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Questioning Masculinity

This blog mirrors Paul’s film Shoulder to Shoulder, Men and Vulnerability which asks men about their experiences of being vulnerable and how this affects their emotional and relational health.

New Blog on Masculinity: masc mag

Behind the scenes here at Citizenshift I’ve been working with others to create a new blog about masculinity.

It’s called MascMag (short for magazine) because we want to one day publish a magazine.  We’ve got a lot of work to do in order to build an audience, a dedicated group of contributors, and really — a community of people who want to talk and walk the line around gender justice and self-acceptance.

We’ve really started from scratch.  Choosing webpage templates, contacting those we already knew interested in the topic, making connections with like-minded groups, and editing and sharing a dialogue about masculinity.

Beyond visiting the site and seeing for yourself (strongly encouraged) the best other way is to see what our mission offers:

masc magazine is a space for young men to explore how masculinity affects their lives.

masc is curious about how ideas of manhood are shaped by one’s experiences and environment.

masc encourages expression and connection on a range of men’s issues such as gender, stereotypes, sexuality and health.

masc helps men imagine their own ideals and ways to make them real.

See for yourself at

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Oh James: looking a the new Bond

If you want to look at masculinity through film over the past 50 years, no other character than James Bond will do.  After 22 films, Bond’s brand of masculinity is repeatedly re-launched to match the changing times.  Yet some traits still stick to Bond.  He is always tough, sexy, loyal (to his country), sophisticated, charming, well-dressed, independent, and plugged-in to the flashiest spy-geek gear available to the imagination.

The character was created by author Ian Flemming 55 years ago and has been played by a series of historically-suited actors: Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.  I’ve been curious about the last 2 Bond films played by Craig (Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) because I (and may others) felt that the re-branding was in another cycle.

The DVD extras in Casino Royal has a documentary called Bond Girls are Forever which tracked how Bond girls have changed over the years (sadly not up to date on the last 2 films).  It took a light approach to feminist critiques of the role, but it was clear that the women (girls?) were becoming tougher, smarter, and more active over the decades.  Bitch Magazine’s blog details some the ways Camille (played by Olga Kurylenko) in Quantum of Solace is part of this trend.  She has her own motives, enemies, strategies, wit, speed, and punch, and when needed – drives the car!  No longer just sex objects for the audience’s and Bond’s pleasure, these female characters also reveal something about the new Bond and the changing audience assumptions about gender.

It was hard to ignore the buzz about the new Bond because not only was he blond, but buff.  Brian D. Johnson interviews Craig and writes:

Craig is the most athletic Bond we’ve seen, but the bar has been raised since Connery idled through his later films with a marshmallow belly and a rug of chest hair. “You read Fleming,” says Craig, “and it’s like Bond gets up in the morning, has six scrambled eggs made with cream, eight rashers of bacon, four cups of espresso, does 20 press-ups and smokes 20 cigarettes, then has a shot of something. Attitudes have changed. We probably do live in a world of body-fascism now.”

In fact the only other person I could convince to watch Casino Royal with me was a gay friend excited about Bond’s new sexy looks.  I thought we were watching a stylish action film but maybe it was some kind of Straight Guy for the Queer Eye?  Johnson puts it this way:  “Now Bond-sploitation had come full circle: in Casino Royale, the hottest sex object was not another Bond girl, but Bond himself.”

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Bro-Friending and Bro-Longing: media codes for engaging guys

For the past 5 years I’ve been doing media education work around the theme of masculinity.  I work for a small alternative media non-profit doing workshops for youth in Toronto. 

Out of all the workshops I offer, one called Who’s the Man? looking at pop culture and masculinity is the most requested by teachers and youth workers and the most rewarding one for me to facilitate and reflect on.

The best part of my job is going to youth conferences promoting social justice and ecological sustainability.  My workshops are one small part of larger programs for education and action and it’s inspiring to participate in the diversity of projects and feel the positive energies for change.

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Reading Ourselves: looking at men’s magazines

I spent last Saturday visiting 3 book stores and a public library to look at men’s magazines with my friend Tuval. Just thinking about ‘men’s magazines’ brings up shameful images of super-models, super-men and all the plugged in/out gear one can pile into a military-style Hummer.

We browsed dozens of general magazines on fitness, news, music, hobbies, style, video games, and sports but we didn’t find what we wanted. There’s now also a popular ‘lad’ style of magazine with a long list of titles such as Maxim, FHM, and Loaded featuring almost naked woman and guides to style, sex, and success.

I’m browsing with Tuval because he’s thinking of starting a new magazine for young men that sells and shares a different story of being a guy.

Rather than solidifying stereotypes, is there a magazine to crack open manhood’s complexities and contradictions?

…being sexual without being a pervert or player

…having the strength to express weakness

…being playful without put-downs or power-trips

Tuval would like to see a new magazine for young men wrestling with manhood – serious play indeed.

A cluster of women’s magazines have escaped the ego industry and speak to the spectrum of women’s lives. Titles such as Bitch, Ms., and Shameless rattle and jump over gender fences that limit women’s choices and voices. The current issue of Shameless reframes negative and passive body-image and self-defense experiences and reports on inspiring women artists, artisans, and athletes.

Starting in 1990, Sassy magazine (also a non-conformist) had a spin-off title for teen boys called Dirt. It published seven issues before ending in 1994 and helps raise the question is there an audience for a young men’s magazine that challenges the central monument of masculinity?

Perhaps what Dirt crumbled from (and what a new magazine could learn from) is how to get past the guarded discourse of masculinity itself. Feminism has unlocked a new world for looking at gender, power, and identity and successfully mapped gender’s social location. Unfortunately (keeping my geography metaphor going) men don’t like to use maps or ask for directions (so I’m told).

So how does one organize a male readership still forming it’s literacy around masculinity?

Perhaps it’s not what you don’t know, but what you know you don’t like.

For me, high school male identity was not only shaped by my music, sports, and style, but by an opposition to what my friends and I considered mainstream, macho, meat-headedness. Sometimes difference and exclusion can bring people together.

Affirming that not all young men are the same, a critical response to ‘men’s magazines’ could be met with some cheer.


Tuval speaking about our magazine ‘research’.

To get involved in the development of this magazine email:


I’d love to know what guys think of men’s magazines (especially if you’re between 15 and 25).

Any ideas on a cool name for a new magazine? Vote for one of these or submit your own:






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