensen

Sandra Eck


Katri Pöllänen, Doctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki, katri.pollanen@helsinki.fi

Gendered working conditions in startup companies in Finland

The purpose of this study is to find out employees’ experiences of working conditions at startup companies in Finland during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working conditions are explored through job demands, role expectations, control and freedom at work, and commitment to organization. Gender differences are compared to find out in which ways working conditions are gendered at startup companies in Finland. Furthermore, this study explores how working conditions are associated with employee well-being.

The study population is employees of startup companies. Majority of startup companies are founded by men, and they hold the powerful positions in these organizations. Therefore, the behavior of men shapes the organizational culture and working conditions of startup companies. However, there is a lack of research of gendered working conditions in startup companies.

This study is multidisciplinary and contributes to theoretical discussions in the fields of gender studies, organizational studies, and health sciences. The research contributes by providing research-based knowledge about gendered working conditions at startup companies in Finland during a global pandemic. This research is a cross-sectional quantitative study. The research was carried out through Internet surveys using the REDCap program during Spring 2022. The preliminary research results and conclusions of this study will be presented at the conference.

Ville Pöysä, University of Jyväskylä & University of Eastern Finland, ville.e.poysa@jyu.fi


This presentation is based on my recently published doctoral dissertation in sociology. It forms a longitudinal qualitative study in which I follow the lives of seven boys in Eastern Finland for the four years between 2015 and 2019. At the beginning of this study, the boys were 14–15 years old, and when the data collection was complete, they were 18–19. The young men in my study live in or on the outskirts a village of approximately one thousand inhabitants, located at a distance of 50–65 kilometers (30–40 miles) from the nearest town. The boys’ childhood home constitutes a special sociomaterial, gendered context in which to grow up.

In this presentation, I will examine the lives of boys through discussions of new materialism and masculinity studies. Rural areas have been approached in research debates as specific “male peripheries”, where traditional “male activities” in work life and leisure time are valued and visible . However, this view has overlooked the fact that the activities of boys and men are not only intentional, but also co-constituted with different human and non-human entities. I approach gender as doing, but in a way that also involves actors who are not typically considered social. I ask, how is gender constructed in rural boys’ lives together with different materialities?

Stephanie Clark, Doctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki, stephanie.clark@helsinki.fi

Hollow men: The absence of new materialist philosophies in masculinity studies

This paper discusses the disjunctions between critical studies on men and masculinities (CSMM) and new materialist philosophies. While the broader field of gender studies has developed along a trajectory which extensively applies feminist philosophical frameworks, work situated within CSMM has largely evaded this orientation. CSMM research that does engage with feminist philosophy has a tendancy to be rooted in poststructuralism, rather than following the relatively recent materialist turn which is more common in other areas of gender studies. This is in spite of CSMM’s distinctly materialist roots from formative theorists like Raewyn Connell. Although a handful of notable exceptions (for example, Steve Garlick and Todd Reeser) have attempted to reconcile certain aspects of new materialisms with men and men’s bodies, these theories remain an underutilised framework within the field.

Rather than adding to the limited scholarship of engaging new materialisms as a useful tool to examine men and masculinities, this paper instead explores the resistance of masculinity studies to applying this framework. Understanding this resistance can bring about key insights within both CSMM and new materialist philosophies, and clearly sets out the issues to be resolved if these fields are to be successfully reconciled.

This paper maps the field of CSMM into bifurcated and contemporaneous branches – defined as modernist and postmodernist – and examines the challenges to employing new materialist philosophies within each of these branches. It expands on the work of Chris Beasley, who investigates the modernist branch of CSMM’s aversion to feminist philosophy as a whole. The key issues considered include CSMM’s reliance upon certain binaries, concerns over depoliticisation, and the disconnection between men and the body in traditional feminist thought. While these issues offer a challenge, none should be insurmountable to prevent the productive application of new materialist philosophies to CSMM research.

Riku Löf, Doctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki, riku.lof@helsinki.fi

Masculinities and Environmental Activism – Case Extinction Rebellion Finland

Various scholars have recognized that environmental movements may well provide places for men to be exposed to feminist politics and values. XR Finland is no exception as the movement is committed to practices such as “regenerative cultures” and care for the planet and our human and non-human kin. Yet, gendered norms and practices are shaping these communities as well.

Based on an ongoing ethnographic and autoethnographic work on XR Finland demonstrations, I’m going to interrogate masculine identities and the questions of environment and equality. When analyzing men and masculinities in contexts such as XR Finland, I can, to some degree, agree with the hybridization thesis by Bridges & Pascoe. Masculinities are changing, but what do these contemporary transformations mean – and especially – what do they mean in the context of environmental crisis?

