We have had 25 years of research on men and masculinities. The relationship between men as gendered beings, power and change has been central in this research. This article presents some of the main findings that most researchers within critical studies on men will agree on, and then it discusses how to better understand mens relationship to power and marginalization, change and gender equality in future research. It is explorative in its style, and an invitation to further debates on these important questions.
Former President of Finland Urho Kekkonen was not only a powerful politician but also a well-known sportsman and keep-fit enthusiast. The presidents sports hobbies were covered and celebrated in the media and thus became an integral part of his public persona. This paper looks at Kekkonens athletic and able-bodied image and its significance for his power from the perspective of gender. In his exercise activities, Kekkonen was able to display his bodily prowess and demonstrate his version of masculinity, which emphasized both physical and mental strength. The union of mind and muscle in turn buttressed his political ascendancy. Kekkonens athletic body served as a cornerstone of his dominance over his country and, simultaneously, as a shield protecting Finland from both internal and external threats.
Furthermore, Kekkonens sports performances were essential elements in the myth that was created around the president during his term and which was carefully conserved after his fall from power. Drawing upon scholarship on men and masculinities, this paper reassesses the still-effective mythical image of Kekkonen as an invincible superman. The article reveals the performative nature of his athletic activities and shows that in part, his pre-eminence in them was nothing more than theatre enacted by him and his entourage. Thus, Kekkonens superior and super-masculine image was actually surprisingly vulnerable and dependent on the success of the performance. The presidents ageing, in particular, demonstrates the fragility of his displays of prowess, strength and masculinity, and shows how fragile the entanglement of body and power can be.
This article documents and discusses the rise of the pro-feminist mens movement in Norway, Mannebevegelsen, in the late 1970s and its supposed fall in the early 1980s. Through interviews protagonists within and around the movement, and through archival research, the author exposes central tensions, problems and challenges in male liberation. That is, the troubled relationship with feminism, mens different positions and interests in male liberation and the challenging task of defining and acting out sensitive masculinity.
The articles starting point is two books which present narratives of homosexuality within a contemporary conservative Christian context: Betre død enn homofil and Mine homofile venner, published in Norway in 2009. The first book is written within the conservative Christian context, telling the stories of homosexuals who, because of their faith, live in celibacy or in heterosexual relationships. The second book is written by a gay man who belonged to the same movement until he came out, and was effectively excluded. Both books relate to practices known as conversion therapy, reparative therapy or sexual reorientation, and to the ex-gay discourse, which I describe in the article. Different coming out narratives in that context are analysed, illustrating how current ex-gay discourse no longer perceives homosexuality as an illness that needs to be healed, but as the result of a wound inflicted in childhood. Therapy includes lessons in gender performance and seeks to reinstate patriarchal gender polarity. To support the rhetorical move from healing to therapy, social constructivism has been advanced as a theory, which supports the attempts to reorient sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The article offers a critique of ex-gay discourse and of the false appropriation of constructivist theory, and subsequently argues that the ex-gay position is rather one of religious essentialism.