Stefano Ciccone (Maschile Plurale, Roma Tor Vergata University)
His political engagement is marked by a special commitment on gender issues and gender based violence from a male perspective. On these topics, he contributed to founding the Association Maschile Plurale and he published the book “Essere Maschi. Tra potere e libertà” and many other essays and articles. A graduate in Biology, he works at the Tor Vergata University in Rome, where he is coordinating the Technology Transfer Office. He is conducting research doctorate in sociology at the University of Genoa on the social representation of men in the processes of change in the roles and sexual identities.
Can be men actors in change?
This paper addresses the following questions: how can we build a political practice of male-based criticism of patriarchy? Can men be actors of such transformation? The public debate in Europe discusses the role of men in fighting violence against women, or mentions their solidarity against gender-based discrimination, but does not see men as agent of change. On the level of activism, the gay liberation movement has been one of the major social subjects that produced a critique of patriarchy and normative masculinity. What about heterosexual men and the political credibility of their commitment in transforming heterosexist norms that places the heterosexual male at the top of a system of powers and of values? Based on my experience within the Italian network Maschile Plurale, my paper contributes to the debate by highlighting the importance of thinking men’s antisexist engagement building on their desire for liberation, for seeking a different quality of their personal lives and their relationships. This paper argues in favor of elaborating social critique from the position of white heterosexual masculinity, considered at the top of normative power positions, as this can contribute to the theoretical debates on power/oppression. After Foucault, Bourdieu, Gramsci and Butler we can no longer see power as a mere institution outside of us: everybody is embedded within power relations and subjection is not a guarantee for being outside of it.
Following from this, we need firstly to rethink the concept of hegemonic masculinity not as mere hierarchy among masculinities but as pervasive context. Secondly, it seems also important to point at the transversal elements affecting different masculinities on a symbolic level. I am referring to a political experience of (mostly heterosexual) men that is trying to question not only heteronormativity but also the symbolic dimension of masculinity: the phallus. This, I think, builds and imprisons male experience of the body and the relationship of men among themselves and with women. In my opinion we need a theoretical, political and existential work breaking with phallic sexuality, challenging the active/passive binarism, subject/object, questioning a sexuality associated with a symbolic supremacy, with the representation of the male body as a weapon. Crucial here is the rethinking of corporeality, considered not as fate or as whiteboard, but as experience resisting linguistic and symbolic construction undergoing it. Finally, this paper argues that the critical examination of representations of the body and sexuality is not only connected with sexual orientation but it is a relevant for all subjectivities interested in social critique and transformation.