A largely white and middle-class community, such as XR Finland, is an intriguing context to test and develop Bridges & Pascoe’s theory. Are these hybridized forms of masculinity creating a “discursive distancing” towards relatively powerless or marginalized masculinities (working class, black and brown), and therefore alienating these groups from the movement’s environmental agenda? In this conference presentation I look to discuss (face-to-face) the initial findings of this fieldwork in English or Finnish.

Henri Hyvönen, PhD, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Eastern Finland, Department of Social Sciences; Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies, henri.hyvonen@uef.fi

Men’s affective-discursive practices around masculinity and femininity in the context of health at work

Recent research into men’s health in the context of work has found that the ideological dilemma between health awareness and masculinity has lost some of its relevance due emergence of masculinities incorporating healthist repertoire of discursive resources. It is noteworthy that men’s feminized bodily discipline and their increased interest in therapeutic practices are still understood as reconfigurations of masculinity better suited to an era of neoliberalism and post-industrialization. Subjectivity and self-identity processes in which men encounter femininity and identify themselves in some aspects as feminine have been left relatively under-explored.

Drawing on de Boise’s notion of ‘affective interruptions’ and their promise for critical studies on men and masculinities, the present study adopts Wetherell’s concept of ‘affective practice’ in combination with Ahmed’s notion of ‘happy objects’ to shed light on subjectivity and self-identity processes through which men orient themselves towards masculinity and femininity in the context of health at work. The data consists of 18 interviews with Southern Finnish men of varying ages and socio-economic backgrounds concerning work-related health behaviors in the context of post-industrialized working life.

Conflicting interpretative repertoires are identified. On the one hand, the study shows these men identify with genderless worker citizenship, demonstrate willingness to co-opt feminine health behaviors, and make contemptuous and hostile remarks about performances of manhood in which one’s emotional and bodily needs are neglected. On the other hand, desirable health behaviors corresponding to the needs of the organization were constructed in contrast to effeminate and selfish behaviors, which can be seen as an indication of an affective attachment to the identity of a man limiting men’s identifications with femininity and maintaining their emotional attachment to misogyny.

Marlene Hartmann, Institute of Sociology, TU Chemnitz, Germany, Marlene.hartmann@hsw.tu-chemnitz.de

The Hormonalization of Masculinity

How has biological sex been able to create the impression of stable dual sexes? And why is biological sex nevertheless always unstable, always in crisis mode? Starting from these fundamental questions, the talk is zooming in on biological sex’s mobilization of the body. Biological sex implements itself by creating somatic configurations, that is, by producing, isolating and highlighting specific bodily zones or flows as sources of sex, for example, genes, brains, or hormones. While serving to bodily anchor sex, this motion also creates instability as the actors mobilized have specific permeabilities and resistances which might subvert binary sex.

Looking at the somatic configuration of sex hormones in detail, the talk then focuses on how the materialities of sex hormones have transformed masculinity. Past feminist research on sex hormones has almost exclusively attended to the hormonalization of femininity. While there are good reasons to research sex hormones and femininity – think of the pill, menopause and menstruation – femininity is also somewhat easier to hormonalize, that is, to think and practice in hormonal terms. However, the materialities of sex hormones – their instability, their fluidity – and the hormonal body – its permeability, its close entanglement with its environment – produce all kinds of troubles for masculinity. In staying with these troubles, I am seeking to flesh out how masculinity is de- and re-stabilized in hormonal terms.

Domenica Gisella Calabrò, Lecturer, University of the South Pacific, domenica.calabro@usp.ac.fj

Indigenous masculinities, postcolonial dynamics, and recognition. Reflections from Pacific settings

In Indigenous Māori contexts, the sport of rugby has provided avenues for men and boys to achieve forms of communal and national recognition, and more recently socioeconomic inclusion, including via overseas opportunities. This phenomenon rests on discourses and representations glorifying Māori men as warriors.

Rugby and the warrior ethos equally connect Māori men with some of their Pacific ‘brothers’ in a quest for recognition as Pacific men in a global scenario. Concurrently, those sites evoke countering images of violence, which have warranted marginalization. As Māori men pursue forms of equality in rugby with ambivalent repercussions, their formulations of masculinity may also have disempowering effects on men who are not involved in the sport and Māori women. Māori masculinities emerge as postcolonial masculinities, embedded in a dialectic between dynamics reinstating the colonial condition and decolonial processes. They call for an analysis of the ways (neo)colonial violence is internalized and reproduced and ongoing local and global socioeconomic changes continue reconfiguring such masculinities.

