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YEU attending Annual Conference: MAN2017 - Europe talks on masculinity


Cristiano Altamura, Stefano Gandini, Giulia Muzzurru and Simone Salvati were present at the 7th edition of the annual Conference “MAN2017: Europe talks on masculinity”, which took place in Serbia. 

“MAN2017: Europe talks on masculinity” was organized by Center E8 in collaboration with Promundo (a global leader in engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality and preventing violence), focusing on a multidisciplinary analysis of masculinity in the contemporary social context. The conference was held from 5th to 7th June 2017 at the Radisson Blu Old Mill Hotel of Belgrade (Serbia) and was considered one of the most prominent conferences of its kind in the Balkan region, thanks to its strongly international – not just European – vocation.

The general aim of the conference is to get a large number of diversified professionals together to generate a shared debate on issues of gender, gender equality, violence prevention and promotion of positive social values and changes (especially among the youth) with the support of updated scientific studies presented contextually.

The first day was mainly focused on the presentation of the conference itself and of the photographic exhibition the "Swedish dads" by Johan Bävman. The purpose of the exhibition is to generate a reflection on why, although Sweden has one of the most generous parental leave systems in the world (the current system allows parents to stay at home with their child for a total of 480 days while receiving an allowance from the state) only a fraction of Sweden's fathers use all their days of parental leave and only fourteen percent of parents choose to share the days equally (although a bonus is available for those who do it). The photo essay is based on portraits of dads who belong to that small percentage who choose to stay at home with their child for at least six months, retraining them with their children in daily care attitudes.

A theatre company formed by young Serbian boys subsequently presented their theatre play "Macho Man", representing the sense of loss of a generation born during the Balkan wars, a generation whose value system was perpetual transition and therefore confusing and insufficiently firm. In that context, society expects boys to prove their masculinity by showing strength, fighting spirit and bravery, which often leads them into destruction and self-destruction. Brought up in a culture where the male expression of emotions is considered a sign of weakness, young men repress their emotions and transform them into destructive behaviour.

Gary Barker (president and CEO of Promundo) and Jeff Hearn (Gender Studies professor, Örebro University, Sweden; Research Professor in Sociology, University of Huddersfield, Professor Emeritus, Hanken School of Economics, Finland), the two most prominent speakers of the conference, presented part of their activity and offered several “food for thoughts” during the second morning. Barker’s presentation “Lost boys? Masculinities and identities from North America and Europe to the Middle East” was manly focused on the difference of the social symbolisation of masculinity in different countries and the ongoing dynamics of change of it. He presented several surveys giving his interpretation of the results, the main one (about gender equality) was filled by a large number of men of the US, UK, Mexico and Middle East and often evidenced resilience of rigid views about manhood. Then he turned his attention to the social and technological changes that will affect the working life of men in the future (by 2050, if nothing changes, 1 out of 3 US men will be unemployed) and the urgency to put forward far-sighted strategies to cope with it. Later in the morning, Hearn’s session “Men, violence and politics: Change and no-change” was focused on gender-based violence, the process of accountability of men against violence and the new form of violence on the rise (revenge pornography, for example).

Afterwards, two parallel sessions started in two different conference rooms. “Positive fatherhood”, held by Ritxar Bacete Gonzàlez (Promundo - Spain), Suna Hanoz (ACEV – Turkey), Nataliia Koshovska (UNFPA Ukraine – Ukraine), Maja Gergoric (Status M - Croatia) and moderated by Zoran Stanojevic (radio television of Serbia) had the fathers’ new social figure and a greater sharing of parenting activities as main topic. The rapporteurs presented the successful activities and trainings implemented by their associations mainly in Spain and Turkey and their plans for the future.

The panel session about the topic “Refugee crisis, migrations and gender” presented some relevant issues about personal struggles of refugees, related also to media manipulation of public opinion. Personal experiences of refugees’ trip from Syria through Balkans have been reported by migration experts with statistical support, with a focus on youth. In June 2015, 3 migrants on 10 were child and teenagers, 91% were boys and 487.000 children passed through Greece since 2015, the majority of whom with Syrian, Afghan and Pakistani origin. A so complex phenomenon leads to huge difficulties both in short and long-term such as: neglected age-related needs, with a general categorization under the term “kids”; economic pressure for survival and family support in origin country; loss of identity and pressure to adapt to a new culture; past experience of violence and actual risks such as sexual exploitation; lack of access to health services; psychosocial factors, depression, isolation, sense of helplessness; sense of guilt for leaving when “man’s role” requires country defence and protection. Ankica Dragin showed her studies on media and identified an 86% distortion of messages about migrants, who are disempowered (especially women, youth and children by collectivization and implicit defamation). Migrants are identified as source of social disruptions, with no reference to local hostility and authority’s ineptitude, and they are generally set against the hegemonic idea of masculinity (our women, our culture).

After the lunch break, there was a “talk show” (moderated Q and A session) with G. Barker and J. Hearn, the questions were mainly related to the relationship between men and modern feminism. That was also the main topic of the debate with Tal Peretz (Auburn University, US) and Laxman Belbase (Menengage Alliance – Global Secretariat, US), who presented his ideas under the title of “Change begins within: practices and processes of accountability within the men for gender equality field”.

There were afterwards three different sessions at the same time: “Arts and gender”, with Ivana Kronja (“masculinities in contemporary Serbian and Croatian cinema”), Ana Vukadinovic (“antihero narratives and masculinity”), Minja Bogavac (“girls, boys and plays: youth theatre as a tool of social emancipation”); “Masculinity, politics and legislation”, with Evis Garunja (“domestic violence in Albania, the law of measure against domestic violence”), Zoran Bikovski (“men’s health is political will”) and “Gender and sexual diversities – discrimination and violence”, with Iuri Garcia Lopes (“new masculinities”), Petar Odak (“conflicts of bisexual masculinities”), Goran Miletic (“violence and discrimination toward LGBT community in Seria), which was largely the most popular and also the only session in which LGBT issues were dealt with.

After a one-hour break we moved to a theatre to attend the play “Red: suicide of nation”, in which were proposed reflections on the current status of young people in Serbia and on the role of women and men in Serbian society, with a not soft language and fierce criticism of the ruling class.

On schedule, there was a confrontation on abortion with Suzana Krstic (Group “Let’s…”), a workshop called “Boystalk2017: engendering intersectional conversations that matter” with Krizia Nardini and Jan Reynders (Menengage Europe), a presentation about a gender transformative approach to work with faters and caregivers with Jane Kato-Wallace and Ruti Levton (Promundo) and another called “Gender sensitive work with young men and young women, with Tijana Mijalkovic and Vanja Rakic (Center E8).


Cristiano Altamura, Stefano Gandini, Giulia Muzzurru and Simone Salvati


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