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Men at Work: The limits of masculinity theory

Webb, Richard (1992) Men at Work: The limits of masculinity theory. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This essay attempts to illustrate certain 'problems' which may be seen to be associated With the practice of theorisin~ gender (in general) and 'masculinity' (in particular). These 'problems (which have been termed: the 'problem of naming'; the 'problem of reproduction'; and the 'problem of identification') are centrally informed by Wil Coleman's arguments in his paper 'Doing Masculinity /Doing Theory'.

The 'problem of naming' relates to two main issues concerning the terms 'male', 'man' (or 'men) and 'masculinity'. The first issue is the relativity and imprecise epistemological bases of these terms in relation to the more concrete understandings which emanate from their common usage. The second issue is concerned with 'slippages' between these terms and what may be produced by such 'work'. The 'problem of naming' relates to a certain 'complicity' on the part of many theorists of gender (along with other "persons-in-the-society") in espousing partial truths as social facts through the (often implicit) conflation of sex and gender.

The related 'problem of reproduction' refers to two associated propositions. The first proposition is that when questions of gender are relevant. then it may be impossible to think or write outside of the sex/ gender system. The second proposition is that writing on gender (speciflcally on 'masculinity') tends to reproduce regimes of knowledge which then become taken as 'given'. Knowledge thus (re)produced can be said to naturalise (and essentialise) what are not necessarily genderspecific attributes. Both of these propositions suggest that gender theorisation reproduces gender, or does "gender-producing work".

The 'problem of identification' suggests that all identifications and explanations of 'masculinity' are partial and contestable. They can be contested either in everyday life or theoretically, or on the grounds that what is being identified is not necessarily 'masculinity' at all but may be more relevant as 'something else'.

This essay incorporates a discussion of the relationship between 'men' and 'violence'. It also indicates the possible limits to any theory of 'men' or 'masculinity'.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): McHoul, Alec and Lucy, Niall
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