At the same time, the understanding of Māori, and other Pacific masculinities alike, is more often than not left out from conversations and initiatives aiming towards gender equality within the region, as many perceive gender as a synonym of women. Reflections ensuing from ethnographic research in Māori settings, and the experience of teaching and coordinating gender studies in the Pacific Island Countries region, prompt the larger question of what recognition means and does with regards to postcolonial Indigenous masculinities.

Doctoral Researcher, Sampo Bergman, Department of Media Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Turku, Turku, Finland, sailbe@utu.fi

Fatherhood and Crisis of Masculinity in Contemporary Children’s Animated Films

Crisis of masculinity was trending topic during and after millennium. Due the social, economic, and cultural changes, predominantly white masculinity has lost its traditional role in society which has led to confusion about what it is to be a man in modern times. Although the severeness and uniqueness of this crisis has been contested, it still holds importance especially when it comes to media’s depictions of men and masculinity.

Writers and scholars like Pete Deakin and Susanne Kord and Elisabeth Kimmer have analyzed ways in which modern blockbuster films and tv shows have depicted crisis through nostalgia, myths, and conflicting ideas of masculinity. Focus of these studies has been largely on entertainment made for adults or older teenagers. At the same time the role of children’s media has been widely neglected even though the children’s entertainment industry has only grown larger and more influential after 2000s.

The aim of my research is to examining masculinity and manhood in Hollywood’s post-2000s children’s animated films. Part of my research especially focuses on how films articulate crisis of masculinity through fatherhood and parental figures. In these films parenting provides new masculine identity for the men who are at the crossroads in their lives or who are outcasted by society. Through fatherhood conflicting masculine ideals can be negotiated and crisis finally resolved. Just like Hannah Hamad’s characterization of postfeminist fatherhood these films tackle with progressive and conservative ideas of masculinity usually with very contradictory ways.

Keywords: Masculinity, Fatherhood, Animated Films, Children’s Media

Thit Gaarskjær Jørgensen, Ph.D. scholar, Aalborg University, Institute of Sociology and Social Work. affiliated with the Royal Danish Defence Veterans’ Center, Research Unit, thitgj@socsci.aau.dk

Homosociality, military masculinities and war veteran friendships in the Danish Army

In this paper I investigate how male Danish Army war veterans foster and maintain close relationships with each other, especially during and after deployments. I deploy the analytical lens of homosociality as understood by Hammarén and Johansson to understand the meaning and mechanics behind the male bonding that has come to be a cultural staple (Band of Brothers, Brothers in Arms, etc. ) surrounding the subject of war and military experiences. Through a thematic analysis of six semi-structured focus group interviews with a total of 29 Danish Army war veterans, carried out across the country, I conclude that homosocial relationships are formed during training and work in the Army, but intensified before and during deployments. The relationships tend to start as vertical homosocial relationships, but over time and perceived pressure from operative environments, they evolve into more horizontal homosocial relationships. The experience of these intense, emotional, homosocial bonds persists over time and distance, and the current and former soldiers perceive themselves as part of an international community of war veterans. I discuss how homosociality in the Danish Army relates to practices of military masculinity, and how this interplay may allow the war veterans to engage with each other in more vulnerable and open ways than expected.

Sandra Eck, M.A., Affiliation: Frauenakademie München, Munich, Germany, eck@frauenakademie.de

On bodies, walls and spaces – Collective living arrangements as a realm of possibility for non-hegemonic masculinities

In my presentation, I would like to explore the intersections of space, matter and non-hegemonic masculinities. Based on findings from my current research project (https://forschungsprojekt-wellcare.de) on collective living arrangements, I state that specific spatial and material constellations, such as large scale house sharing projects, make non-hegemonic masculinities imaginable and livable.

My presentation consists of a theoretical and an empirical part. Theoretically and methodologically, my approach seeks to include phenomenological approaches to body and space into Foucauldian dispositive analysis. This way of thinking not only poses some epistemological challenges, but also offers some valuable clues on how to bridge the gap between observable everyday practices and the discursive matrix in which they are embedded.

Besides, I present empirical findings on the interdependence of practices of (alternative) masculinities and the materialities surrounding them, addressing problems like 'To what extent do architectural settings make certain masculinity practices conceivable and livable and/or inhibit other masculinities?' or 'What role plays having and being a body in the formation of collective living projects?'