One fateful night, the notion ‘demasculinization’ came up during a bar talk with, artist-friend, André Chapatte while discussing the possibility of reconfiguring the male gaze. We met up a few days later, and decided that we should work on this idea. Almost immediately we started to exchange thoughts, writings and readings. In 2016, we worked together numerous times in Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels. During our correspondences, we discussed (in no particular order) (de)masculinity, nature/culture, manhood, manly emotions, the male gaze/perspective, gender equality, gender-neutrality, redefining of men in society, gender in public/private/domestic spaces, romanticism, objectification, violence, power, domesticity, gendered-language/words/tones/expectations, privileges, sex, domination and cultural hegemony.
This short speculative essay on demasculinization is a culmination of our ongoing discussions and exchanges regarding methods for embodying (de)masculinity, understanding emotions as a strategy to rebel against the larger patriarchal capitalist system. Although the initial intention was towards ‘achieving gender equality’, I have since changed course in order to first attempt to construct and/or speculate on what could demasculinization could possibly mean and bring about. My motivation is to not only speculate on the meaning and process of demasculinization, but also to create a lexicon for this concealed word.
We want to understand how we as men can rethink and reposition ourselves in this patriarchal society and make it less patriarchal by envisioning a different course for Homo sapiens in retrospect. How to stop ‘acting like a man’; here, I find the words of author, educator and activist Tony Porter most befitting:
(…) how do I want men to be acting and behaving? I need you on board. I need you with me. I need you working with me and me working with you on how we raise our sons and teach them to be men — that it's okay to not be dominating, that it's okay to have feelings and emotions, that it's okay to promote equality, that it's okay to have women who are just friends and that's it, that it's okay to be whole, that my liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.
For this essay I have decided to deviate from (not disregard) making direct connection with the existing institutionalized discourses on feminists theory, gender studies, race studies and colonial studies in the spirit of 'contingency'. That is, I ask whether it is possible to explore (and fail) freely and independently without any kind of explicit reliance on these fields.